Give The Man Points For Honesty

The morphing of America’s conservative movement into something much darker has been going on for a long time. I still recall my youngest son’s response, over twenty years ago, to a colleague who’d invited him to join the local branch of the Federalist Society.  He declined, explaining that he didn’t look good in brown shirts…

Even then, the trajectory was clear.  Today, the fascists are coming out of the closet.

Last week, The Federalist published an essay that was certainly forthright: it was titled “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservative.” Here’s the lede:

Why? Because the conservative project has largely failed, and it is time for a new approach. Conservatives have long defined their politics in terms of what they wish to conserve or preserve — individual rights, family values, religious freedom, and so on. Conservatives, we are told, want to preserve the rich traditions and civilizational achievements of the past, pass them on to the next generation, and defend them from the left. In America, conservatives and classical liberals alike rightly believe an ascendent left wants to dismantle our constitutional system and transform America into a woke dystopia. The task of conservatives, going back many decades now, has been to stop them.

A “woke dystopia” is presumably a country that extends those “individual rights and freedoms” to citizens who were previously denied them. The author is rather clearly horrified by the prospect of allowing women and LGBTQ+ citizens to participate in society on an equal basis.

After all, what have conservatives succeeded in conserving? In just my lifetime, they have lost much: marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years, the First Amendment, any semblance of control over our borders, a fundamental distinction between men and women, and, especially of late, the basic rule of law.

The rest of the essay is a call to abandon notions of limited government (which is not the same thing as small government, a distinction which seems to elude the author) in favor of acquiring and weaponizing the power of the state to “stop the Left.” The author wants  the Right to use the power of government as “an instrument of renewal in American life — and in some cases, a blunt instrument indeed.”

And how would that instrument be deployed?

To stop the disintegration of the family might require reversing the travesty of no-fault divorce, combined with generous subsidies for families with small children. Conservatives need not shy away from making these arguments because they betray some cherished libertarian fantasy about free markets and small government. It is time to clear our minds of cant.

In other contexts, wielding government power will mean a dramatic expansion of the criminal code. It will not be enough, for example, to reach an accommodation with the abortion regime, to agree on “reasonable limits” on when unborn human life can be snuffed out with impunity. As Abraham Lincoln once said of slavery, we must become all one thing or all the other. The Dobbs decision was in a sense the end of the beginning of the pro-life cause. Now comes the real fight, in state houses across the country, to outlaw completely the barbaric practice of killing the unborn….

Drag Queen Story Hour should be outlawed; that parents who take their kids to drag shows should be arrested and charged with child abuse; that doctors who perform so-called “gender-affirming” interventions should be thrown in prison and have their medical licenses revoked; and that teachers who expose their students to sexually explicit material should not just be fired but be criminally prosecuted.

There’s much more, but the cited paragraphs are illustrative. The message is unmistakable: government should be used as a weapon against anyone who differs from the author’s theocratic/nationalistic/paternalistic worldview.

The author is not some rogue essayist invited by the magazine to provoke a discussion; his name isJohn Daniel Davidson and he is a senior editor at The Federalist. 

Actual conservatives–including Bill Kristol– have responded negatively. As one blogger wrote:

Davidson’s “restorationists” could probably be better described as “revanchists,” as they not only want to restore lost territory but also to “retaliate” against those who have torn apart the glorious world he imagines we once had.

It’s an explicitly authoritarian vision. The word “democracy” never once appears in the essay, and references to the concept only refer to events in the past…

Once in power, the revanchists should forget all about the (alleged) conservative idea of “small government” and instead learn to love Big (Brother) Government, inserting it deeply into private life.

Dobbs was just the beginning.

The blogger went on to compare Davidson’s explicit goals to the elements of fascism, and to confirm the fit.

In eight days, Americans will either vote Blue–or vote to buy brown shirts.


  1. Exactly what I’ve been saying and also fear. American democracy is on life support and has virtually no chance of survival. Fascism is alive and well in the US and is moving to take over the government and society. DJT is just the beginning of fascists coming into power. DeSantis is much more dangerous as he is much more intelligent than DJT as are other ones ready to attack.

  2. Let’s see, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party all voted in favor of funding a fascist government in Ukraine – no opposition. If you read the finer points of Putin’s speech last week, he is talking about the West’s dismantling of Christian Orthodoxy by imposing their “multiple versions of gender” on society.

    Inverted morality? We’ll need John to sort that out because it is confusing.

    It’s all about the abuse of power by those in the minority. How do we impose our will on others when we are in the minority?

    The problem is both political parties are in the minority and trying to oppress each other at the expense of the many.

    If anyone thinks the Democratic Party represents a “woke left,” please explain why that party snuffed out ALL progressive policies, BLM, and Antifa.

    IMHO, both parties are lurching toward a cliff wrestling each other over the power to oppress. Prove me wrong.

  3. Well, yes, the fascist/conservative/Federalist/Republican party has come out of the closet. Remember when the puppet Ronald Reagan was told to nominate Antonin Scalia? He was the first of the Justices from the Federalist cesspool. And EVERY Republican president has followed suit with the list of fascist ideologues continuing through Alito, Roberts, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Barrett. I don’t include Thomas here because he is a special case of treason to the Constitution.

    Lightner and Todd both throw their hands in the air and point fingers. Nonsense. Like so many things that “conservatives” have touched since 1789, the Federalists have been longing for an autocracy that they manage exclusively. It’s what they do. It’s why they were founded. It’s why the big money oligarchs (kudos to Todd) have funded the Federalist Society for so many decades.

    These liars and cheats have NEVER intended to follow the Constitution or any other plan or document that honors egalitarian principles. Their slavish connection to radical Christianity is just another brick in their wall.

    So, how does that get fixed? I am forced to agree with the runaway and Todd that we may be in for a very bad time before it all gets sorted out. We MAY have a nation-wide race war. We MAY have a nation-wide religious war. But the irony is that those civil upheavals will virtually destroy the wealth machines that the oligarchs depend on for their allusion of power. Stay tuned.

  4. I don’t see how Dobbs, which says the policy decision of abortion should be decided by the people through their elected representatives, as being an example of Big Brother government. In fact, Roe, which was a policy decision on the issue handed down by unelected individuals, seems more like Big Brother government to me. Other than that, I applaud Sheila for picking up this article and publicizing it. Traditional conservatives like me have long argued that these Trumpers are not really conservatives. I’m glad they’re finally admitting it.

  5. Davidson described a Dictatorship takeover of America; their Emperor is still wearing no clothes and he is still cheered on by his deaf, dumb and blind followers. The Judicial system at all levels has slowed the already creeping speed of bureaucracy to a parking lot; it has stymied any legal action against Trump and all of his White Nationalist MAGA party members to ensure no action will be taken till they have retaken the House of Representatives which will return Trump to OUR White House. I use the term “OUR” in the sense of democracy for all people. There is nothing conservative about the current Conservative Republicans.

    Look at the UK and their Conservative party problems; the loss of Queen Elizabeth came at a time that the turmoil was barely contained with their own Trump clone as PM. King Charles is a poor replacement for Queen Elizabeth and we have lost one of our staunchest allies in global politics which will result in “cause and effect” in maintaining democracy around the world. Todd’s view of Ukraine equals those of the “good Germans” who allowed the Holocaust operate freely in Europe. He is an American “brown shirt” and his words are dangerous, especially to those within his Muncie Voice range in suburban Indiana.

  6. Paul K. Ogden; the Dobbs decision is but one of a long list of Republican interference into the most personal aspect of our private lives concerning medical and personal decisions which are none of your business and does not belong in politics, religion or the Judicial system. Please get out of our beds and leave our vaginas to us to maintain and make decisions about. Your (using the general “your”) involvement is never included for their part in these personal and private issues, causing the problems you want to control after-the-fact and “your” pleasure and completion of the act causing the medical condition at the crux of these current SCOTUS decisions. Nothing conservative about any of this which has become a Constitutional Crisis because of intrusion into our most private lives.

  7. “Stop the world, I want to get off!” resonates with conservatives everywhere. The world that they prefer slips further back into history every day. Why? Capitalism changes the world every day. New this, new that, new fashion, new ideas, new tools, more entertainment made more available all of the time, more advertising, new problems to be solved. Doesn’t anything just hold still anymore?

    No as a matter of fact, and nobody is in control of that. Government is the only force that could possibly be in control and we like it when it takes from others and gives to me but what about when it takes from me? Equality sucks. It’s anti=capitalistic.

    We have met the enemy and it is us.

  8. Why don’t we all get “real” and admit that there is no going back to our “dream America” that never quite lived up to its aspirations. It is time to begin real discussions about how to peacefully create a Blue America and a Red America and let each march to their own drummer and try to “prove” their aspirations. Isn’t that preferable to civil war of any kind?

  9. It’s odd, JoAnn, I’m not the one supporting a nuclear war in Europe, yet you are pointing at me, calling me a “brown shirt.” You occupy an information bubble no different from the right crowd listening to Fox News. Turn off your TV.

    The MIC flew their B-52s into Australia to show China our military muscle. China has hypersonic missiles. I wonder if Australia’s new “Leftist” government has prepped its people for giant explosions. Where is the anti-war movement within the media?

  10. It seems to be so hard for the right to believe that we all have dreams of a better America. None of us will achieve our individual dream in our lifetimes. That’s what makes it a dream.

    Paul, a “right ” should never be a matter of policy. Religions differ on when the fetus is human, so the court (rightly, IMHO) determined “viability” as the key. Even beyond that, the life of the mother should take precedence over the life of the fetus, not be placed in jeopardy by that “would be” person.

  11. Paul. Roe protected a woman’s freedom to make her own decision about her own body. This is not Big Brother Government. Dobbs takes away that individual freedom and puts the decision in the hands of the government. That is Big Brother Government. Roe never forced any woman to have an abortion. How can you be so blind to that?

  12. A big part of “the enemy” – is – silence – apathy – resignation – Who Votes – often we vote out of Fear , rather than – to positively build our country. Black Women – elected Joe Biden. We, white men, feared – Gays, Immigrants, BIPOC – a changing culture/world – of diversity.

    Those of us who “choose” to vote (those who don’t vote in every election) need to be beyond – the women and a few men – who are angry about Dobbs.

    Many people in our country are More Upset – by their favorite shows being interrupted by – news – bad news – than that we face a likely Fascist State soon. The World Series is as important or more important than the election next week.

    We need to listen to the fears of those who are supporting those who are tearing our country apart. Reaching them – will take some time.

    Meanwhile – we need to reach those who may well not vote. The Right – keeps their supporters motivated – by their fears of us (alone) often.

    All that you say is true (also)!

  13. Out of the closet, he is, Mr. Davidson!
    I’m pleased to see St.Reagan’s name brought into the discussion, deserving, as he is, of credit for
    having clearly set us in this deplorable direction!
    The brown shirts are among us mores than previously, in the form of the apparatchiks appointed to
    so many courts by way of McConnell.
    “In America, conservatives and classical liberals alike rightly believe an ascendent left wants to dismantle our constitutional system and transform America into a woke dystopia.” Only a warped, frightened point of
    view can adhere to this image. What’s next, dismantling the “Enlightenment?” Proclaiming that
    the Orange (Puppet) Criminal is king? He’d just love that.
    Do we strengthen our democracy by putting it into a steel corset? I do not believe that The Rights of Man (including women) is about some fantasied, and feared woke world, taking “woke” to mean aware of and accepting things like slavery happened here, patriarchy has (mis)run the ship of our state, evolution and being gay are not intentional plots designed to overthrow
    traditional culture. “What? You have views that do not align with those of the Federalist Society?”

  14. Is it possible that we can (short of consititutional amendment) legislatively reverse Marbury v. Madison for certain purposes? Why are our Jeffersonian “inalienable rights” a subject for nine unelected people (appointed by politicians) to decide if they are truly inalienable? Are some rights so fundamentally inalienable to citizens that they are beyond the reach of any branch of government to define and decide? Dobbs? Originalism as cover? Big government fascism masquerading as “small government” and “conservatives” (among other fronts) to gather votes from a gullible and fearful population who are groomed to see strongman rule as a way out of political chaos, a chaos deliberately created by the strongman for just such a reaction?

    These are some of the thoughts that meander through my aging neurons as I witness the return of the Brownshirts and ponder how the Federalist menace and others of like views will fare as they collide with post-Enlightenment citizens of small d bent.

    Perhaps such an existentialist choice need not be up for grabs if next week there is a resounding vote for the small d party, i.e., the Democratic Party; so let’s vote, and take Grandma, cousin John and sister in law Louise to the polls with us, because this vote is not like the ones I experienced over the years in re taxes, welfare and the like. This election is about surviving failed state status and the historical oblivion of a Rome or Carthage. Vote.

  15. Paul-for the first time in U.S. history, our Supreme Court is destroying a century of progress and stripping women of rights because neither the Bill of Rights nor the 14th Amendment applied to women when originally passed. Now, according to the Supreme Court, the ONLY right guaranteed to women under the express language of the U.S. Constitution as amended is the right to vote. And Justice Alito’s language in Dobbs is intentionally ambiguous. If Congress passes a law guaranteeing a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and self-determination, the Supreme Court can say this violates State Sovereignty. If Congress passes a federal abortion ban, the Supreme Court can declare that the people have spoken through their elected representatives, uphold the ban, and further bend the Constitution to the will of an extremist minority.

  16. I wonder if Elon Musk has read 1984. If so, I wonder what he thought of it.

    In any case, if John Daniel Davidson’s vision were to come to pass, what would be the first thing the “government” would do? Rename your country to Gilead?

    You know, all these brilliant writers (like Orwell, Atwood, and many others) are intending to warn of future problems, by making their satire so clearly awful. The writings are not supposed to be suggestions or roadmaps.

  17. Looks like you’re all in the “USA First!” bubble. Worldwide famine, covid, polio, RSV, civil wars and preludes to it, invasions of territory, nuclear threats, Taiwan, floods, heat waves, prospective food chain collapse, dissolution of globalism…and more. Billions of lives at risk.
    Dance on…

  18. I remember reading that Atwood modeled rituals in the Handmaid’s Tale on things she observed at Harvard in the late 50s/early 60s. Since I worked at that University and eventually earned a Harvard degree through its Extension, I see everything ironic and nothing unbelievable in that explanation. For years I have seen that novel as the future history of the United States.

    Not funny, which leads to the observation that any sort of a sense of humour, ironic self knowledge or any at all tendency to lighten up is tragically, not part of current reality. It is sadly, true that “self knowledge is more like ignorance than knowledge.”

    I take comments about escaping very personally, coming to Canada in the late 60s and becoming a citizen in 1980. That was all about seeing this country as having room for activism and room for non-conformity – clearly, the young know very little of the real – imagine a couple of baby idealists hanging around Harvard square, reading Vancouver papers, opining negatively about ‘Wacky Bennett,’ the premier of the day – ignorance indeed – but hopeful. So, all these many years I have been aware of my great luck in landing here – recent developments underline that luck. I hope that I managed to contribute enough to maybe, a bit, balance the scale.

    Despite polls, despite spiteful rhetoric, despite deadly behaviour, despite the fact that the evil boiling caldron spits nastiness on every one of us – I remain hopeful for our world and grateful for my Canadian life.


  19. My mother, bless her soul, went bat-shit crazy when Reagan was elected. She knew he was a Hollywood groomed actor from Illinois who could not break the glass ceiling of being a headline star. He would never get beyond his cemented “good, but not that good” “B rating” status.

    All to say, mom saw the disastrous writing on the wall when pro-corporate Reagan replaced the last true FDR/Truman Democrat in Jimmy Carter. Unions and the Middle Class of the post WW2 years would soon (VERY soon) be a thing of the past. Through Reagan and all the pro-corporate and pro-wall street Presidents to date (INCLUDING dinos Clinton and Obama), government as the nucleus for “self governance” will now be a commodity and tool of the wealthy. The 1971 Powell Memo to the US Chamber of Commerce was well on its way to being fulfilled.

    Reagan’s accent toward corporate/wall street “free market” control of our federal government hit pay-dirt when, in 1985, the Fairness Doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, was revoked by Reagan’s appointees to the commission. That policy had required the holders of broadcast licenses (radio, TV, et al) to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that fairly reflected differing viewpoints. The doctrine was created in light of what happened in Germany when Hitler took control of the media in 1932. Reagan would give Rupert Murdoch credit for his Presidential win in New York. The sky was now the limit for Murdoch.

    The media mogul would eventually hire former Republican political consultant Roger Ailes as CEO to oversee the right-wing propaganda Fox News. Roger Ailes was the media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and for Rudy Giuliani’s 1989 New York City mayoral election. Needless to say, Hitler would have been impressed by the political and monopolizing strategies of the media “free market” darling in Fox.

    With Murdoch’s media blitz of Americans since 1985 and the steady 40 year take over of our government by the Corporate/Wall Street Class, the road to Fascism was all but done by 2016 and Trump’s arrival to take on “the Wall Street politicians” in Washington D.C. His “populism” is now well documented. Knowing the power of the media with his “reality” show, “The Apprentice,” nominated for eight Emmys, Trump took Reagan’s populism and and ran with it. The result, as we know, was greatest presidential election “upset” since Truman defeated Dewey in 1948. Fox News viewers (and millions of former union workers) were pissed and Trump was their answer to “Washington politics as usual.”

    So….no one….NO ONE should be “shocked” by how our country has gotten here. No one should be surprised that our Democracy is all but dead. “Follow The Money” is NOT a hard practice. How money and capital flows in American/Global mega economics paints the picture quite clearly. It did not happen overnight.

    Welcome to the New American Century, the roadmap to global economic power in the hands of the VERY few. It is our political “Hotel California” where you can check in anytime you like, but you can NEVER leave!

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