Brad de Long describes the four stages of becoming a neoconservative
The first stage is to hold that the flaws--the mighty flaws--of the center-left in American politics are important enough to more-or-less balance the flaws of the right.
First, I would like to note that there is no "left" in Mr. de Long's analysis, only the "center-left." The absence of a left, of course, does not prohibit the existence of the "right" for Mr. de Long to poke at. Labels, Mr. de Long; please take more care with your labels.
Second, Mr. de Long's readers are left to conclude that the flaws of the left should not
"balance out" the flaws of the left. This sounds an awful lot like a contradiction of the moral equivalence arguments so beloved of the left: Since no culture is superior to any other culture, whatever emanates from a culture must be acceptable. And: Since the US is not a perfect utopia, it has no standing to complain about the world's worst despots. Please note that I am not familiar enough with Mr. de Long's writing to know whether he indulges in such arguments, and I therefore make no claims as to him. However, there are any number of left leaning writers who do. Because I don't buy the moral equivalence argument, at least when the attempt is made to equate the inherently unequivalent, such as Palestinian suicide bombers (homicide bombers, 'splodeydopes, you pick the term) with Israeli settlers or the regular Israeli army, I also don't buy Mr. de Long's strawman argument that conservatives can validly make the same type of argument as to unequivalents.
The second stage is to start making desperate and implausible excuses for Republican politicians and functionaries.
Note that the "right" has now assumed the persona of "Republican politicians and functionaries." Undesperate and plausible excuses are obviously permitted, then? How about just plausible explanations of a position assumed or an action taken by a politician or functionary of either party? Desperation has nothing to do with it. Nor does party affiliation.
I am willing to ascribe a certain level of integrity to most people who engage in public discourse. Until, that is, their integrity has been shown to be lacking. As in the use of phony polling data to gin up support for a position you've already adopted. I've got no problem with you taking the position, just don't lie to me by producing a phony poll claiming that your position is the one held by so and so many Americans. After I am shown slanted polling questions obviously designed to elicit a specific response, as opposed to a genuine attempt to determine where the polled group stands on an issue, my bullshit detector starts to go off whenever I hear from the group that sponsored that poll.
Additionally because Mr. de Long is talking about the changes in ones political philosophy (ie: changes in one's subjective thought processes and political leanings) the fact that an explanation may actually be
implausible is irrelevant unless the maker of that statement believes it to be so. And how may conservatives (neo or otherwise) make explanations that they believe to be implausible? My guess would be about the same as the number of liberals doing so: relatively few.
The third stage is to lose contact with the substance of public policy issues, and focus instead on intellectual and rhetorical "errors" made by those left of center.
Again with the labels. There is no left, only left of center. Mr. de Long thinks that the deaths of six million children annually from starvation is more important than the fact that some members of the American left is attempting to generate propaganda by asking slanted questions in polls. He is right to feel that way. I don't know whether six million children die each year from starvation, but even one such death would be more important than an attempt to propagandize the US electorate. But then he assumes that attempting to creating phony "public support" for a specific attempt to deal with the problem he cares about through the use of biased polling questions has no importance at all. There, he is wrong. The end simply does not justify the means. Obtaining a politically acceptable answer does not justify the use of biased polling questions.
De Long also assumes that, by complaining about those biased polling questions, Mickey Kaus has somehow indicated that he does not care about the deaths of six million children annually from starvation. I think its a safe bet that de Long is wrong there, as well.
And the fourth stage is to start acclaiming right-wing political hacks as noble thinkers, and right-wing office holders as bold and far-sighted leaders with a plan to guide us to utopia
Note that now we have gone all the way from plain old "right" to right-wing political hacks and right wing office holders. Obviously, by definition, there can be no conservative other than a hack, and no conservative office holder could ever be bold or far sighted. So it stands to reason that anyone who agrees with a conservative or believes that a conservative is a noble thinker or that a conservative office holder is bold or far-sighted must be wrong. QED.
If this is what passes for political discourse these days on the left, I'd prefer to skip it, if its all the same to you.
Oh, and as to the use of biased polling questions (for the specific purpose of creating a false appearance of public support for a given proposition) as justifiable in light of the gravity of the problem being addressed by that proposition: Wouldn't that qualify as a "desperate and implausible excuse for politicians and functionaries"?