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November 10, 2003

God-the problem? Conservatism, the answer?

ParaPundit notes that secular ideologies have no monopoly on totalitarianism. In this context, he is referring to Islam. God can be fuel for the totalitarian fire, this is no discovery for the liberal imagination.

And yet recently I was thinking, "Why do I label myself a conservative when I consistenly map onto a libertarian set of values?" I can give you a long explanation of why, but I realized that the short answer is Islam! I just don't see a sensitive liberal being able to make scathing criticisms of the Islamic faith as backward, medieval and illiberal[1]. Contrarian Trotskyist Christopher Hitchens for instance is now considered a neoconservative by some for his aggressive take on foreign policy and his hostility toward conservative Islamic piety. Now, I suspect the man who wrote The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, and regularly excoriates organized theism in the generality, has not turned into a reactionary traditionalist Catholic. But, he has violated the modern liberal consensus of civility and respect for non-white cultural practices, ergo, he is now a "conservative." And so am I, and obviously for very personal reasons.

fn1. I do not deny that some of the vituperation against Islam, and more importantly Muslims, is bigoted, mean-spirited and grounded in ignorance. That does not mean that in response people of sound and reasonable intellect should abdicate our liberal values and traditions when interacting with peoples who engage in practices more befitting of the 8th century than the 21st. Certainly, liberals do not excuse the quaint micro-cultures of the American South their regressive social practices and fundamentalist religiosity (unless they are black of course) .

Posted by razib at 03:45 PM

I know lots of liberals that feel the same way you do about Islam. They are mostly women - who fear the whole fundamentalist thing - regardless of religious persuasion. I think you need to make a distinction between liberal secularists and liberal Christians. Liberal secularists have no problems ranting against either the Christian Fundamentalists or the Islamists. Two sides of the same coin. I come out just slightly south of you - and would never use a word to describe myself that puts me in the same category as Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: Jamais Vu at November 10, 2003 05:49 PM

They are mostly women - who fear the whole fundamentalist thing - regardless of religious persuasion.

i try and use women's rights as a wedge issue among liberals specifically for that reason. and yes, some women are vocal about their opposition to islam norms being imported into the west when it comes to gender relations. nevertheless, in my personal experience, "race trumps gender," insofar as liberal feminists tend to be a bit concerned about seeming racist. the way to deflect these concerns is to assert that:

1) sexism is just as bad or worse in the west as in the rest
2) that sexism has been imposed on the non-west by the white males, or that it is a reaction to being oppressed and marginalized

the problem i have with these two tacks is that they are factually not supported in my experience.

Posted by: razib at November 10, 2003 06:03 PM

Race is absolutely my wedge issue w.r.t. Republicans (I'm 2nd gen South Asian). Coded race appeals to the Dixie South and Wilson/Prop. 187 (not an intelligent discussion of immigration at the time, rather race-baiting which contributed to a huge rise in hate crimes and immigrant murders in California). I have an EXTREMELY hard time viewing non-white Republicans as well-informed on race issues.

Posted by: Gumnaam at November 11, 2003 05:20 AM

re: Republicans & racism....

Mitch McConnell has a Chinese wife, Phil Graham had a Korean one, and both got the right-wing bubba vote. George W. Bush has noticeably brown-skinned nieces & nephews, and Jeb might run for president as well. Of course, Bobby Jindal got the same "racist" vote as David Duke. etc. etc. etc.

I put "racist" in quotes because I think some of the voters for David Duke were racist, but not all or most, rather, Duke ran as a traditional conservative even though he had racist baggage. Just because blacks don't vote Republican doesn't mean Republicans are anti-black, rather, Republicans are the party of private sector plutocrats first, along with other groups like social conservatives & libertarians forming the numerical preponderance of the foot-soldiers (I speak as a Republican). Black Americans who are middle-class are disproportionately government workers, so they stand to lose out under Republican administrations, while lower class blacks need gov. programs which Democrats are more likely to continue. Similar more mild factors play in with many Latinos, while Asians are mixed because the group is as a whole mixed, and as long as the Republican favors affirmative action in contracting and loose immigration laws, I don't think they'll be too offensive to Asian Americans.

In sum, racism played a big role in the rise of Republicans in the south, but I think that social & economic factors have fixed the chasm between white and non-white in many parts of the country. I don't think it's racist for white folks to have different interests than minorities-and vote on those interests.

Posted by: razib at November 11, 2003 03:02 PM

GC: I looked online but couldn't find. The original ref is probably the SF Chronicle in '94, and the AALDEF would have stats, though they don't seem to have put them online.

Razib: There are a few fiscally responsible Dems out there too, but that doesn't change the overall tenor of the party.

Aside from race, the other wedge issue for me with the Republican party specifically is religiosity (I'm atheist), particularly evangelical Christianity.

Posted by: Gumnaam at November 12, 2003 08:14 AM