Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jon Swift Roundup 2018

(The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)

(A Jon Swift lolcat.)

Welcome to the 2018 edition! I hope this year ends on a hopeful note.

This tradition was started by the late Jon Swift/Al Weisel, who left behind some excellent satire, but was also a nice guy and a strong supporter of small blogs. As usual, I'll quote Lance Mannion, who nicely explains:

Our late and much missed comrade in blogging, journalist and writer Al Weisel, revered and admired across the bandwidth as the "reasonable conservative" blogger Modest Jon Swift, was a champion of the lesser known and little known bloggers working tirelessly in the shadows . . .

One of his projects was a year-end Blogger Round Up. Al/Jon asked bloggers far and wide, famous and in- and not at all, to submit a link to their favorite post of the past twelve months and then he sorted, compiled, blurbed, hyperlinked and posted them on his popular blog. His round-ups presented readers with a huge banquet table of links to work many of has had missed the first time around and brought those bloggers traffic and, more important, new readers they wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.

It may not have been the most heroic endeavor, but it was kind and generous and a lot of us owe our continued presence in the blogging biz to Al.

Here's Jon/Al's massive 2007 and 2008 editions (via the Wayback Machine). Meanwhile, our more modest revivals from 2010–2017 can be found here.

If you're not familiar with Al Weisel's work as Jon Swift, his site (via the Wayback Machine) features a "best of" list in the left column.

Thanks to all the participants, to Balloon Juice for hosting a self-nomination thread again, and apologies to anyone I missed. (As always, my goal is to find the right balance between inclusive and manageable.) You still can join in, by linking your post in the comments. Whether your post appears in the modest list below or not, feel free to tweet your best post with the hatchtag #jonswift2018.

As in Jon/Al's 2008 roundup, submissions are listed roughly in the order they were received. As he wrote in that post:

I'm sure you'll be interested in seeing what your favorite bloggers think were their best posts of the year, but be sure to also visit some blogs you've never read before and leave a nice comment if you like what you see or, if you must, a polite demurral if you do not.

Without further ado:

The Professional Left Podcast/Blue Gal
"Special Pre-Election 'Both Sides Don't' Podcast"
Blue Gal: "For our episode right before the midterms, we read out a list of the things "both sides don't" do. It's a really good introduction to our podcast for first-time listeners, too."

The Rectification of Names
"Literary Corner: Particular Vernacular"
Yastreblyansky: "A song about Donald Trump, using the rhyme scheme and meter (paeonic tetrameter!) of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General". Everybody sing along!"

Bark Bark Woof Woof
"Sunday Reading – Allen’s Big Adventure"
Mustang Bobby: "A love note to my sweetheart."

Kiko's House
"What Will Trump Do When The Alternative To The White House Is The Big House?"
Shaun D. Mullen: "The Founding Fathers worried from the jump that there would be attempts to subvert the infant American democracy. What they did not foresee in their bewigged wisdom was a batshit crazy real estate developer and reality TV star with evil in his heart and nothing between his ears conspiring with America's greatest enemy to steal the presidency and then cement his primacy by installing nose rings in more-than-willing Republicans."

David E's Fablog
"The Second Amendment Solution"
David Ehrenstein: "I did this about the Parkland massacre."

Poor Impulse Control
"Hours In An Offhand Way"
Tata: "A region's disaster can be one person's art supplies."

Lotus – Surviving a Dark Time
"What's Left Special Report: Guns"
LarryE: "I largely took a break from political blogging in 2018, but did do one of significance at the request of the director of the community cable TV outlet where I work. He wanted something to address the issue of guns in the US and insisted I was the one to do it. So I did."

You Might Notice a Trend
Paul Wartenberg: "GODDAMMIT WE ARE KILLING INNOCENT CHILDREN IN THESE CONCENTRATION CAMPS ALONG THE BORDER. Thousands of children placed in baby jails, forced to live in tent cities in abysmal weather. WE SHOULD BE MARCHING EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY TO END THIS NIGHTMARE."

Strangely Blogged
"Die Geister, die ich rief"
Vixen Strangely: "This post examines the persistence of racism in American culture, the danger of employing racist tropes in political rhetoric, and how Donald Trump is unfit for calling up specters that encourage indefensible acts that he cannot wholly condemn, because he can not wholly own the damage of his words."

Mock, Paper, Scissors
"Unite the White and NPR"
Tengrain: "The press does not usually give valuable airtime to every racist crank from Possum Hollar who can fill out a National Park Service application for a rally, but for some reason, NPR decided to do exactly that."

"On Mike Pence's Destructive Ambition"
Melissa McEwan: "Vice-President Mike Pence is the proverbial one heartbeat away from the presidency, which he has ruthlessly pursued his entire adult life. And yet, even as Donald Trump's presidency is increasingly imperiled, Pence thrives in the inattention of a political press which continues to resist the close scrutiny of his corrupt past that it so urgently deserves."

Show Me Progress
"Be the badass on the right"
Michael Bersin: "In the late afternoon of June 29, 2018 at a Kansas City rally in support of Muslims, Immigrants, & Refugees a young woman with poster board and a marker took it upon herself to peacefully confront a right wingnut counter protester."

Darwinfish 2
"The GOP Playbook: A Study in Attaining and Maintaining Power"
Bluzdude: "How the GOP seized power and endeavors to keep it, and how The Resistance needs to use their own methods to seize it back."

his vorpal sword
"The Monster Tu Quoque Stalks the Land"
Hart Williams: "The common political "excuse" that drives policy that no mother who ever lived ever bought, or ...Donner party! Table for four! Donner party! Er ... table for three!"

The Brad Blog
"Indictment of Sitting President May Be 'Only' Means to Ensure 'Equal Justice Under Law' "
Ernest A. Canning: "Legal scholars find DoJ opinion fails to consider Constitutional measure for Executive Branch continuity during a President's criminal trial..."

"Inexorable evolution"
Infidel753: "Why are Trumpanzees so angry and resentful when they got their wish with Trump and the Republicans in power? It's because what really upsets them is cultural changes which are mostly immune from politics."

"Today In Both Sides Do It: Advice From The New York Times On The Proper Use Of 'Fuck' "
driftglass: "In the early days of Liberal blogging (when everything was made of wood and Haloscan walked the Earth) when the GOP got into extinction-level trouble and Liberal voices threatened to break through to the mainstream, the Beltway would dispatch a special enforcement squad known as the "Tone Police" to explain that the real problem was Liberals using intemperate language. Nothing has changed."

First Draft
"White Girl, White Lies"
Peter Adrastos Athas: "Hope Hicks leaves the White House. Hilarity ensues."

Brilliant at Breakfast Rebooted
"On being a secular Jew in neo-Nazi-ascendant America"
Jill: "The rise of neo-Naziism in the US in the age of Trump requires some soul-searching among secular Jews who are not Zionists and don't practice the religion of their forebears, but still strongly identify as Jewish."

"I pretty much never watch videos anymore, and this one sums up why"
Brendan Keefe: "Sums up a gripe of mine with today's Web: Please, don't make me watch. Let me read."

"The Budget Reform America Needs Most? Government Rate-Setting for Health Care"
Jon Perr: "The biggest driver of America’s long-term debt is the growing cost of health care. The remedy is for the United States—at long last—to join the vast majority of its economic competitors by having the government set the prices for drugs, tests, doctor's visits, hospitalization, surgical procedures, and just about every aspect of health care."

Spocko's Brain
"Watch The Sexy Spy, But Follow The Rubles To NRA’s GOP Campaigns"
Spocko: "There was a long-term, multimillion dollar plan by the Russians to interfere with our elections and the NRA was an eager and willful participant. But it was a boring story for the media until sexy Russian Maria Butina was arrested. Watch this short video to see all NRA execs and GOP politicians who should be in jail with her."

The Debate Link
"What We Put There Ourselves"
David Schraub: "The great philosopher Richard Rorty taught us that there is nothing deep down inside us but what we put there ourselves. We can say that banning Muslims or caging refugees is not "who we are", but the fact is – it is who we are. We put it there ourselves. And if we don't like what is indeed inside us, then it is up to us to put something else there."

Self-Styled Siren
"Anecdote of the Week: 'She hated him.' "
The Siren offers an intriguing look at actress Jennifer Jones and her relationship with producer David O. Selznick.

Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I
"His Bone Spurs Were Acting Up"
Comrade Misfit: "How Trump and Xi are marching the world into another major war."

Way of Cats
"Where the movie starts"
Pamela Merritt: "We don’t have to adopt our cat as a kitten to have a great relationship, any more than we have to meet all our future friends in kindergarten. We can adopt a cat at any age, get to know them, and love them just the same."

Doctor Cleveland
"I Am Part of the Resistance Inside King Lear's Court"
Doctor Cleveland AKA Jim Marino: "A parody mashing of the Washington Post's anonymous "Resistance Inside the Trump White House" op-ed with Shakespeare's King Lear."

Gaius Publius
"There Will Be No Chinese Century"
Gaius Publius: "I can't imagine why people who look into the future, seeing better smart phones, smarter door locks, driverless cars, the next big thing only bigger, don't see this, don't factor in the tsunami that even now wets their faces. But it's clear they don't."

[this space intentionally left blank]
"An Open Letter to David Meinert"
Dallas Taylor: "In the summer of 2018, Seattle impresario/person of consequence David Meinert had his #metoo moment, which he vigorously fought back against. In response, I wrote this open letter, hoping it might help him see past his reflexive defensiveness and engage thoughtfully with his past behavior and the present moment."

M.A. Peel
"The Centenary of the Armistice: A Personal Cycle Closes and a Gash that Never Heals"
Ellen O'Neill: "The world recognized the centenary of the end of World War l on November 11, 2018. I became interested in WW1 in high school through T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and felt connected to the centenary lo these decades later."

The Steel Pen
"Warrington & Co.: 1865–1885"
AAAndrew, aka Andrew Midkiff: "My blog captures the lost history of an American industry: the steel dip pen. In between quills and fountain pens, for almost 100 years the steel dip pen was the primary means of putting ink to paper, and no one has ever gathered the history of these manufacturers until now. This post is a good example post and captures one of the first makers to emerge out of the second industrial revolution in the US."

World O’ Crap
"Dungeons & Dragons"
Scott Clevenger: "Scott takes the Better Living Through Bad Movies approach to the this timely epic which eerily predicted both the George W. Bush and Trump administrations with its focus on slimey reptiles, overpriced real estate, do-nothing legislatures, ambitious Veeps, shameless thieves, bald henchmen, lazy Chosen Ones who seem to think the Elves owe him universal health care, and kick-ass ladies who can’t even with your shit."

"In No Position to Make Demands"
Roy Edroso: "I covered all the hot topics during the course of the year, but most of them, even when treated with humor, are at least somewhat depressing because they chronicle the decline of a once-great nation. So I choose to be represented instead by one of my rare moments of uplift, a moment when a lot of people realized they don’t have to tolerate jerks like Alex Jones on bogus “free speech” or any other grounds: “….[guys like Jones are] so accustomed to bullying cowards like the New York Times editorial board that they think, in any situation, all they have to do is yell YOU'RE DEPLATFORMING ME like Rudd yelling 'Diplomatic immunity' in Lethal Weapon 2 and they'll get what they want. Guess what, guys: Revoked."

Mad Kane's Political Madness
"Our Shocking News"
Madeleine Begun Kane: "A two-verse limerick summing up the latest in the Trump Horror Show. (It includes a short audio clip of me reading my limerick.)"

Lance Mannion
"Of Pop Mannion, Mrs M, spinach pasta, and the persistence of memory"
Lance Mannion: "A story from a very hard year with a sad part, a funny part, and a happy part."

This Is So Gay
"Kindness Is Not Enough"
Duncan Mitchel: " Inspired by the recent excellent documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" This is why I think that adult fans of Mr. Rogers's Neighborhood are misusing his program and dishonoring his legacy."

Bluestem Prairie
"On Labor Day, Wardlow promises to be ally for workers; in MNHouse authored right-to-work bill"
Sally Jo Sorensen: "While most of the media in Minnesota covering the state attorney general's race were still focused on Keith Ellison's past romantic breakup, I turned instead to scrutinizing the record of Republican opponent one-term state House wonder Doug Wardlow. Having just reviewed the bills he sponsored—topped by a bill to make Minnesota a right-to-work state, I was astonished to read Wardlow's pledge of support on Facebook: 'As Attorney General, I will always be an ally for Minnesota workers.' "

Schroedinger's Cat
"Happy 4th"
schroedinger's cat: "4th of July, 2017 was the anniversary of my first day as a citizen of the United States. In this post, I recount my memories of the citizenship ceremony at the Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts."

Vagabond Scholar
"What's to Be Done About Conservatives?"
Batocchio: "An attempt to assess American conservatives and the Republican Party in some depth. Spoiler: they're awful."

Thanks again, folks. Happy blogging (and everything else) in 2019. (Vive la résistance!)

What's to Be Done About Conservatives?

What's to be done about American conservatives and the Republican Party? For decades, they've stood for plutocracy and bigotry, and using the latter to achieve the former. Almost none of their policies help Americans as a whole; instead, their policies benefit a select few, most often those who are already rich and powerful. Conservatives and Republicans serve their donors, not the majority of their constituents. On the merits, their policies are awful, so they lie about them constantly. About their only true principle is acquiring more power and keeping it, by almost any means necessary – norms of governance, democratic representation and fair play be damned.

Their supporters come in different flavors, mostly unsavory. Many simply seek short-term personal gain, ignoring long-term harm, to their descendants if not themselves. Others, the dark money crowd and their eager servants, truly wish to further entrench the powerful as a ruling class. The most rabid members of the conservative base are frightening, cherishing spite more than their own children. (Who needs a decent wage when you can 'own the libs'? Who needs bread when you have the Fox News circus?) The remainder are mostly loyal Republican voters – "nearly 90 per cent of self-described Republicans voted for Trump, very similar to the proportion in previous elections." None of the horrible things Trump said or did prior to the 2016 election were dealbreakers for them. They rationalized that Hillary Clinton was worse or simply voted their true values instead of their stated ones. To use the terms of an old post, conservatives are a mix of reckless addicts, stealthy extremists and proud zealots, with far too few sober adults to be found.

As for the media, good journalists still exist and always deserve support, but many corporate media outlets aren't truly focused on creating a more informed citizenry. Instead, they churn out a thin, news-like substance to try to fill their never-ending news cycle – they need volume, and high quality isn't cost-effective. Conscientious citizens might want good, better government, and the fact-checking and other essential information to help achieve that – and some journalists really do work hard to provide it – but media company owners need sales and profits. Stories deemed too complex aren't covered – for example, explaining the abuse of Senate procedures and contextualizing them. More importantly, calling out one political side is simply not good business, especially when one side is consistently worse about lying, violating political norms and screwing over the citizenry. One of our national political discourse's key scourges is false equivalence, or "both siderism," claiming both sides are just as bad even when evidence to the contrary stands overwhelming. (For much more on this, see the archives of Digby, driftglass, alicublog, Balloon Juice, LGM or my own archives.)

Related to this, in our current mainstream national political discourse, we generally do not discuss policy in any meaningful way. That's not to say everyone needs to read policy papers, which will always be done by a more niche group – but we do not discuss policies and their proven or likely effects. We do not talk about their effect on actual human beings and their lives. We do not accurately assign praise or blame to politicians and political parties, or engage in more nuanced analysis and discussion. For instance, who did this tax bill benefit, and who did it benefit the most? How successful was this antipoverty measure? What effects did providing more health care have on this community? Maybe we could provide some statistics, but also talk to some people, and put a human face on these issues? Coverage on the 2016 presidential race almost entirely ignored policy issues and focused on shallow issues with false balance. Obviously, this approach gives a tremendous, unfair advantage to the candidates with worse policies, nebulous positions or a vaguer grasp of important issues. It makes it much easier for them to bullshit, which really doesn't help for the whole informed citizenry, better government thing.

For all their faults, though, mainstream corporate media outlets normally get basic facts correct. Some media outlets are little more than propaganda operations. Dodgy left-leaning outlets do exist, but don't have nearly the influence of conservative outlets, most of all Fox News. Rank-and-file conservatives believe false things and are fearful in part because they have been lied to and fed fear. Several studies have shown that Fox News viewers score less accurately on basic news tests than people who don't watch the news, yet Fox News viewers are also more likely to believe that they're better-informed than their fellow citizens. Stewing in Fox News makes them both less informed and more certain. (That's a feature, not a bug, of course.)

Ideally, policies would be discussed on their merits, and praise and blame (or measured, nuanced assessments) would be accurately assigned. In actual practice, due to all the factors discussed above, conservatives and Republicans are rarely held accountable for their policies and decisions. The conservative movement works to prevent any such reckoning.

(It might help to look at some specific policies. but before that, a brief segue.)

Conservative Versus Republican

Anyone's who criticized conservatives in some depth has probably encountered pushback that, for example, George W. Bush wasn't a true conservative, or Trump isn't, or neither of them is emblematic of the true Republican Party (never mind those pesky votes and other support).

It's true that "conservative" and "Republican" aren't always synonymous, but since the two major political parties realigned in the 1960s, the Republican Party has been more conservative on almost every issue, and the majority of Republicans consistently identify themselves as conservative. As Digby's observed, conservatives like to pretend that conservatism cannot fail; it can only be failed. (Self-described libertarians love this "no true Scotsman" game, too.) Every time conservatives are discredited, it's common to see a disowning of key figures, plus conservative rebranding efforts. We'll also see pundits yearning for the more reasonable, decent conservatives and Republicans of yesteryear, and not just for, say, Eisenhower (for whom some good arguments can be made), but Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes, among others. Although those individuals may indeed have been better than the current crop in some particulars, an honest, fair assessment would judge that many of their policies stunk and quite a few of them had pretty crazy views. The Democratic Party has become more liberal over time, and the Republican Party more conservative, but the Republican drift has been more extreme. The Republican Party Platform of 1956 would be denounced as socialist by the conservatives and Republicans of today. In contrast, the Democratic Party Platform of 1972 is quite similar to recent platforms on many issues, except that contemporary platforms are much stronger on LGBT rights and other social issues. The Democratic Party does have an establishmentarian, corporatist faction, but also a more liberal one. The Republican Party is not a mirror image; it's purged almost all nonconservatives from office. Republican officials are more conservative and extreme than many members of their own party, and much more conservative and extreme than their constituents as a whole. Voters may have more variety, but when it comes to political figures, for practical purposes, "conservative" and "Republican" are generally effectively the same. Accordingly, in this piece I'm using the terms fairly interchangeably unless the distinction matters (for instance, discussing conservative Democrats).

As for Trump specifically, occasionally, we'll see some bullshit arguments that he's some sort of aberration, but some style differences aside, Trump is firmly in the conservative tradition. Some conservatives effectively admit this – they might criticize Trump's style, but support his policies nonetheless. Neither major political party is entirely pure or evil, but comparisons are both possible and essential. The truth is, Republicans are primarily to blame for the political problems in Washington, D.C. and the nation, and that definitely includes the rise of Trump.

Conservative Policies

Conservative policies almost always benefit the rich and powerful – the donor class – rather than average constituents and the country. That's no accident. Although sincerely held ideology might drive some conservatives and Republicans, in many cases, their motivation amounts to simple corruption. For the horrendous Republican tax bill of December 2017, Republican representative Chris Collins flat-out admitted, "My donors are basically saying, 'Get it done or don’t ever call me again.' " (And sure enough, after the bill passed, the donors were pleased.) Let's take a look at some policies.

Inequality: Wealth and income inequality in the U.S. are at their worst since the gilded age, and are likely to become more extreme. This neofeudal model stands in sharp contrast to the New Deal and post-WWII policies aimed at helping the nation as a whole. Those policies gave the U.S. the "great compression," a period of enormous economic growth, decreased inequality, an expansion of the middle class and shared prosperity (with some important caveats about denied opportunities based on race, gender, etc.). A model of hoarding power and prosperity versus sharing it is probably the defining difference between conservatives and nonconservatives (liberals and so-called moderates). The aforementioned 2017 Republican tax bill was designed – like Reagan's and all major Republican tax proposals since Bush's twin tax cuts – to massively benefit the already wealthy. It remains bad fiscal, economic and social policy. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities summarizes, "The major tax legislation enacted last December will cost approximately $1.5 trillion over the next decade and deliver windfall gains to wealthy households and profitable corporations, further widening the gap between those at the top of the income ladder and the rest of the nation." (As the report continues, wage stagnation certainly doesn't help.) Those are features, not bugs, as are decades of conservatives yelling that any effort to lessen massive inequality is communism. Americans as a whole want a more fair system, but Republicans are more likely to think the current system is already fair and that poverty is due a lack of effort instead of circumstances beyond one's control. (They are wrong.) However, Americans really have no idea how bad inequality is, and even rank-and-file Republicans favor a more equitable distribution when it's presented as a choice. Inequality remains a major issue beyond economic matters – conservatives and Republicans stand for acquiring more power and keeping it, even if it hurts the country at large.

Climate Change: The Trump administration, true to Republican form, has decided to ignore climate change, including the government's own National Climate Assessment. Meanwhile, an alarming new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of potentially terrible consequences as soon as 2040. Some Democrats are also beholden to the fossil fuel industry, but industry donations heavily favor Republicans, and conservative Republicans are the group most opposed to acknowledging climate change and to doing anything about it. That position is one of many conservative shibboleths to affirm tribal identity. Climate change is arguably the single most important issue we face, because human life on the planet could significantly, negatively change if it's not addressed. Yet the Republican Party is just about the only major political party in the world to deny climate change and oppose universal health care. Speaking of which…

Health Care: The Affordable Care Act is about the most conservative health care plan possible that can actually work – it doesn't dismantle private, for-profit health insurance, and uses that mechanism to provide health care for the majority of Americans. It's a far cry from the better, universal health care systems that most other industrialized nations have, and that liberals favor, but the ACA has had a positive effect: "In 2016, there were 28.6 million Americans without health insurance, down from more than 48 million in 2010." Rather than addressing that remaining gap, Republicans voted to repeal the ACA over 70 times as of July 2017. Republicans had promised for several years to produce an alternative to the ACA, but never offered a coherent, workable plan. When Republicans finally did produce something, their plan allowed states to waive the provision that prevents insurance companies from refusing to cover or to charge more to people with pre-existing conditions. Such a move would save for-profit insurance companies money, of course, but would be absolutely horrible for citizens. Naturally, conservatives lied about this. It's important to note how much bad faith has featured in conservative arguments about health care, captured by Jonathan Chait's "Heritage uncertainty principle": "Conservative health-care-policy ideas reside in an uncertain state of quasi-existence. You can describe the policies in the abstract, sometimes even in detail, but any attempt to reproduce them in physical form will cause such proposals to disappear instantly."

The Social Safety Net: The usual Republican pattern since Reagan has been to pass tax cuts heavily favoring the rich, increase military spending (optional), create a deficit, and then claim the shortfall has to been made up by cutting the social safety net, especially Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Sure enough, the Republican "starve the beast" gambit is right on time, with Republicans calling to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even blamed the deficit on social spending and not the obvious culprit, his own tax bill, because he has no shame. It's crucial to notice that rank-and-file conservatives will publicly rail against social spending, but they're in favor of it when it benefits themselves – they just don't want it going to Those Other People. As Matt Taibbi concluded after interviewing supposedly anti-government conservatives, "they're full of shit."

Norms of Process and Governance: It would be hard to overstate just how much Newt Gingrich did to destroy Congress as a functioning institution in the 1990s, making the Republican Party far more tribal, vicious and dysfunctional to this day. More recently, in 2016, Mitch McConnell refused to grant a hearing to then-President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. It was a stunning abuse of power and violation of norms, but McConnell's bragged about it (because again, he has no shame). Meanwhile, Republican state legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina, after losing the governorship to Democrats, have moved to limit the powers of the governor that were just fine when in Republican hands. Conservatives have an attitude that any election they don't win is inherently illegitimate, because the other guys aren't supposed to win and any abuse of power or change of the rules is thus justified. They'll argue for the power of the majority when in the majority, but will fight ruthlessly for minority rule when they're not. They do not want a fair system. They simply do not care about the will of the people if it doesn't align with their goals.

Democracy and Representative Government: Related to the norms above, the majority of conservative Republicans oppose making voting easier for everyone. Conservatives keep working to suppress voting , and this has a strong racial component. (Before the parties realigned in the 1960s, some of those anti-voting social conservatives were Southern Democrats.) Both parties have been guilty of gerrymandering, but after the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans have been worse and gerrymandering is likely to become more pronounced. Conservatism has always had an anti-democratic streak. In 1980, Paul Weyrich, cofounder of the conservative Heritage Foundation and also the so-called Moral Majority, said:

Now many of our Christians have what I call the "goo-goo" syndrome – good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people – they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

It'd be remiss not to also mention the racist Southern Strategy that's been key to most Republican presidential runs since Goldwater. It hasn't always worked, luckily, but winning elections through bigotry is not something to be proud of.

Wall Street and Consumer Protections: Both major parties are pretty beholden to Wall Street and the financial industry. Still, to quote a 2016 post:

. . . the Republican Party is demonstratively worse, opposing and trying to water down the Dodd-Frank Act (rather than seeing it as not going far enough), trying to block the creation and staffing of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (and then trying to weaken or eliminate it) and generally supporting plutocracy. Liberal activists aren't shy about criticizing the Democrats on this issue.

Predictably, the Trump administration has moved to curtail the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau even more. Financial companies make a killing as it is, but why protect average constituents when you can serve wealthy donors instead?

Attending and Affording College: Without going into depth on this issue, conservatives consistently work against the interests of students and for rich lenders instead.

Gun Safety: It's possible to support both gun ownership and reasonable restrictions for public safety, but the National Rifle Association, which once was a more moderate "sportsman" group, has for decades opposed almost every and any measure restricting firearms. Just this year, the NRA has issued rabid, apocalyptic, hyperpartisan ads, and has tried to bully doctors into silence: "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves." (Yes, why hasn't the medical community consulted non-doctors about a health issue? How unfair! Trauma surgeons have responded to this ludicrousness, of course.) It's no surprise the NRA heavily favors donations to Republicans. Conservative arguments about gun safety often ignore the history of the Second Amendment, and the U.S. has an odd, destructive gun culture that complicates most discussions. Perhaps most galling is how the NRA and conservatives have worked to block research into gun violence. They're not arguing for better policies. They're actively preventing a more informed discussion, probably because they know enough to fear accurate conclusions.

Reproductive Freedom: Little has changed in decades, sadly – conservatives continue to attack reproductive freedom and women's rights, and the Trump administration has predictably done the same.

LGBT Issues: Some conservatives have gotten better on these, but as usual for conservatives on social issues, improvement is more the result of being dragged along by the culture than leading the cause. Opposing gay rights is a socially conservative movement, and it's no secret that homophobes overwhelmingly identify as conservatives and/or Republicans. Some try to use the patina of religion to justify their attitudes, but it's still bigotry. During his presidential campaign, Trump unconvincingly promised to protect gay rights, but of course he has been horrible.

Immigration Reform: Back during an 1980 debate, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were asked about how "illegal" immigrants and their children should be treated. Both candidates spoke about treating immigrants well, about how they were good people and should be made citizens. Both men would be booed by their party today. A recent study estimates the number of undocumented immigrants at 10.7 million. That number may be decreasing, but it's still far too high to make any kind of arrest-and-deportation scheme practical; a road-to-citizenship plan would be far more realistic and also much more humane. Trump's proposal to build a physical wall on the border is likewise ridiculously unrealistic and ignores glaring practical issues. Back in 2012, then-presidential-candidate Mitt Romney suggested a ludicrous self-deportation policy. The Trump administration has done the same, but also crafted a broader, crueler immigration policy. Indeed, it's hard to keep up with all the horrific stories from the border. Trump launched his presidential campaign with racist statements, and that approach remains central to his pitch and appeal.

Other Issues: I still haven't covered foreign policy, military spending, due process, torture, supporting the arts, and many other issues, but I've done that at some length in other pieces. Briefly: There's broad bipartisan agreement on general imperialism and military spending, although Republican presidential candidates always agitate for greater military expenditures, even though the U.S. military budget dwarfs that of the rest of the world. Many conservatives show a juvenile hostility toward the State Department, the United Nations and the value of diplomacy in general. Republicans were unwilling to hold the Bush administration accountable for lying the U.S. into the Iraq War and starting a torture regime. Democrats deserve some credit for leading a detailed torture investigation, but it's still classified, and real accountability remains unlikely. Obama's "look forward" policy was a mistake, because torture is more likely to come back. Just witness Trump's imbecilic, macho bragging about torture, Mike Pence refusing to disown it and Trump appointing a CIA head complicit in the torture regime who refused to condemn torture as immoral. Finally, in a sharply different vein, conservatives routinely threaten the relatively meager federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, NPR and PBS as an affirmation of tribal identity and just to be assholes.

Conservative policies are awful on the merits. That also means their positions leave little room for common ground, which doesn't have value if the ideas stink, no matter how much some pundits fetishize bipartisanship.

It wouldn't be right to abandon political outreach completely, but it's wise to identify who can actually be reached and who's a lost cause, at least in the short run. It's folly to expect conservative and Republican leaders to develop a conscience. It's dangerous to believe that their donors, who have invested in a long game of increased and hoarded power, want a democracy and a fair system. It's madness to think that rank-and-file conservatives and Republicans will abandon spite or party loyalty. And it's wishful thinking that mainstream corporate media outlets will abandon bothsiderism bullshit and other shallow analysis, no matter how much it hurts the nation. For now and the foreseeable future, the key thing to do about American conservatives and the Republican Party is to vigorously oppose them. It's up to the rest of us who care about good policy and responsible governance to talk, learn from each other, support each other and mobilize.

(Cross-posted at Hullabaloo.)