Category Archives: Left Conservative

The Left Conservatism of John Dutton

Someone using the house we rented in Arizona had recorded some episodes of the latest season of Yellowstone.  They were interesting. I could not watch the entire series because it is no longer offered on our TV. Unlike some of my friends, I am not a huge fan of the TV series Yellowstone, but I do like parts of the shows. It has some diverse and interesting characters.

In Arizona I think most people identify with the patriarch of the Dutton family, John Dutton. He is very conservative and around here that is a very popular ideology. I don’t agree with all of his philosophy either, but I have some sympathy for some of his philosophy which I have called left conservatism, after the philosophy of the novelist Norman Mailer.

At the end of Season 4 of the series Yellowstone, John Dutton decided to run for Governor in Montana and got elected.  His opening statement to the people was interesting and revealed his essential conservatism that is very different from the conservatism of most of the current American right: “I am the opposite of progress. I am the wall it bashes against, and I will not be the one who breaks.

This is much more closely aligned to what Norman Mailer called “Left Conservatism” than modern Republicanism. Mailer said he wanted to “think in the style of Marx to achieve the values of Burke.” That was the essence of his philosophy.  Burke was the leading conservative thinker in England during the time of the French Revolution. I remember first hearing that expression from Mailer 50 years ago and always thought it was a remarkable political philosophy. I found much attractive in it then, and I still find much attractive in it today.

In season 5 of Yellowstone, in his victory speech, Dutton told his supporters,

“We have a lot of work to do, and a lot to undo.  The question we all have to ask ourselves and one that I will look to everyday, is what will Montana look like in 100 years? Much of that is dictated by the way the world sees us today. Right now, we are seen as the rich man’s playground. We are New York’s novelty and California’s toy. Not anymore. You have elected me to be a steward of the state, and the land, and its people, and that is exactly what I will do. You know environmentalists just love to debate what’s Montana’s most valuable resource. Is it the water? Is it the wolves? Is it the trees? The answer is actually pretty simple.  It’s you! The farmers and the ranchers who live with the land not on it. When protecting you now is how Montana still looks like Montana when none of us here tonight are here to see it.”


That’s a real conservative attitude, but no one with which I entirely agree. He wants to protect the land and the people as they are now. He wants to conserve that. That is what conservatism is all about. But we must remember that we don’t just conserve what rich men like. The rich are happy and contented. With their wealth they can buy privileges. They can buy the government that acts in their interests and not in the interests of ordinary people who can’t afford to buy their political leaders. That should not be preserved.

 In the TV series Dutton wanted to conserve the largest ranch in the state. It was worth millions. It was his ranch. Who would not want to conserve that?  But how does that help the single mom on social assistance? How does that help the Uber driver? Or the bar tender at the local bar? Ordinary people are important too. Most conservatives don’t understand that at all. They just think soon they will be one of the rich people.

For a man like Donald Trump the only people that count are his rich buddies and the people who support him in power and then only as long as they continue to support him no matter what he does?  He appreciates only absolute loyalty to himself. Many conservatives are exactly like that. Those  are not my kind of conservatives.

Conservatives also claim to stand for freedom. At least for the freedom to do as they please. They are not as concerned about the freedom of working-class people to get the health care they need. Or schools. Somehow often that does not count. John Dutton said freedom was important to him. This is what he said:

“Freedom. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. The word. What it means. The dictionary thinks that it means “the right or power to think, act or speak as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” As governor of the state, I’m sworn to protect that right. Building a city in the middle of the most pristine wilderness strips you of that freedom. It eliminates your freedom to breath clean air and drink clear water. It strains this ability. It strains the ability of our hospitals and our schools and our police. It requires an increase in our taxes which in turn strains our families, forcing you to decide if you can afford to live in a place that you call home. That’s no progress in my mind. It’s an invasion. And today the invasion is over. Today I’m signing an executive order that ceases funding for the paradise Valley development and the Paradise Valley Ski resort.”


John Dutton’s philosophy of what I would call left conservatism is far from perfect. It contains in my view many grave inconsistencies, but it does contain some important insights into things that are worth preserving. Like freedom for everyone not just freedom for the wealthy to do whatever they choose whether that is good for most people or not. Left conservatism is an anti-dote to the shallow modernism of so much contemporary thinking. That sort of “freedom” is not worth preserving.

USA: Is this a country without Honour?


I love America; I love Americans. They are a wonderful people, but they have gone seriously awry. But sometimes they are seriously misguided. And when that happens a friend should be able to say that to the friend. This is one of those times. It is not enough to claim that you are honorable—you have to walk the walk and talk the talk.

Honor used to be an important value among Conservatives—genuine conservatives I mean. But increasingly among modern conservatives at least, honor is no longer important.

When Donald Trump realized what he had done in letting loose the Turks on his allies the Kurds, and realized that to some of his supporters, honor still meant something, this is what he announced, by tweet of course:

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I in my great and unmatched wisdom consider off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey (I’ve done before)”

Stephen Colbert described this as Trump going “full God Emperor.”  This is on a level with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.  But ignore the incoherence of this quote. Ignore the corrupt and idle boasting. Just look for the honor. You won’t find it. This is what America elected as their President. A man without honor! And 63 million Americans seem to like it. Does that mean American without honor too?

I don’t accept that Americans can blame it all on an ill chosen President. 63 million people voted for this one and I have been told most of those who did, still support him.  This is not an issue about Trump. He is too easy a target. But what about the country? It is not as if Donald Trump ever concealed his lack of honor. He boasted about. He said that in the Vietnam War he served by managing to avoid getting a venereal disease. Then he dismissed John McCain as a poor war hero because he got caught. Trump escaped the Vietnam War the way many rich boys did, by getting dubious health deferments as a result of alleged bone spurs, so that he could stay behind and chase models and starlets, while other young men and women, usually poor men and women, risked their lives and fought the war. Americans knew exactly what they were getting, and although 66 million voted for Hillary Clinton, 63 million voted for him. That is no aberrant number. That is a lot of support. This is where the problem lies. Trump himself is easy prey, but not 66 million Americans. Is the country without honor? I think it is time for Americans to step up and be counted. I think it is time for Americans to think about this.

These Colors Run


Have you seen that bumper sticker with an image of the American flag—Old Glory—with the caption, “These Colors Won’t run?” I have. The problem is it ain’t true. They do.

America used to be a proud country. And for good reason. There was  a lot that was good about it. Sometimes I wonder what happened?

Recently the American military, under the command of their  Commander-in Chief –Donald Trump–abandoned a long-standing ally—the Kurds.  At the same time, in tweet, Trump made it clear that Turkey a long time foe of the Kurds, could have their way with them. And very few Americans have grumbled about it. Most have accepted the lame attempts by that Commander-in-Chief to dismiss the shabby, dishonorable treatment of an ally with a shrug of the shoulders.

That Commander-in-Chief poured scorn on the Kurds saying they did not help much. They didn’t even help in World War II. As is so often the case with this leader, the truth is different. Trump and the truth keep little company. The Kurds have been America’s chief ally in the fight against Syria and ISIS. The Kurdish forces are called the Syrian Defence Forces (‘SDF’).

Dr. Kori Schake put this in perspective: “They have been the ground forces doing the fighting for the defeat of ISIS and you can see it in the casualty figures.  The U.S. suffered only 5 casualties in the Anti-ISIS campaign. The SDF suffered over 11,000! They have been doing the hard dangerous work and we have just abandoned them!

And the Americans through their chosen President mock the efforts of their closest ally and prepared to abandon them. It did not take the Turks, who have it in for the Kurds, to take advantage. This then allowed the Syrians, who used poison gas on their own people, to win the Civil War that has cost so many lives and resulted in so many refugees and asylum seekers around the world. Of course, the Americans refused to accept them, even though they were so instrumental in creating their problems. First the Americans abandoned the Syrian rebels, then they also abandoned the Kurds.

So the Kurds made a deal with the Syrian leader Assad rather than face the brutality of the Turks. As Schake said, “which tells you a lot too.”

Where has all the honor gone? Whose colors don’t run?