The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode 13: The Death of Conservatism

We’re back to our standard theme song this week: Neko Case’s “People Got a Lotta Nerve,” from Middle Cyclone (2009).

General Introduction
– What’s on the blog?
– Sam Mulberry wins a windbreaker

The Death of Conservatism
– Introduction to Sam Tanenhaus
– Our gut reactions to the book
– Three thumbs pointing various degrees of down

Could This Book Have Been Released in 2004?
– GOP on the ropes
– George W. Bush as ultimate movement conservative ideologue
– Why David feels like Abe Vigoda
– Things have changed
– Nathan uses a passive verb

Philosophical vs. Movement Conservatism
– Is this a fair distinction to make?
The “kindred spirit” approach
– Philosophical vs. movement liberalism
– Openness vs. closedness

Conservatism vs. Radicalism
– Too broad a movement
– Tradition as status quo
– What do conservatives actually want to conserve?
– Why liberals like Leave It to Beaver now

Dialectical Politics
– “The dragging heels of the body politic”
– Theory vs. observations
– How Tanenhaus confuses effect with goal
– Is there an inevitable trajectory of history?
– Why attention to the particular matters
– Flattening historical moment

Orthodoxy vs. Compromise
– Blue dogs and rhinos
– Impotence vs. acquiescence
– Do liberals eat their own?
– Left-wing complaints about Obama

Republican Disinterest in Specifics
– A healthy disinterest, David argues
– Turning libertarian
– Are conservatives simplistic?
– Conservatism as keeping to yourself
– Polarization on both ends of the spectrum
– Nathan plugs his candidate

The Culture War™
– Is it a part of the past?
– Sarah Palin’s elite-baiting
– Who counts as an elite?
– Michial declares his Catonism; Nathan contends
– How democracy leads to tyranny
– A fourth ex-cathedra pronouncement: You’re the man now, dog

The Death of Social Conservatism?
– Mores, not populism
– Celibate vampires vs. prime-time television
– The libertarian uprising
– How big of a voice do social conservatives have now?
– Social conservatism as a consumer choice
– Michial’s socially conservative fatalism
– Nathan’s humorless, quasi-Anabaptist, lunatic sanguinity

Looking to the Future
– Making a new way
– Becoming more conscious
– Nathan is tired of being a wannabe Anabaptist. He wants to be an Anabaptist!
– Taking the best from all movements


Augustine. City of God. Trans. Henry Bettenson. New York: Penguin, 2003.

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. New York: Penguin, 1976.

Hauerwas, Stanley. Resident Aliens. Nashville: Abingdon, 1989.

Kirk, Russell. The Essential Russell Kirk. Wilmington, Del.: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2006.

Plato. The Republic. Trans. Desmond Lee. New York: Penguin, 1987.

Postman, Neil. Building a Bridge to the 18th Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future. New York: Vintage, 2000.

Tanenhaus, Sam. The Death of Conservatism. New York: Random House, 2009.

Weaver, Richard M. Ideas Have Consequences. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984.

Wood, Ralph C. The Comedy of Redemption: Christian Faith and Comic Vision in Four American Novelists. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 1988.

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