Daylight savings conservative drunkblogging

It’s late and I’ve had too many gin and tonics.  This naturally calls for a post.

I was hazily thinking about Matt Yglesias’s recent post on conservatives and nuclear power and it occurs to me that today’s conservative movement is in some ways an engineering marvel – somehow, latter-day conservatives have amalgamated the very worst features of each of the three or four Republican 20th century icon presidents.

President 1 is Hoover, whose economic ideas have somehow come back into fashion.

President 2 is Reagan. The cult of personality and dogmaticism, the doubling down in the face of information that suggests you’re wrong, the relentless political segmentation and marketing rather than focusing on policy correctness – these strike me as a developments of the 1980s.

President 3 is Nixon. The dirty tricks and constant recourse to subterfuge come straight from him.

President 4, the one motivating this post, is, strangely enough, Eisenhower. Maybe I’m being unfair to Eisenhower and attributing a particular strain of old Republicanism to him personally, but when I think about the roots of conservative attitudes on science and technology, I think of a military/engineering intellectual superstructure that flourished in the 1950s and managed to triumph in a few select fiefdoms. NASA is one, with its blinkered insistence on doing things that are challenging from an engineering perspective without actually thinking about whether they make sense. And the nuclear power industry seems like another area where technocratic elites have swamped the political conversation and created a conservative cause celebre, even if there’s no obvious reason why conservatives should care about nuclear power. When we look at conservative nuke advocates in 2011, the only explanation that seems to make sense is that we’re dealing with a historical artifact that bred the strange grandchildren of Eisenhower and the RAND Corporation.

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