“They believe in small government… until it comes time to control women’s bodies!” Zing! I’m really tired of the liberal habit of pointing out these kinds of superficial contradictions. It’s true that conservative ideology doesn’t make sense if we look at its stated rationales, which are different for different topics. The stated rationales, in fact, function as a kind of weapon against liberals, who jump at the chance to engage and disprove — and will happily waste infinite amounts of time doing so. It’s like a drug for a certain type of “reasonable liberal”: they’re showing their broad-mindedness by engaging in dialogue with their ideological enemies, and they’re showing their intellectual superiority!
Yet conservatives have basically given the game away with their abuse of the fillibuster: they’ve all but explicitly declared that for them, the pretense of debate is nothing but a delay tactic and a power play. Some liberals have recognized this and ignored their stated rationales, but the alternative for them is apparently some kind of vulgar psychoanalysis: they hate women, they’re all secretely gay, they’re all racists. That is to say, they’re all irrational — once again, the intellectual superiority of the liberal position is secure.
What if, instead, we looked at stated conservative ideology as a part of a more or less consistent strategy? Not in the conspiracy-theory sense (though conservatives do explicitly plan much more than liberals tend to), but in the Foucauldian “conspiracy theory without conspirators” sense. Obviously the goal of conservatism is to reinforce and, if necessary, reassert “traditional” power structures. In the family sphere, that’s the father. In the economic sphere, that’s the boss. In the government sphere, that’s the police officer or the general (as opposed to the social worker).
The rationales for each of these sphere is different and provides tons of fodder for sarcastic tweets, but if we view it in terms of strategy, they all make perfect sense. Taken together, they serve to blame the victims, assert that the powerful are powerful for moral reasons, and then claim that the role of government is to endorse and reinforce the morally-discovered power structure rather than futilely try to disrupt it. The arguments might clash on a superficial level, but their effects are perfectly coherent and rational once the goal is granted.
Of course, since the rational response to this is to fight conservatives rather than argue with them, we’re probably doomed. Still, I can console myself with my intellectual superiority, so at least that’s something. (And of course, Corey Robin could have told you all this.)