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February 22, 2006


Christopher Fotos

The book seems harmless at best. And I do mean at best. But the kind of traps I believe Rod walks into aren't really germane to Amy's blog, so enough said (by me that is).


Some of it's germane.

And I congratulate Rod on this release, after what has seemed like an interminable gestation (ands I mean that in the best sense, since I've been waiting impatiently for it).

Given that even most of us here who call ourselves "conservative" in some sense would still place "Catholic" as more central to who and what we are than we would "conservative," Amy's point is well taken. But Rod's approach, from what I understand of it, helps us better grasp the problem these tensions in modern American conservatism - and American society at large, by extension - can pose for growing the faith.

Conservatism in the States in recent decades has taken a little too eagerly to populist strains, mainly as a reasonable reaction to the intellectual snobbery and elitism of the secularized chattering classes. Kind of like building an entire philosophy on Buckley's dictum that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phonebook than the 2,000 faculty at Harvard - ironic given that Buckley is hardly a poster boy for populism. But there is a certain anti-intellectualism and provincialism at work which can be dangerous, to the extent that Catholcism understands itself as founded on reason, and, for that matter, catholic in the broad sense of the term.

But there's lost of other good stuff in Rod's book, no doubt. Can't wait to read it.


P.S. Looks like Rod is still able to annoy all the right people to judge by a few of the reader reviews on Amazon.

In a larger sense it illustrates the vast gulf - could we call it Lessing's big, wide ditch? - between many of Rod's fellow shoppers at the organic food mart and himself: however much they might find common ground on the qualities of life, their lack of any trasncendental - religious - grounding, or even ability to comprehend one, is going (alas) to limit his appeal to crunchy liberals more than he no doubt hopes.

frank sales

A navel piercing? I don't believe it, Amy. Pls post photographic proof immediately!

Rich Leonardi

Judge, citing Dietrich von Hildebrand, writes of growing intellectually, spiritually, and culturally once he stopped growing physically. I must have had a delayed reaction. I stopped growing at roughly twenty, thought of nothing but politics until I was thirty, and now at thirty-seven can't remember the last time I hit "buy" on Amazon for a book by P.J. O'Rourke, Mencken, or Rand -- authors I devoured ten years ago.

Although I never lost my interest in works of history, half my paycheck now goes to books on theology, philosophy (Roger Scruton is a recent favorite), and literature, and chant and polyphony CDs. I'm trying to give myself the classical education I never received as a child.

And yes, I've become a bit of a clothes horse, though I prefer Jos A. Banks to Brooks Brothers (almost as nice and, with four kids and one on the way, far more affordable.) I performed a "forklift upgrade" of my wardrobe five years ago and haven't worn sneakers outside of the gym since.

As to the specifics of your question, I think the elements of the conservative movement benefited from a succession of common enemies for the past fifty years: first the commies, next the Clintons and their endless scandals, then the War on Terror. But conservatives are growing tired of Bush. And so rifts like those represented by the "crunchy con" phenomenon (if it is a phenomenon) and Judge's critique of red state vulgarity are now resonating or at least getting a hearing.

Kevin Jones

Judge and anti-Judge reaction splits along the old conservative faultline of aristocratic vs. egalitarian, or perhaps aristocratic vs. professionalist meritocracy.

Maclin Horton

Funny, Rich. I'm far from a clothes horse (and would look a fool if I tried to be). But after wearing jeans pretty much every day between roughly 1967 and 1970, and after that for many years whenever I wasn't forced to wear something else for work, I suddenly became sick of them sometime in the late '70s and have not owned a pair since.

I do have a thing for tweed sport coats and wear one a lot in cool weather, which causes people to tell me I look professorial. But nowadays most of the profs dress like I did in the '60s.

I'm still trying to come to grips with this navel-piercing revelation.

kathleen reilly

isn't the very label "crunchy con" an attempt to mass-marketize a concept that should be, in Dreher's own words, "small ... local ... particular"?

Rod Dreher

I'm not trying to mass marketize anything (well, okay, I am trying to sell books); the label somehow got applied way back in 2002, when we were discussing all this on The Corner, and it stuck. For better or for worse.

For the record, my navel is unpierced. But I do love love love IKEA frozen Swedish meatballs, microwaved to mushy perfection. There, I've said it. God has forgiven me, why can't you?


Hello Kathleen,

Probably. But I doubt Rod could have gotten it past a publisher if he hadn't made at least some nod in the marketing direction.

That's just the way the industry is nowadays.

kathleen reilly

"the label somehow got applied"? Rod, sell your books and prosper. but admit that you are trying to insert a concept of "crunchy con" into some lexicon. you took the label and you ran with it.

are you seriously implying it is a sin to love IKEA meatballs? i'm not being facetious.

the problem with the label "crunchy con" is it's truly meaningless to me. i wear pumps sometimes. i weark birks sometimes. i have a pair of SILVER BIRKS (the mind reels). am i crunchy? i wish i lived in a craftsman bungalow. instead, i livein a house with an attached 2 car garage which is an unexpected boon. aesthetically ugly, but incredibly useful. i adore target. in fact i got a very cute off the rack tye dye tee shirt for my one year old that she is wearing right now, and of which crunchy types would no doubt approve looks-wise. of course they have no idea i didn't tye dye it myself in a vat in the kitchen. would the shirt be essentially better if i had? would my life be more "sacramental" in practice? what if the time i saved failing to tye dye i spent instead reading the catechism?

this label breaks down pretty quickly, imho.

frank sales


Your book has only been out a day and your movement is already facing its first great schism as Welborn branches off with her navel-pierced Catholics. I hope this turns out to be more a Peter v Paul circumcision debate rather than a full on Arianism-style heretical split. I'll wait for the Council of Dallas before finally deciding, but if crunchy con means giving up Big Macs and supersize fries, I may have to follow Amy to the local body-piercers.


I've bought Rod's book. I think once people start reading the book, they'll see the wide variety of issues he tackles. What's important to remember about the whole "crunchy con label" is that it applies to so much more than simply where you shop, or what you wear, or whether you prefer heels and if you like fast-food. Those are facets of his theory, but not the issues to get hung-up on. The heart of the book, to me, is that it looks at underlying motives for our actions. When I read the original article, way back when, what resonated with me was the desire for Authenticity -- understanding what motivates us to do what we do. Maybe that's the heart of the issue -- motives.

Mark Windsor

No REAL conservative - crunchy or otherwise - would wear a hat like that in public!

In fact, Ms. Welborn (if that really is your name) what have you done with the real Rod Dreher?!? It's really Alan Colmes in disguise, isn't it?

Donald R. McClarey

Crunchy conservatives, paleo conservatives, neo conservatives, libertarian conservatives, classical conservatives, NRO conservatives, Weekly Standard conservatives, free-market conservatives, goldwater conservatives, reagan conservatives ad infinitum. As a life long, at least since 1964 plain old conservative, the only adjective I wish to see in front of my political philosophy is "winning". Unless elections can be won by a political movement, all else is navel gazing (whether pierced or not).


It seems to me that conservatism has become populist in reaction to liberalism becoming elitist and just what is liberal elitist has taken on a consciously down-market look as chronicled by David Brooks in "Bobos in Paradise."

Among my earliest memories is of my decidely populist blue-collar 2nd generation Italian immigrant parents bypassing the supermarkets to visit greengrocers and Italian butchers because you can't get decent fruit and veg or cuts of meat in those plastic wrapped packages. We also scoured open fields in spring for fresh dandelion greens and mushrooms and it wasn't to save money. We lived in the old part of town because we couldn't afford to move to the new suburbs and never ate vegetables out of can.

So imagine my surprise when I moved to Berkeley California and this lifestyle was celebrated by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse and marketed to the "bourgeois bohemians" as a new elitism. I was caught in a kind of cognitive dissonance that took years to figure out.

The populism it turns out was deeper than the liberalism and in the long run I became some version of a conservative. I still wouldn't eat vegetables out of a can and salads made from iceberg lettuce seemed strange. And I really like Mexican folk art and Diego Rivera murals.

Does this make me a crunchy con?

Rod Dreher

Rachel (Balducci) from above not only bought the book, she is in the book, talking about why she and her husband Paul choose to live where and how they do out of devotion to a particular Catholic vision of their faith and their family. Really profound stuff there -- I encourage y'all to check it out, even if you just stand in the store and look for St. Blog's names in the index (check out Maclin Horton too, who holds up the Catholic end of things in the Religion chapter).


I'm just trying to decide how "crunchy" I really am. Somedays are crunchier than others, I guess. I just have a hard time hating big business since I am the type that admires hard work, creativity, imagination and value-add propositions. Most of these business have these ideals at the root.


Charming Billy

I thought I was a crunchy con, but I’ve gone back to thinking I’m just a misfit.

I wish Kathy Shaidle would write a book like this for all of us forty-something, aging ex punk rockers who’ve become rock ribbed reactionaries like her.

bruce cole

You know, maybe I should be contributing some profound historical insight (I mean they're there in my head, believe me) to this discussion, but, but...please, Amy, don't EVER compare yourself to Goldie Hawn. I'll be having nightmares all night tonight about Goldie's blog (Open Kook) and how DaVinci Code and O'Donnell's bio of Augustine are side-barred as her current reading and other horrors too awful to mention. Thanks, thanks a whole lot....

Mark Windsor

Well, I'd buy the book, but my daughter has taken over my Amazon shopping cart!

kathleen reilly

Rachel, so what exactly do the "facets" contribute to the theory then?
when i see Authentic capitalized, i get hives. the capitalization of authentic, and the apparently concomitant assumption that it can be discerned from the shoes i wear or the house i live in or the food i eat, is a hasty, stereotyping, dangerous shortcut. one person's authentic is not another's. thank goodness.

bruce cole

And, "all seriousness aside" (as Steve Allen used to say) there's no-one at NRO whose candle-power is better than yours.

Cheeky Lawyer

Amy's navel piercing isn't a revelation as she's mentioned it before. I think that is funky and I have a wife whose navel was once pierced, alas, before she and I met.

Maria Ashwell

Amy, I'm just wondering what happens to a navel piercing through 2 pregnancies...
Also, I have a small cross tatoo on my ankle put on by an ex-boyfriend. Don't get my husband started on that one.

scotch meg

Congratulations to Rod Dreher for writing a book which sounded so intriguing that my HUSBAND insisted on buying it -- wow! A book I won't even have to wave in between him and the TV to get him to read (although I might have to wave it in between him and the "First Things" he hasn't finished yet...).

c matt

For good or ill, Big Macs are authentic America.


In the followup article, does anyone know the source of the quote from Pope Benedict? The one with the phrase "cult of ugly"?

(I have used the same term in a different context; in a lot of SF and fantasy writing and art today, there's a "cult of ugliness" where no one will take you seriously unless you're stuff is ugly. A contact claims the same cult is around in mainstream American comics, with "dark and edgy" versions of traditional superheroes. Not that we didn't need a change from the all-sweetness-and-light of post-Code Fifties & Sixties mainstreams, but it's now flipped 180 into all unrelieved darkness & ugliness.)

Maclin Horton

Rachel above has the cleverest blog name ever.

Kathleen R., really, don't be so hasty. I mean, if you're interested at all, delve a bit further--the kind of stereotyping you're talking about is really not what Rod's talking about (at least as far as I understand it--I haven't read the book yet either--which by the way I ordered from Amazon--pretty uncrunchy--but I had a gift certificate). I mean, there really is a serious discussion to be had about the unreality with which we tend to be surrounded.


Thanks Maclin!

Kathleen, I don't know that I can give an answer that will satisfy. My point is basically that authenticity (lower "a", sorry for the hives) is examining why we do what we do, and not simply being herded with the masses.


I'm not sure whether I'm a "conservative". It's an issue by issue thing. If being antiabortion is conservative, then I'm conservative. If being against the death penalty is liberal, then I'm a liberal. These are only two examples, but the list of issues is a long one. One of the things that have always amused me about the conservative/liberal divide is that so often conservatives dress like, well, conservatives, and liberals dress like liberals. There are plenty of exceptions, but the trend is there. I hate to wear ties and suits (last time I wore one was a few years ago.) Why my preference for such style of dress (as long as I'm clean) is supposed to be "not appropriate" for church (does God care?) or other settings (court, business offices) as so many conservatives friends have gently pointed out to me through the years? Is conservatism and conventionality the same thing? I hope not, but they often go hand in hand. Dress does not make a man, but we often act as if it does. Mind you, I have nothing against people "dressing up", wearing ties and suits, if that is what they prefer. But someone who wears a tie and a suit does not show any more respect to a church service than someone who comes in jeans. This should not be a conservative/liberal issue.

kathleen reilly

Maclin, I don't think I'm being hasty. these arguments sound all too familiar. i can recognize when someone is putting forth a new "conventional wisdom", and I chafe at any and all conventional wisdoms. homeschooling, birks, old houses and even organic vegetables are not right for everyone. but doesn't that go without saying by now? here's my question-- why does everyone want to see themselves and their life choices discussed in a book with a pithy label attached? there is something "inauthentic" and troubling about that. it's not so much the "unreality with which we tend to be surrounded" -- it's that we create our OWN unreality and suffer as a result.

kathleen reilly

Rachel, being herded with the masses is not always a bad thing. the masses think the Godfather is a masterpiece of a movie, that the Beatles were great, and that American Idol can be riveting TV. i agree with them. that doesn't make me stupid or inauthentic. why this impulse to separate ourselves from everyone else? it reminds me of people who liked REM or U2 before they became popular, and then shunned them precisely because of their popularity.

Mary Alexander

I'm surprised that a discussion of the actual lyrics of Redneck Woman has not ensued.

Gretchen Wilson eschews materialism and pretentiousness while embracing motherhood and the girl next door.

For those of us who embrace the same unpretentious common sense it may be that we have transcended conservatism.

Andrea Harris

The term "crunchy con" and its description has always made me want to stab myself in the head with a fork. And I shop at Whole Foods when I can. I think that Gavreau fellow is the worst sort of snob -- the "I escaped from the lower middle class" snob. "Red Neck Woman" is a charming, fun song, not a freaking philosophy. He can kiss my grits.

I still have some jeans, but I don't wear them to make statements, but because I find them comfortable. I have started to wear hats, and bought a black wool fedora that I have been informed makes me look like a "rich old lady." If only... I don't have a car; I live in a large Florida city and walk or use inadequate public transportation. But it's not from some crunchy-con ideal, but because I can't afford a car now, and frankly find the headaches of being without one currently less onerous than the headaches of owning one.

I don't have any tattoos and I never will. I have a single piercing in each earlobe and that's all I have. I live alone and don't believe in sleeping around or shacking up, which is what they used to call moving in with your boyfriend when it wasn't cool. I don't go to church. I listen to classical music, punk and gothic rock, big band and swing. I watch very little tv. I have a blog. I read Lord of the Rings over and over. I can't stand modern fashions. Hippies have always irritated me. I like to burn incense but I have allergies. I am an old lady with a cat. Politically I've moved, I guess, from slacker lefty to somewhere to the right of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Who is still dead. The original SNL cast was all that and the rest should be working in McDonald's. I eat at McDonald's.

So many boxes, all of them so small.

Maclin Horton

Kathleen says

...homeschooling, birks, old houses and even organic vegetables are not right for everyone...here's my question-- why does everyone want to see themselves and their life choices discussed in a book with a pithy label attached?

No argument with that--in fact I would share your exasperation if that's all this was about. But--and again, I have to point out that I haven't read the book yet--I don't think that's what Rod's fundamentally getting at. To the degree that the term "crunchy con" (which I don't much like) and the reference to Birkenstocks etc. in the title give that impression, I think it's only created confusion.

By the way, I'm not 100% sure what Birkenstocks are--I know they're some kind of shoe, but I'm not even sure whether it's a brand name or what. My wife tells me I would like them but for some reason I've kind of resisted even looking at them. I found a shoe from a company called San Antonio Shoes that seems perfect and don't see any reason why I should ever look at anything else. Until they stop making them, anyway.

Maclin Horton

p.s. I plead guilty to not much liking REM and U2 after their first two or three albums, but I do that with nearly every pop band. Few and far between are the popular musicians who get better over the years. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Tom Waits?

B Knotts

One aspect of this I find interesting: it is regulation, much of it "environmental" or "safety-oriented" in nature that favors the multinational corporation over the family business.

T. Chan

for those seeking more ammo against consumerism and its consequences

Is Energy's Future Sustainable, by M. Simmons

kathleen reilly

Rachel and Maclin, doncha get comped when it's YOUR life being discussed in the book? why do you have to buy it? sheesh.

Maclin Horton

My wife axed me that, too, Kathleen.

I felt compelled to formulate a more extensive response to the NRO discussion so far over at the Caelum et Terra blog. (Since NRO does not entertain comments...too good for us, are they, hmm?...probably wear top hats to work...)

Rod Dreher

I wish I had the power to send everyone I interviewed for the book a copy of it, but that is out of my hands entirely. Sorry.

Why are you so angry, Kathleen? Seriously.


Flipping channels this morning, I saw a spot on this book on Pat Robertson's show, 700 Club. Looked OK to me. Some of the people interviewed looked like me and my friends. But I'm not "conservative"...maybe "crunchy" though?

Maclin Horton

I didn't actually mind, Rod. My wife is a tightwad. A gorgeous fascinating brilliant tightwad, to be sure, but still, pretty careful with a penny. Unless it's for her children. A lot of women are like that, I notice.


As for being herded: decide for yourself what you like. Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's wrong (but it doesn't always guarantee it's good either). I think it's dangerous to be into something simply because a lot of other people are as well (my husband wants me to add here two words: Creative Memories). I love The Godfather, too (sprang for the box-set for my husband's birthday) but not because lots of other people liked it. I got it because it's good.


Ouch!Dialogue is always good. Attack is always hurtful. What's up with that? Herd-minded or otherwise...why the angst?

kathleen reilly

Why am I so angry? Don't know, but i admit i do have a bee in my bonnet about this. i think i articulated why as best i could above. seems to me it is anti-conservative to say that there is a right way to be conservative. stereotyping begets stereotyping, doesn't it? liberals wear birkenstocks -- NO! says Dreher, some conservatives do! and for the right reasons!-- and on it goes. i really don't think any conservative seriously begrudges you your organic vegetable intake. nor do i think liberals who homeschool do so for meaningfully different reasons than conservatives do. nor do i believe that someone who lives in a mcmansion is guilty of anything but bad taste. in other words, i feel i must give people the benefit of the doubt.

the answer to clearly rampant pigeonholing by the left is not further pigeonholing of the right by the right. everyone is walking around with their bag o' assumptions about other people, and it is so tiresome. aren't you just handing us a new bag?

Donna V.

Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's wrong (but it doesn't always guarantee it's good either).

Well, I know this is supposed to be a thread about Rod's book, but I recently read an extremely interesting book entitled "Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music" by Martha Bayles. Bayles notes that the early jazz greats, like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and even the first rock and rollers (Elvis and Chuck Berry) were first and foremost crowd-pleasers, who wanted as many people as possible to listen to them, and always treated their audiences with great courtesy and respect. But in the high arts, crowd-pleasing and courtesy had come to be seen as "selling out" to the public and that attitude trickled down to the popular music level.

And crowd-pleasing doesn't have to mean dumbing down - Armstrong and Ellington didn't compromise the quality of their work.

I don't always agree with Bayles' assessments of particular singers and groups, but the ideas that she puts forward are very thought-provoking. One of great interest to me, and the readers of Amy's blog, is that American popular is rooted in the black spirituals, and thus, ultimately, in religion, and the loss of beauty in popular music is related to the utter neglect of music's religious aspect. For instance, the old 1930's blues singers sang about sex, yes - but they also sang about their relationship with God, hard times, and suffering. The young white rock and rollers who came after them(Bayles is particularly hard on the Rolling Stones - I'm one of those graying Stones fans, but I had to agree with her) zeroed in on the sex - and forgot about everything else.

I can't do justice to Bayles' book here, but it certainly is worth a read if you're interested in popular music.


I must admit, I have myself found the whole "crunchy con" thing deeply annoying. Indeed, my of why I find myself reading up on it so much is to figure out why exactly I find it so annoying -- despite the fact that most people would probably label my wife and me as "crunchy cons" ourselves.

Part of it is while the analysis tries to run deeper (essentially CC-dom seems to be leading an examined conservative life in which one's lifestyle stems from one's goals and beliefs, to the extent possible) the name is derived from the most shallow elements of the lifestyle -- and a version of the lifestyle which only some of its apparent adherants adopt.

But also, I think that much of the discussion makes it seem like the whole CC project is a "join us or you're a consumerist idiot" strong-arm routine -- mainly because Rod seems to have adopted many of the same accusations that the left constantly throws at conservatives. I'm used to having liberal co-workers say, "What, you're a conservative? You must care more about profit and big companies than about your children or the poor." And I'm used to telling them why this is not the case. But when Rod adopts much of the same rhetoric in defining the alleged elements of conservatism that he wants to get away from, it comes off sounding like "Either you need to follow me off into my Crunchy Con project, or else you're some consumeristic uber-capitalist with no soul."

Which seems especially annoying because in many ways I feel like I was here first. My wife and I were both homeschooled, and plan to homeschool our children. Neither of us had video games as kids. Her family didn't have a TV, and I wasn't allowed to watch much. And we similarly try to keep our own two kids from watching much TV, and tightly control what they do watch.

So having someone suddenly show up and call me to "crunchiness" seems especially off-putting.

kathleen reilly

well said Darwincatholic. Another angle on this: The point of Limbaugh's cigar and steak-loving shtick is NOT that he thinks all conservatives should love steak and cigars, it's that he has the individualized freedom to partake of steak and cigars despite all evidence that both are bad for his health and indulgent. He is not celebrating steak and cigars per se, he is celebrating his freedom to choose steak and cigars despite the conventional wisdom that such a choice is unwise AS LONG AS HE IS WILLING TO BEAR THE COSTS OF HIS CHOICES. This is the same as saying that we are allowed to eat brie even though we might appear foofy and liberal to our fellow conservatives. true conservatism says this: "eat brie! wear birks! smoke cigars! do whatever you want, so long as you are willing to bear the costs". It troubles me that someone who wrote for NRO can at least seem to misunderstand conservatism so fundamentally.

Donna V.

Oh, and about Rod's book - I'm going to reserve judgement until I've read it.

I can see what kathleen means by creating a new pigeonhole, but I do think there is a divide between people who lean conservative, but are uncomfortable with The Market Can Do No Wrong credo and social and economic libertarians.

I first became aware of this when driving though a small town in New England with some fellow conservatives about 12 years ago. The town - an old one - had a few lovely buildings left, but the rest was eyesore and sprawl. That depressed me, because ever since I was a small girl growing up in the Midwest, I've harbored romantic ideas about quaint New England towns, lighthouses, clapboard buildings, etc. I said something like "What a shame" and the others - East Coast natives all - shrugged their shoulders and said "Well, it's a free country. You wouldn't want the government telling you you can't develop property."

Well, I didn't know what to say to that that didn't sound socialistic, but it bothered me that nobody else seemed to care about this blight on the landscape. What I should have said was "Isn't it the Left which is interested in tearing everything down and starting from Year Zero without reference to history? Shouldn't conservatives show a little interest in conserving? "


I have not read Rod's book. Maybe I will. Frankly, though, I'm surprised by how angry and irritated some folks seem to be about the book. And their reasons do not seem convincing to me. The reasons given are not sufficient to elicit such strong reactions. It's amusing, actually. Would envy have something to do with it? I'm sure many other people noticed what Rod noticed, but he's the one who wrote the book about it. And writing a book, besides involving creativity, is a lot of hard work. Hard work--a conservative value.

Christopher Fotos

why this impulse to separate ourselves from everyone else?

It improves your vision. Apparently.

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

(That's from the "Crunchy Con Manifesto." Uh, if you say so, Rod.)

Andrea Harris

"Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Tom Waits?"

No. {{shudder}}

I think he's a good actor though. Just, for the love of God, don't let him sing anymore. Or "sing."

PS: this bumper sticker used to be popular around my town: "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup."

kathleen reilly

Phil, i don't think i should be compelled to agree with someone's arguments because they worked hard to formulate them. I'm sure karl marx worked really hard on his manifesto too. it was even published! lucky dog...

Loudon is a Fool

I'm a bit skeptical that any movement identified by and even tangentially promoted by today's National Review could be remotely conservative. If it were conservative, NR would either (a) ignore it, or (b) call it anti-Semitic or unpatriotic or some other bad name.

On the other hand, the fact that the crunchycon blog solicits the opinions of Messrs. Stegall and Muncy, and that Mr. Dreher includes Mr. Horton in his book, gives me pause. Is it possible that NR will return to the fold?

Still I wonder if Mr. Dreher's book gives credit to those folks who, during the ascendancy of the wonkish classical liberalism that today enslaves the GOP, consistently agitated for the particularism, rootedness and return to virtue that evidently typifies the crunchycons? Granted, they are less witty and considerably more cantankerous than the crowd at the New Pantagruel, but loyalty to and appreciation for those who went before should go hand in hand with traditionalism.

I guess I'll read it and find out.

Dan Knauss

Write what you want Rod, but be willing to bear the costs in crabby blog comments!

From the aggrieved commenters here, Rod's book sounds like a turn of the Brooks Bobo crank. Bobo Cons vs. NASCAR cons? Or else, "What's Right About Some Kansans."

My impression from other accounts and limited pre-pub selections is that this lifestyle and cultural demographic profiling genre was used because it is a good, familiar way to hold a narrative together, keep reader attention, reach a pretty wide range of people, and be able to get to deeper, weightier issues. ...If people can get past the "lifestyle"/fashion stuff.

At worst this genre is a concession to today's common reader. The people who fixate it are an interesting phenomenon worth separate analysis. For instance, when Kathleen says conservatism reduces to "do what you want as long as you bear the costs," she is not only indicating that conservatism=libertarian-liberalism (with a creed perhaps cruder than the Wiccans' "do what you will, so long as it harms none"), she is indicating that the most important thing is a lack of "judgment," real or perceived, explicit or implicit. Conservatism is about not judging people--except maybe non-conservatives--or conservatives who write books critical of other conservatives.

Maybe Rod makes invidious comparisons that invite such rancor, but the sensitivity and illogic of the rancorous suggests otherwise. I suppose I will have to buy the book to settle for myself whether Rod deserves to be punk'd or not. His publisher is clearly not on the cluetrain. (Well-placed free books=free publicity and potentially supportive, informed reviews to dilute the impact of crabby people who haven't read it but have big opinions anyway.)

kathleen reilly

Dan Knauss, cut the facile mischaracterizations. I can judge people's ideas based on what they write, but not on what they wear or what they eat or where they live or even whether they homeschool. and if they call themselves conservatives, then i expect the assumptions on which they base their arguments to have at least some fidelity to the philosophy of conservatism as it actually exists, and not some parody thereof.

Rod Dreher

Kathleen: True conservatism says this: "eat brie! wear birks! smoke cigars! do whatever you want, so long as you are willing to bear the costs". It troubles me that someone who wrote for NRO can at least seem to misunderstand conservatism so fundamentally.

Hmm. I'm dunned for allegedly trying to define the limits of conservatism, but what you really object to, Kathleen, is that I don't agree with your type of conservatism, which is really just libertarianism. Libertarianism and traditionalism are the two main streams that feed American conservative thought, and neither, it seems to me, has cornered the market. I am a traditionalist, broadly speaking, which means I care more about the moral and spiritual character of society than I do about economic arrangements. Libertarians, generally speaking, place more value on economic liberty than on the social character. I think few people are pure libertarians or pure traditionalists, but I do also think that libertarianism and its premises have certainly become powerful in contemporary conservatism to an unhealthy degree.

You, Kathleen, believe that conservatism is all about protecting freedom of choice, without regard to what is chosen (provided the individual takes responsiblity for his choices). This is antithetical to a more traditionalist form of conservatism, and indeed I would say to the sort of conservatism inherent in Catholic social teaching. It reminds me of the Thomist philosopher Alasdair Macintyre's observation that in America, most political arguments come down to a debate among conservative liberals, moderate liberals, and liberal liberals -- the common thread being the radical individualist assumptions that undergird the way questions are framed.

Anyway, all I want to do with "Crunchy Cons" is to expand the conservative conversation, and to point our attention back to the kinds of questions and concerns that traditionalist conservatives used to have, and which the Wall Street Journal reviewer, the conservative intellectual historian George Nash, says we need to be asking again. Those who read the book, as Rachel Balducci has, will understand that all the talk about Birkenstocks and such is a pop-culture way to introduce the discussion. In fact, I use Birkenstocks not as a symbol of virtue, but as a symbol of how I had thoughtlessly rejected the idea that I would benefit from wearing them because I'd labeled them as "liberal" for some reason, and didn't even want to try them on. My wife insisted that they would be good for my aching feet, so in protest, I tried them on -- and found them to be the most comfortable shoes I'd ever worn. I still have the same pair, five years later: they're not only comfortable, but very durable. In the book, I use this as an example of how quick we can be to reject something out of hand, for essentially shallow and ideological reasons, instead of examining its true merits.

I really don't care about shoes. I care about ideas. Which you'll see if you read the book.


I think someone up there...Rachel, I think...touched on what will really, in the end be of most interest in Rod's book to readers of this blog: the sacramental nature of life: of family, of food, of our homes, the way we spend our time.

The commentor above who remarked that this book came out of NRO doesn't have the dynamic quite right. Rod was working at NRO at the time this concept was engendered, but it was actually done so in opposition to almost everyone else there, if I recall correctly. I do think - and I will expand more on this later, it comes down to being in an environment surrounded by people who are quite willing to use "values" language and even use "values" people to make points and stay in power, but who, in the end, hold "values" that are no different from their purported opposition, in many ways.

But really - this energy expounded on critiquing the concepts Rod writes about without having, er, read the book strikes me as ...bold.

kathleen reilly

"I don't agree with your type of conservatism, which is really just libertarianism....You, Kathleen, believe that conservatism is all about protecting freedom of choice, without regard to what is chosen (provided the individual takes responsiblity for his choices). This is antithetical to a more traditionalist form of conservatism"

Rod you make some pretty grand assumptions there. Please don't define my "type" of conservatism by referring to one sentence in a comment box. I was talking about brie cheese after all. I think this is the problem that i have generally with your book -- you make pretty grand assumptions about what other conservatives are thinking and feeling about their lives and about society, and define yourself in contrast to what seem to be erroneous, or at the very least unproven, assumptions. Therefore your ideas can only seem suspect at best. Your working caricature of a typical "mainstream" Republican is someone who's an enron-loving republican driving the biggest car possible and filling it as often as possible with stuff from Target, getting the biggest TV, the biggest house, etc, family life be damned. I think this is nonsense.
there is a consumerist culture in this country, but it's not a result of conservative thought. it's a result of short-sightedness, greed, insecurity and often stupidity. don't place it at the doorstep of conservatism. liberals are just as likely, if not more likely, to be victims of materialism. rush limbaugh isn't exhorting people to get over their heads in debt every day.
you seem to assume also that libertarianism and traditionalism are mutually exclusive. i see them as complementary too each other. just as i see politics and economics to be an inextricable part of culture. but it's too late to discuss this at length.

Samuel J. Howard

"The commentor above who remarked that this book came out of NRO doesn't have the dynamic quite right. Rod was working at NRO at the time this concept was engendered, but it was actually done so in opposition to almost everyone else there, if I recall correctly. I do think - and I will expand more on this later, it comes down to being in an environment surrounded by people who are quite willing to use "values" language and even use "values" people to make points and stay in power, but who, in the end, hold "values" that are no different from their purported opposition, in many ways."

Didn't NRO put the story on the cover? We should all have such enemies.

Secondly, I don't at all see the evidence of hypocritical values talk at NRO. Nor can they really said to be "in power" given a) they're journalists not politicians and therefore not "in power" at all and b) given their intense differences with the current administration.

Samuel J. Howard

Re: that last point see Bruce Bartlett's current book he was on Fresh Air yesterday discussing. He's an NRO Financial Contributor.




Cult of ugly for Ken (scroll waaaaay down): http://tcrnews2.com/genratzinger2a.html

Christian art today is placed between two fires, he continued: "It must oppose the cult of the ugly, according to which all beauty is deceitful, and must confront mendacious beauty that makes man smaller."

The text then quotes a phrase of Feodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) -- "Beauty will save us" -- in which the Russian writer refers to the redeeming beauty of Jesus Christ.

"Whoever believes in God, who manifested himself in fact in the face of Christ crucified as 'love to the end,' knows that beauty is truth and that truth is beauty," Cardinal Ratzinger stated. "But in the suffering Christ he also learns that the beauty of truth understands the offense, the pain and the dark mystery of death."

Re: reeducating oneself in middle age

Seeing as I read every day for my podcast, I am right there with you. Not that I had a bad education the first time around; but I definitely need to fill in the corners.

Re: free choice of lifestyle

There is absolutely nothing wrong with conservatives choosing a lifestyle for themselves, so long as it is compatible with the enduring values of life and has some humanity to it. Of course, the conservative will be biased toward a lifestyle which is part of some kind of tradition. However, part of being a member of a tradition is the power to interpret how one carries a tradition out.

Freedom in small things, like Birks or brie or havarti (buy Danish!), is of course intimately part of any conservatives' life. If God provides us with good cheese or comfy shoes made in America, what care we who else likes them or doesn't? These are primarily matters of taste, not matters of ideology. To love what is good is a conservative value. The conservative knows to quote "De gustibus non disputandum" as well as "E pluribus unum".

In fact, I would argue that a reasonable freedom in matters of individual taste is one of the principles of basic freedom and subsidiarity, as well. On the smallest possible level, we each choose to patronize those small good things, those pieces of business art and craft, which please us and are in our budget. We also seek to expose others to these good things, and thus increase individual support for the product. It would be wrong for the government to prop up these little gracenotes of life; but it is right for individual purchasers and investors to give their support.

Now, we do have a reasonable right to make arguments against things which other people like. But we don't have the right to denigrate them. There is a definite line between "these are things I don't like about NASCAR" and "if you like NASCAR, you are a cretin".

The major reason we shouldn't denigrate in mere matters of taste is that we need to save the big guns for matters of morality. It is almost impossible to get people to listen about horrible practices if you bring up the Nazis, for instance, even though the Nazi comparison is often glaringly obvious and necessary. (Especially when we beat their kill numbers.) If you say that anybody who doesn't like opera is a fiend in human shape, there's nothing left to say about actual fiends.


Amy --

It's very conservative to say you're a Catholic, a mom, and an American, and not to self-identify much with being a conservative.

The Tao which says it is the Tao is not the Tao. The Authentic which says it is Authentic is the Pretentious. The Crunchy which says that it is Crunchy is Smooth. To worry about having said one is Authentic or Crunchy is also not Authentic or Crunchy. When you do not call them Birks but merely sandals or shoes, that is the Tao.

If you meet this comment box poster along the road, kill her. :)

Maureen, running away!

Michelle R

Goodness, people were up so very late at night getting heated about who is crunchy and who is conservative and if those ideas are mutually exclusive as some seem to think and which Rod seems to challenge. My husband would side with Kathleen because he labeled me a liberal for caring if the milk our kids drank happened to have hormones in it or not. I'm with Amy when she says that she doesn't really identify with such a label. I'm conservative politically, but I don't really care to have my politics define my personhood. I'm Catholic, I'm a wife and mother, and I homeschool. Any further classification would whittle away at my personality. Other people, like my husband, may feel that their politics do help to clarify their personality. I think the discussions get heated when someone, like Rod, tries to throw in a sub-category and someone, like Kathleen, doesn't identify with that sub-classification and rejects the idea that anyone who does fit in that category could also be in the general classification. So, a Great Dane and a Miniature Poodle are very different and might be very unhappy to be told they are both dogs and both mammals, but they are. And that's ok. Dogs are interesting because there are many different breeds. Conservatives would be very boring if we were all alike. We just need to agree on important issues. I seriously doubt that any conservative (crunchy or smooth) wants to regulate the diet of anybody else and this distinguishes us from the liberals who DO want to regulate things like that.

Father Ethan

The core of the discussion here seems to be: how do we live our family life? How do we live our married life? How do we raise our children?

I grew up in an intellectual Conservative and Catholic household. We had a 40.000 volumne library, which included the works of Kirk, Buckley, Burke, et al, as well as, history, literature, art, science, theology, philosophy, etc. Music was always being played: jazz and classical. Meals were always eaten together. T.V. was limited to those who did there homework (usually Mystery or something like "All Creatures Great and Small"). Bed time was 8 o'clock. Mass attendence was mandatory. Prayer was often done in the house. Discussions about God, the Church, and Our Lady were frequent. And we knew that we were not saints. But one thing my mother and father wanted to make sure was that we loved God with all our hearts, that we love to learn, and that we respected people because God made them. Never once did my parents ever tell me what my vocation should be. I became a priests because God called me. My brother became a Marine and a UPS driver because God called him, my two sisters became wives and mothers, a librarian and a teacher because God called them.

My parents understood what their Christian duty was: to raise their children in the practice of the faith and be their primary teachers; their duty was not to be their guidance counselors.

Was it Amy or was it Rod that has a pierced navel?


Fr. Ethan:


I have to say I am completely flummoxed by those who react to this book with such a sense of being personally insulted. From the little I've read so far (my husband hogged the book last night, and I'm afraid we can't afford two -- sorry, Mr. Dreher), I don't get the sense that Mr. Dreher is telling conservatives that they'd better become crunchy or they are just not very good people, but that is how some folks seem to be reacting.

For me, it was kind a relief to hear that there are actually quite a few other people who think the way I do. I thought I was just being eccentric! I come from a long line of oddities, you see.

Seriously, I live in the bluest neighborhood in the bluest city in the reddest state of the Union -- Lincoln, Nebraska. It's so polarized here, it's nuts. I quote an article in Mother Jones and somebody assumes that because I read it, I'm in favor of legalized abortion. I quote NRO, they assume I'm a liberatarian, money-grabbing freak. I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, and I'm an anti-capitalist facist. I attend the Walk for Life Rally, and some assume I'm a hypocrite who says I love fetuses but refuses to support unwed mothers and totally digs the fact that the U.S. Army is bombing innocent babies and children in Iraq.

I don't mind being a misfit; I'm used to it (I come from a long line of oddities, after all). And because of where I live, I'm sure I'll continue to be one on a local level. It's just nice to know there are others out there who live in a similar way (not exactly the same, because everybody is different, which is a GOOD thing). And it sort of bolsters my courage -- when I'm with my "stop the death penalty" pals, I can be the person who shows them that opposition to the death penalty doesn't HAVE to mean protecting legalized abortion.


Doesn't writing a book about "crunchy cons" for Crown take him out of the "crunchy con" movement? I mean, is he making sure this book will NOT be sold at national book chains, like, Barnes and Noble or even worse: Wal-Mart!

Tsk, tsk....

Jay Anderson

Not sure what to make of this naval-piercing business that Amy has revealed.

My first wife got her naval pierced. I should have taken it as the first sign that she felt something was "missing" in her life. She walked out a few months later to go be "fulfilled".

Not that that's what Amy had in mind when she got her's done.

James Kabala

I would actually appreciate it if Amy could write a post expanding on her decision to send her daughter to a public high school, since I think that public school graduates are sometimes made to feel like third-class citizens in St. Blog's (home-schoolers being first class and parochial-schoolers being second class). Although where I come from, the public schools were even whiter than the Catholic schools, so maybe I still don't have a good excuse.


Clearly, Kathleen and others who seem uncomfortable with Rod's analysis are not saying that "good" conservatives _can't_ enjoy brie, organic vegetables, subsistence farming and the like. Nor is Rod saying that in order to be a "good" conservative one must take up one of these specific enthusiasms.

In that sense, no one is sticking their noses where they don't belong.

However, to the extent that some people are finding the "crunchy-con" idea pretty offensive, I think reason is that in making clear the distinction between what he sees Crunchies are doing right and what others are doing wrong, Rod tends to assume that all the standard tropes about conservatives (they only care about money, they actively want to rape the environment, they only buy at walmart, they eargerly destroy beautiful towns, etc.) are true. So it becomes a "either you're one of my Crunchies or you're one of those conservative pigs over there".

I don't think that's actually the message that Rod _intends_ to send, but it certainly seems to be a subtext of his tactics that a lot of people are picking up on.

The ironic thing is, that if Rod had simply written a book on titled "In Search of the Permanent Things" which was about the same thing (social/cultural conservatives searching for the right way to live out their convictions) without actively casting aspersions at the consumerism of other conservatives, he wouldn't be getting nearly as much attention, and thus wouldn't be selling nearly as many books.

So the crunchy attack angle makes total sense -- from a consumerist point of view.

Mark Adams

One quick note regarding why I think some people are bothered by all this.

I was raised in an Evangelical/Fundamentalist home by parents who went to Bill Gothard conferences. You want to know what Evangelicals who go to Bill Gothard do?

They home school; get rid of their TV or drastically reduce intake; breast feed; a decent size chunk use NFP; shop at health food stores; they buy organic milk and meat; they are quite consciously counter cultural.

At some time or another, my parents did all of these (with the exception of NFP but we certainly knew families who used it). And we were never known or accused of flirting with the left. On the contrary our type was known as the most radical of the right. We were the people who made Pat Robertson a presidential candidate to be taken seriously.

But I hesistate to say much more because I need to read the book . . .


Kathleen, in response to my comment you wrote:

"Phil, i don't think i should be compelled
to agree with someone's arguments because
they worked hard to formulate them."

Hmm. My guess is that you didn't really read what I wrote. I certainly didn't say, nor meant to say what you wrote above. Basically, I said that I'm surprised (and amused) by the strong reaction that Rod's book elicits from some people. From what I read so far the explanations for why they disagree with Rod does not justify their rancor. In other words, it's perfectly all right to disagree with Rod (I may well disagree with him too), but the level of anger is so emotional that I find it very weird. It's simply too much. That's why I speculated that envy perhaps is playing a role (at least among some.) Perhaps I'm wrong about the envy factor, but all those strong reactions (beyond mere disagreement) seem over the top to me.


Wow, I had no idea there was a subclass of conservative men who actually care about brands and clothing. (Are shoes clothing? Maybe they're "Crunchy Clothing"!) I just wear the clothes in my closet, I bought some, my wife bought others. I guess this is all about tastes and prejudices, that's cool.

For example, I like the "green and white" store coffee the best - although the reindeer stuff isn't bad...

My favorite food: hmmm... oh yeah, tastes good and is healthy, that's right. You can get that at the red and green store and the orange and blue store but I forget which is cheaper.

On Rod's hat - is it warm? Who cares how it looks, he's a guy!

(Yes, yes, I know there's stuff about virtues and important stuff in here, but this is fun.)

Come on, we're the real party of diversity, Repubs or Conservatives or whatever - everyone knows that. I'm sure K-Lo was joking with the original vegetable thing, but at least this got everyone talking in a "friendly-fire" debate which hopefully will be safer than a vice presidential hunting trip.

kathleen reilly

Phil, i guess i can't help you, except to suggest that you read my comments again -- for substance this time, not for indicators of envy.

and now, since i'm just a plain old conservative, I'm gonna go shoot some animals in the backyard and just hope those darn kids don't get in the way.


Re: "choosing a lifestyle"

Having grown up in the Eisenhower era and then early Elvis, I can remember when the local paper was transitioning from having a "Society" page to something less "snobby" and fixated on women volunteers and brides. What they did was combine the food section, pieces on clothing and furniture, advice columns and all those female things in the Society section into one big section and called it "Lifesyle". None of us had ever heard of "lifestyle" or knew we could choose one. Oh for the days when you just tried to do your best and gave everyone else the benefit of the doubt, instead of critiqueing each other's lifestyles.

Maybe choosing a lifestyle/label is evidence that we aren't so individual as we think. We need to identify with a group with specific styles of clothing, housing, entertainment choices, political leanings, etc. Our lifestyle society may be just as conforming as the "conformist '50s" I've read so much about - but now there's a range of lifestyles to which you can conform yourself.

That having been said, I'm guessing that a recovered "Earth Mother" who raised sheep, spun and wove, made pectin-free blackberry jelly, raised guinea hens and geese, grew her own white asparagus and brought three sons (free of any knowledge of label chic) to adulthood out in a remote oak forest on a lake with no neighbors would qualify as a "crunchy con" cause she was also a Republican precinct committeeman?

Sounds like a fun book. I think Rod's caught on to a sector of conservatives that weren't on the MSM's radar. The local Republican party was startled at my youngest son when he arrived to work on campaigns and be a pollwatcher - because of his long hair and Birkenstocks. ha ha

Ed the Roman

NRO does not entertain comments...too good for us, are they, hmm?...probably wear top hats to work...

And spats. That's a dress code item there. Even for K-Lo.

More seriously, I know Mark Judge from a long time back, and he did not 'escape' from anything other than the sins that he recounts in several articles and at least one book. His family was background was cultured indeed, thank you very much. His father edited National Geographic, and his eldest brother is a museum curator.

Ed the Roman

THe bit about Mark my be in the wrong thread. Sorry.

kathleen reilly

"I think Rod's caught on to a sector of conservatives that weren't on the MSM's radar."

Julia, i think the only conservatives that ARE on the MSM's radar are the nonexistent mouth-breathing caricatures that Rod also seems to buy into. Which is why it seems something like a betrayal when he calls himself "conservative". and which is probably why bookstores are slotting his book in their liberal section (according to his NRO blog -- he seemed to take great delight in this).

i really need to get out more, don't i!


Kathlenn Reilly wrote:
> i think the only conservatives that ARE on the MSM's radar are the
> nonexistent mouth-breathing caricatures that Rod also seems to buy into.

That's my first reaction as well. I mean, OK, I haven't read the book, but my immediate reaction to Dreher's commentary, who I probably agree with in substance on most issues, is that he needs a sense of humor as bad as the goofies on the left. For example, the first time I heard Rush Limbaugh's chainsaw sound for his environmentalist wacko's update, did I immediately think "Oh, no, Limbaugh is anti-tree!! He's going to give us conservatives who like trees a bad name!!!"? No, I thought it was probably an effective way to irritate people who didn't agree with him and the majority of his audience. No sensible person thinks that conservatives want dirty air, polluted water or forests clear-cut down to nothing, that's all a bunch of stereotypes and smear.

So it will be interesting to find out what the MSM does to Dreher in interviews. Will they hail the "Crunchy" movement as the crack in the conservative dam or smirk and ask him questions like "so how many conservatives really didn't want to vote for Bush but were forced to?", etc. My bets are placed.


Kathleen Reilly

Haven't read the book yet, but I grew up and still live in an area so Democratic that I still get stunned reactions when folks find out that I'm a Republican. The stereotypes of conservatives is still well and thriving - fed by the self-congratulation of the liberals and the media who help perpetuate the misrepresentations.

Gary Karr

I can't wait to read the book and judge for myself. The debate on NRO is fabulous. Rod may have used some stereotypes of conservatives to help make a point, but good grief, the Angry Left is already doing that anyway every day.

Just for now, though, I do wonder how one gets a "naval" pierced. A navel, however, is that thing everyone else calls a bellybutton. :-)


As someone who hasn't read the book, I think I can explain some of the anger you find puzzling. Labeling as "crunchiness" the difference between the people in Rod's book and other conservatives puts the accent on issues of style--birkenstocks, natural fibres, etc.--because that's what the word "crunchy" refers to in most people's minds. When the crunchy cons then say that what it's really all about is "authenticity," "examining why we do what we do, and not simply being herded with the masses," it's natural (even if not strictly logical) to conclude that the crunchy cons consider people who wear heels or shop at Walmart to be inauthentic sheep. Then such people get defensive.


Here is Rod's Crunchy Con Manifesto. I don't know think Rod meant it that way, but the first article comes across as arrogant and pompous. How about the rest of the manifesto? Looks reasonable to me.

A Crunchy Con Manifesto
By Rod Dreher
1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.
5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.
8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”
10. Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.

James Kabala

Phil is spot-on. 2 through 10 are excellent; Number 1 is pompous (and not really true - how far outside the mainstream can you be if you were once a film critic for a New York tabloid, then a writer for the nation's best-known conservative magazine, and now a writer for the most prominent newspaper in the nation's second-largest state?) The name crunchy con is stupid, also, and even if Rod claims it was forced on him, he should have picked a better name. Rod's philosophy is really paleoconservatism minus the preoccupiation with race (which is good) and the skepticism toward foreign wars (which is bad), although Rod's own views here have evolved from "how dare the Pope be anti-war" to "if it weren't for abortion, I might have voted for Kerry" and from "how proud I am to be associated with David Frum's hatchet job against Pat Buchanan, etc." to "I have an artice in the February 27 American Conservative."

kathleen reilly

if you all think 1 is stupid and pompous, then why do you buy 2-10? 2-10 naturally follow for Rod, else he wouldn't have put number one first.
i don't have a lot of time so i won't try to puncture 2-10, but 7 "Beauty is more important than efficiency" is just too easy. when is beauty more important? when i'm buying a car? when i'm choosing my surgeon? when i'm putting plumbing in my house? beauty is more important than efficiency full stop? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? i'm thrilled Rod thinks he bought a beautiful house, but his real estate preferences do not a grand philosophy make.


Exactly my problem, Kathleen. In the example you give (#7), he defines efficiency too narrowly when he allows it always to be trumped by beauty. What's comic about this abstract assertion is it comes right after "particular is almost always better than abstract." And what does he mean by "small is almost always better than big"? That's too abstract for me to comprehend as well.

All conservatives I know, crunchy or soggy, agree with #9 and #10 and parts of the rest, so again, what is the big deal exactly?


Kathleen, I also don't have much time and this intensity is getting a bit silly. I wrote that Rod's 2-10 looked reasonable to me. Such "manifestos" are not meant be dogmas or commandments written in stone. You seem to disagree with all ten "articles". Looking at it again, I can say that besides the pompous wording of 1, I don't have any strong objections. Except for 6 and 7, I strongly agree with the other articles. As to 6 and 7, I think I know what he's getting at and if I'm right I'm not against it, but I would appreciate a bit more clarification. In any event, notice that his language on 6 is flexible--he does allow for exceptions.

Have a good weekend!

kathleen reilly

Pauli, please write the book "soggy conservatives". that's pretty funny.



If you would read Rod's book, you'd understand what he means with points #9 & #10. Yes, most conservatives I know say they believe in the same things. The trouble is, the conservative pollitical movement here in the U.S. works exactly contrary to those ideals, and most conservatives don't seem to notice, or even help work against those principles.

One example: politically conservative businesspersons who refuse to pay their employees a legitimate "living wage" and thereby enable them to support their families on a single income so that one parent can be home to raise the children. Yes, such employers exist and there seems to be a bevy of them out here in the Plains and in the Midwest. My husband is on his second such employer. When he went into the first to ask for a raise, backed by evidence of the profitability he had brought to the company, the boss said, "Yes, I know you have made my business more profitable, which is why I was able to buy a new house this year and give my wife a grand piano for her birthday. But it's my money not yours, and you have no right to ask for more. There are other people who would be glad to do your job for $22k a year, and if you don't want to be one of them, there's the door."

So he looked for a job, found a managment position even better suited for him, and after a year, went through the same procedure. This boss was less of a jerk but is "too nervous" to pay my husband more, especially when he knows there are other people who would be glad to have his job at his starting salary. Then he promptly booked himself another windsurfing vacation and took off for a week, leaving my husband in charge.

In case you didn't notice, the price of gasoline, natural gas, etc. is going up, so we're actually losing ground every year because of this attitude...from politically conservative businessmen who say they believe the family should be supported. Reality: support the family only until it gets in the way of my profit.

Donald R. McClarey

Sparki, it sounds like its time for your husband to go in business for himself if he is in a trade where that is possible. I spent three miserable years working for a firm and then went out on my own 21 years ago. I have never regretted it, even for the first 10 years when the financial rewards were rather sparse and my wife and I, with three kids, had to be fairly frugal with our money. If one doesn't like being an employee the best solution, if possible, is to cease to be one and to become an employer.


I don't doubt anything which you've said. But I think of these guys as scoundrels rather than conservatives. These men need virtue, grace, repentance, etc., not crunchiness. (I mean, windsurfing? pianos? They sound crunchy enough already, gosh!) It's too bad they scandalize people; Hitler was baptized Catholic, some people pretend to be scandalized by that.

I agree with you whole-heartedly on wages. But it cuts both ways; here's my proof. I'm an employer in the madcap world of IT Consulting. I try to be very conscientious and compensate people according to their skills and the market. I paid one man arguably $30k/year more than he was worth. He said he needed the $110k salary because of his 2 dogs, 5 computers, his Mercedes, etc. - oh, yeah, and his wife + 2 kids, poor baby.

I had constant complaints about this guy's tardiness. Then he left the client in breach of contract, moved out of town and threatened to sue me if I didn't pay him something like $2,000.00 in travel expenses. So I hope he has a nice little life. HOWEVER - I'd rather have paid him all that extra money than take 1 cent away from him. Obviously it would even be better to have a real man like your husband to work for me. The moral is clear - nice guys lose out. But maybe we get to heaven sometime.

Anyway I started my own business to get away from the bad bosses. I made $37k when I left one company and I was billing $150-200k/year. They gave me a $200.00 bonus, not kidding. Merry Christmas. But here's the thing: the owners were proud, dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrats! They were nice people and I'm sure they were crunchy enough to break anyone's teeth, but being politically liberal didn't make them generous in the least bit.

I know I am straw-dogging Dreher's entire argument, and poking a great deal of fun at the man, but here's my point: the stereotypes are incorrect. Not being fair to an employee is NOT a political problem, it's a moral problem, just like my cry-baby employee not being fair to me is his moral problem. If I watch Desperate Wives on TV that's my moral problem, not a political problem because supposedly more conservatives watch that show. Does the Repub. Party need more moral members? of course! But not more crunchiness.

So I think I do understand what he is saying and I hope that the book might do something to convict people of the underlying moral problems of the particular guy they see in the mirror.


Donald, thanks for the kind words & advice. My husband does have a side business that he puts 15-25 hours a week into, and we hope there will come a time when enough people want the services he offers that he can do it full-time, but that, of course, means we may have to drop me from our independent health insurance (husband already dropped his own coverage) and forgo putting any more money into our meager retirement funds. Also, it may mean relocating, which would be difficult as my husband is very close to his aging parents and grandparents and has that "oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son" for six generations keeping him close to home.

Pauli, want to hire my husband? I do agree with your point that political affiliation doesn't matter if the person is a scoundrel at heart. And I think Mr. Dreher would agree that the purpose of his book is to challenge the "guy in the mirror", not to start some sort of movement.

By the way, I personally was disappointed in the education chapter, which completely ignored the parochial school option except to dismiss it as completely unorthodox. We happen to have excellent and affordable Catholic schools in my Diocese (we pay $400 per YEAR for the first child, $200 for the second and $100 for the third, fourth and up would be free if we had them), and the school supports us as primary educators of our kids, rather than removing us from the role. I know it's bad in other parts of the country, but it does seem like Mr. Dreher didn't even try to find out if any parochial schools were matching his philosophy.


P.S. to Pauli: a bonus? I thought those just happend on TV and in fairytales.


Re: Dreher on parochial schools: Someone pointed out that he seems to have a big beef with the hierarachy, hence the snub.

I'd be happy to look at your husband's resume and help him in any way I can.

Although I agree that Dreher doesn't seem to want to start a movement, I believe some of the more fanatical crunchies do. I really believe that Caleb Stegall thinks he is the political messiah who will destroy conservatism and rebuild it in 3 days.

And I know for a fact this guy gives out serious bonuses to his employees - no fairy tale, just rare.

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