Duane Graham

Young RDGWhile many people morph into political and religious traditionalists as they age,  Duane Graham has evolved into an unapologetic skeptic of conservative thinking.

As a former evangelical Christian, and as a reformed and rueful dittohead, Mr. Graham atones for years of muddled thinking by challenging the prevailing political orthodoxy in our corner of the world, and by confronting the religious bigotry that too often invades — like a nasty virus — our local discourse.

Challenging and confronting that orthodoxy and bigotry is the purpose of The Erstwhile Conservative.

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  1. andy tuttle

     /  September 30, 2009

    Love the column R. Duane!


    • Duane Graham

       /  October 1, 2009


      Thanks for the compliment, Andy. By the way, how have you been? I sure hope you are still winning all of your cases. If you are ever down this way, give me a call.

      Brutha Duane Randy


  2. Sean Nicholson

     /  February 5, 2010

    Really like the blog — would love to get in touch.

    sean [at] firedupmissouri.com


    • Duane Graham

       /  February 5, 2010

      Thanks, Sean. Your site is essential for Missourians, particularly those of us condemned to live out our political lives in the reddest part of the state. My email address is mailto:grahamzz@sbcglobal.net I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you.



  3. jay turney

     /  September 1, 2010

    Trying to find john don wondersmuck and found this. Fine. Freethinker? Joplin Globe? You and wondermuck must be connected somehow. Remember the tale of Achilles and the hare?? Which means I can barely type this. The impedimenta to finding someone like two miles away have become onerous. IE, OMFG, that’s my comment. I couldn’t tell if the pool playing hotte is you, and if is you, are an atheist, con artist … freethinker i think means agnostic. So you have rejected the system because you figured out God is dead and full of delicious maggots? So did Hitler. So did hegel. What else you got, freethinker?


  4. Jay,

    Here is the way to john don wondersmuck. Perhaps he can help you with your addiction to Zeno’s paradoxes. Having spent ten minutes trying to untie the series of linguistic knots that is your writing, I surrender. I’m going back to reading Sarah Palin’s latest book.

    Here is a suggestion on how to ask john don wondersmuck for help:

    Dear Juan,

    I met a “pool playing hotte” on another blog. What should I do?

    Jay from Jay



    • Duane,

      Thanks for the extra traffic. I’m tempted every now and then to post e-mails from “fans” who not only defy gravity, but Einstein’s Unified Field Theory work-in-progress. I’m glad I didn’t download the photo of me tossing lawn darts back when I was a svelte “hotte”. Exposure to such photos must trigger the Hegelian Dialect response in internet-challenged philosophers. Or maybe Jay is just cooling his heels in a vat of Keystone Lite before hitchhiking to the “Burning Man” festivities.



    • Rawhead

       /  September 22, 2010

      That guy and Juan Don ought to get along great! They’re both into pseudo-intellectual babble but one is definitely more articulate than the other, I just can’t figure out which.


  5. Randy

     /  June 14, 2011

    Duane, your thoughts please:

    By Matt Welch, Special to CNN
    June 11, 2011 6:12 p.m. EDT

    Matt Welch says media outlets are giving huge attention to a data dump of Palin e-mail
    Meanwhile, he says, there’s scant coverage of Obama’s comments in weekly radio address
    He says media have disproportiante fascination with Palin, ignore important stories
    Welch: Press would have to hate Obama more if we expect them to cover him better
    Sarah Palin
    Barack Obama
    Editor’s note: Matt Welch is Editor in Chief of Reason, and co-author of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America (PublicAffairs).

    (CNN) — On Friday afternoon the websites of the five most important newspapers in the United States — the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today — each had above their digital folds the same breaking story: It seemed the former governor of the 47th-most populous state in the union, a woman who holds no elected office now and almost assuredly will not again anytime soon, had thousands of e-mails from her 21-month tenure data-dumped onto the public.

    The New York Times responded with a rare burst of interactivity, inviting readers “to point out items of interest.” The Washington Post had video, a photo gallery, live updates, and headlines such as “Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s e-mails show a constant concern with how she is portrayed in the media, on matters big and small.”

    Transparency advocates doubtlessly breathed a sigh of satisfaction that sunlight-disinfectant was being applied to a government figure. And people with any sense of political proportion were left with an additional thought: When is this journalistic scrutiny going to be applied to politicians who wield actual power?

    For instance, one might nominate the president of the United States for such attention. On Saturday, June 4, in his weekly radio address, Barack Obama did what he has consistently done since taking the oath of office: fudged reality to make his policies sound better.

    In a premature victory lap over his controversial bailout of Detroit automakers, the president made the highly dubious assertion that not taking over Chrysler and General Motors would have “put a million people out of work,” a claim resting on the notion that “bankruptcy” equals “liquidation,” which it does not.

    He said, both presumptively and inaccurately, that “we’re making sure America can out-build, out-innovate, and out-compete the rest of the world.” And he gave the distinct — and distinctly false — impression that Chrysler has repaid every dime of what it owes American taxpayers, mostly by saying “Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes American taxpayers for their support during my presidency — and it repaid that money six years ahead of schedule.”

    Glenn Kessler, who writes “The Fact Checker” blog for the Washington Post website, described Obama’s address as “one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech. Virtually every claim by the president regarding the auto industry needs an asterisk.”

    A president misleading the public on one of his most crucial policies at a time when Americans are increasingly anxious about the economy sounds kind of newsworthy, no? Well, don’t tell the editors of the New York Times — they were too busy nailing down this important story:”Palin Says She Didn’t Err on Paul Revere.”

    What’s particularly odd about the media’s disproportionate fascination with Sarah Palin is that it comes coupled with a palpable journalistic fear that we’re not challenging Sarah Palin enough.

    Three weeks ago, the journalism navel-gazing community was abuzz over an academic study of more than 700 news articles and 20 network news segments from 2009 that addressed a single controversial claim of the health care reform debate.

    Was it President Obama’s oft-repeated whopper that he was nobly pushing the reform rock up the hill despite the concentrated efforts of health care”special interests?” Was it his oft-repeated promise that “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan,” something that is getting even less true by the minute? Was it the way Obama and the Democrats brazenly gamed and misrepresented the Congressional Budget Office’s price-tag scoring of the bill?

    No. The cause for Obamacare-coverage reconsideration was not the truth-stretching claims made by a president seeking to radically reshape an important aspect of American life, but rather the Facebook commentary of … Sarah Palin. “In more than 60 percent of the cases,” the authors found, “it’s obvious that newspapers abstained from calling [Palin’s] death panels claim false.” Horrors.

    There is no shortage of politicians deserving to have their e-mails combed through, no dearth of urgent stories that could benefit from the kind of journalistic enthusiasm we saw Friday afternoon.

    Did you know that a reported dozen armed agents kicked down a guy’s door at 6 a.m. this week in Stockton, California, and handcuffed him in his boxer shorts in front of his three bawling pre-teen kids — to execute a search warrant for the Department of Education involving suspected loan fraud by his allegedly estranged wife? You wouldn’t if you get your news from the Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, or L.A. Times, California’s biggest newspapers.

    But fear not! Now we know that “The ‘First Dude’ played a particularly influential role in the administration” of a short-term, small-state governor. The lessons for Michelle Obama, then, are clear: If you want the non-Amtrak media to give you attention, they’re going to need to hate your husband a little more.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Matt Welch.

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    • Randy,

      I agree that the media pays too much attention to Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, and others. They are a waste of time, except for entertainment purposes, which explains, oddly, why they get so much attention.

      I don’t agree that the media ignores Obama’s statements or doesn’t otherwise scrutinize him.

      I, for one, am very sensitive to the treatment Obama gets in the media. It drives me crazy many days and nights. But I also recognize that I am sensitive to it because I am a supporter of his. And I recognize that journalist do and should hold him accountable for every word he utters.

      As long as they hold all politicians accountable, I have exactly zero problem with them.

      Look, Matt Welch is a libertarian, and, thus, not a fan of Obama. Some of the things he complains about I could complain about from the other side. It just matters what side you are on. If you like Obama, you think he gets too much criticism, as it was with George W. If you don’t like O or W, then you think they get or got too little.



  6. Randy

     /  June 21, 2011

    What you say is true – but you gotta agree that Obama get’s far more favorable coverage and far less scrutiny (by the main stream media) than Bush did or than Republicans do in general. You also gotta admit that the general publics view on wether a politician is “smart” or “dumb” is almost entirely based on how the media presents that person to us. Obama has said and done enough incredibly stupid things that if the media wanted us to think he was dumb – it would be easy to paint that picture of him. Like they did with Bush (and have done with almost every conservative leader in the past). But instead, liberals area always viewed as “intelligent” and conservatives generally viewed as something far less than that. And all based on how the media presents the person.

    Change of subject. If liberal policies are so good, how do you explain this:


    In our (conservative) view – this is one of the many negative yet natural results of liberal policies. The one thing I wish I could get from you Duane is this: I’d like for you to change your tone and attitude toward conservatives. We are not evil and we are not trying to hurt anyone or take from anyone. We honestly believe that what we believe is what is best for ALL people and will work the best at providing opportunity for all and at providing the highest standard of living for all. We do understand that poor people will always exist – because some people will always make poor life choices, and also sometimes for other reasons that are outside of individual control (and in those cases we want to help them in as equitable and as plausible fashion as possible). That’s what we believe Duane. We are not evil. Please help bring civility to our debates, rather than incite hate. Like you do. Pause. Think. Read some of the comments your readers make. Hate. I challenge you to read any CNN article and then read the comments the follow. Do it Duane. See what side of the debate is HATE FILLED and spews the most incredible meanness and negativeness. Under every political article on CNN you will find it. Tons of it. Liberals spewing actual hate and complete arrogant ignorance. You hardly will see any of that from the conservative side. I dare you to take up my challenge.

    What does this have to do with you? You are a liberal blogger. You, believe it or not, are one of the “hate inciters” because of your tone and attitude.

    You might say “Rush Limbaugh incites hate” or “Sean Hannity incites hate.” Duane, you’d be wrong. Again, I challenge you to find numerous comments form conservatives that reveal hate. I am not talking about extreme nut jobs on the fringes. I am talking about every day conservatives. Read the comments that follow the articles on CNN and on Fox news and then you tell me which side of the debate is hateful and full of strife and ignorance.


  7. Randy

     /  June 21, 2011

    *”Again, I challenge you to find numerous comments form conservatives that reveal hate” – I mean from “every day” conservatives like me and those who post comments on CNN and Fox news, etc.


    • Randy,

      If you think George W. Bush is as intelligent as Barack Obama, I think you are wrong. But that’s not to say that W. was a dummy. He certainly wasn’t analytical, but many people aren’t. He did have some political skills that served him well, albeit with help from the Supreme Court. As for the media projection of him, I’m afraid he did that to himself. Just look back at his extemporaneous comments. It’s really, and I mean, really, embarrassing at times.

      And I don’t think the media can “make us think” much of anything, although there certainly are some long-term and somewhat subtle effects of media coverage. (There are also a few occasions where a strong media personality can help shape public opinion, such as Cronkite onVietnam.) Most people don’t pay attention to the news media, by the way. Dancing With the Stars is far more popular than any program on cable news, for instance. And those who do pay attention likely already have a point of view that the media either reinforces or contradicts.

      As for the Europeans, surely you aren’t comparing liberals in America with socialists in Europe? Come on, Randy. Even conservatives in Europe are socialists in a sense that few Americans would be comfortable embracing. (See Germany.) But nevertheless, most Americans do embrace forms of socialism, as I have pointed out numerous times, like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and the police and fire departments and the library and the military and so on. Americans just don’t label those things as socialistic. But they most certainly are.

      As a liberal, I am not a socialist in the classic sense of that word. I am a capitalist, but a capitalist that wants to preserve capitalism by regulating it. The way I put it is that liberals want to save capitalism from the capitalists, who would ruin it for all time if they were allowed to have their way. Capitalism is the engine of prosperity, but it is not a laissez faire style of capitalism, but a managed capitalism. For the most part, Europe has mixed economies, managed capitalist systems, just like we have. Ours, though, is obviously skewed further toward laissez faire than most of theirs.

      And by the way, the Republican Party has done more to imitate socialist Europe than the Dems, in terms of running up massive debt. Remember those Clinton budget surpluses? No, me neither. They were swallowed up in the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush tax cuts and Medicare Part D and the credit card wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Randy, I can agree with you that conservatives are not “evil,” in the sense that they mean to destroy people or to ruin the economy. Believe me, as an earnest conservative myself at one time, I know better than most that conservatives believe that their philosophy is the right prescription for our social and fiscal ills. I truly believed that my conservatism would solve our country’s many problems, at least as far as they were solvable.

      But there are conservatives, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, who exploit the fears of their followers for CA$H. I put them in a completely different class. I listened to Rush Limbaugh (as a confirmed dittohead) every day he was on for more than fifteen years, and then for much of the time for another five years or so. I know the guy very well, in terms of what he does on the radio and how he demagogues issues.

      Limbaugh and Hannity and Beck are dangerous demagogues who are hurting the country, whether they intend to or not. To give you just one example: the immigration issue. Bush II had a plan, with many Democrats on board, to help solve some of our problems with illegal immigration. But Limbaugh and other talkers on the radio raised a ruckus and the damn thing was stopped dead in its tracks. That’s what I mean by how they are harming the country. Republican politicians, who knew better, were afraid of what would happen if they signed on to the immigration settlement. Thus, we are still stuck these many years later.

      As for the hate speech, I’m afraid your argument is lost on me. Not only did I listen to that kind of talk for years and years on talk radio (about 7 hours every day from 1988 to about 2004 or so), also for two and a half years as a liberal blogger in conservative country, I have been subjected to some of the nastiest hate speech, much of it coming from a fellow Joplin Globe blogger who fashions himself as some kind of Limbaugh type. Sure, there are some on the Left who do the same thing and use hate speech as a way of communicating, but there is no comparison with those on the right. No comparison, Randy. I have been on both sides and seen it from both sides and I mean to tell you that there is NO COMPARISON, in terms of quantity, if not quality.

      And, Randy, those are “everyday” conservatives I am talking about. I know, my friend. I was one of them and I still know many of them to this day. I want to pass on to you something I have never passed on to anyone, as far as I can remember. For about a week, many years ago, I was waiting on a report on a bone marrow biopsy that had been done while I was in the hospital. I was very sick and my physician thought I had Leukemia. Needless to say, I was scared out of my wits. But I continued to listen to Limbaugh every day, who had been on the air nationally for maybe a year or two at the time. During that time, he was discussing the AIDS crisis and one day he said something so stupid about that illness—which I could relate to because of my own illness—that I literally turned him off. I had never done that before. Now, you have to understand that I loved the guy and agreed with nearly everything he said. But there was something about his utter disregard for those who were sick with AIDS that I found disturbing. Very disturbing. I never forgot that feeling, even though after I found out I did not have Leukemia I returned to Limbaugh and continued to listen.

      But I never forgot how he made me feel that day, and now, as a liberal, I know in a somewhat different way how much hurt he brings to the country, all in the name of money and a weird kind of conservatism.

      Finally, as for my own “tone and attitude,” I don’t know if you have noticed, but I try to treat people with the same kind of treatment as they treat me. Anson Burlingame and I have argued in this forum for more than two years, over tens of thousands of words, and for the most part it has been a civil discussion (although he goes off on me from time to time on his blog and other places). There have been other conservatives who have passed through here and I have engaged in civil debate with them, respectfully and thoughtfully. But from time to time there are those who come in here and attack me and I guess they expect me to back off. But I won’t do it. I won’t let conservative bullies win the day, at least here on a blog I control. I treat such people with the respect they deserve.

      Yes, from time to time I engage in hyperbole and sarcasm and other tools of the trade, but if you pay attention, you will see that those things are almost always directed at those who richly merit such treatment. I have also written pieces offering some qualified praise of such figures as Ronald Reagan (who used to be one of my great heros), William F. Buckley (from whom I learned more about genteel conservatism than any other person), Joseph Sobran (whose writing style and thoughts have heavily influenced me), and others. I am still a fan of Catholic apologist G. K. Chesterton and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (my youngest son’s middle name is Lewis Chesterton). You will never see me ridicule either one of those gentlemen, although I will attack their ideas from time to time. The same with thinkers like Milton Friedman or Hayek or von Mises or other serious people who did not engage in the kind of rhetoric that people like, say, Thomas Sowell does today. I once held George F. Will in high esteem, although he has failed to adequately criticize the boneheadedness of modern conservatism and I now rate him much lower today than I used to.

      I could go on, but the point is that I take philosophical conservatism seriously enough to write about it. I don’t think conservatism is evil. I don’t think conservatives are demonic. I don’t think they want to destroy the country. But I sometimes have to use ridicule and saracasm and other such things to, if nothing else, have a little fun at their expense.

      An awful lot of them deserve it.



  8. Randy

     /  July 7, 2011

    Hi Duane, I am just now finding some of these responses of yours – I guess I sometimes don’t get the email that says you replied… and finding these my way back to these strings can be kinda hard. Anyway, I appreciate what you’ve said here, but you did not take up my challenge I guess. I read CNN.com every single day for hours per day. At work it is the only web page we can access! (And my job entails sitting around bored for a few hours per day) Anyway, after every article they allow comments. Go read them. See what you think. The people from the left are radically and overwhelmingly hateful. It’s scary. Seriously scary. By and large the comments from the right are very respectful.


  9. A very good site. Just found your site from spinny liberal’s blogroll and I must say I am impressed. I think I’ll drop in every once in a while and hear what you have to say.


  10. Loved the “high points” pictures on your home page.


  11. Duane, a friend of mine just told me about your blog. I can understand where you’re coming from, since I underwent my own transformation, but in early 1965, when I was 18 and didn’t know any better. It didn’t take much to reform me, since it hadn’t taken much to make me a Goldwater fan and a YAF member in the first place. Luckily I had some good counsel, and was able to join the New Left and begin a lifetime of progressive thinking. I also have a blog on WordPress. I thought you might enjoy this essay in particular, but please check out the rest of it, as I will do with your writings. It looks like we have both neglected our posts lately! But I plan to get more active as the elections approach this year. It’s very important for progressives to understand how conservatives think, because they will never be able to fight back unless they know what they’re fighting. http://writer89.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/how-conservatives-think-about-health-care/

    Brad Lang


    • Brad,

      Thanks for the link. I certainly agree with you that many folks on the right think that if one lacks certain necessities it may be because those folks don’t “deserve” them for some reason or another. That is primarily the emotive force behind much of what the Tea Party is about, in my opinion.

      By the way, I usually post something five or six times a week, so I hope you visit often and I hope you follow through and become “more active as the elections approach,” as we need more voices like yours out there.



  12. Duane,

    I think that this is a hot meme you might want to help spread:


    To me, this is a bombshell.


    • Victor,

      I agree it is hot news, but after thinking about it, I’m not sure what to make of it, to tell you the truth.

      Is it that Fox “News” employees have sympathy for Obama, notwithstanding their day jobs? Or is it that there is a self-interest involved with keeping the devil in the White’s House?

      I will say this, though: Among the various media empires, it appears Fox employees are more sympathetic to Obama than the others, which mostly hedge their bets and give to the leadership in both parties.

      Bottom line is this: I would need to know why it is that folks who work for a 24-hour-a-day Obama-hate network are sending Obama money. If it is just crass self-interest then, well, that’s the conservative way and there is nothing to pass on. But if it is more than that, if there is genuine interest in getting Obama elected for the good of the country, then I would gladly join in the heralding of such a thing.

      Problem is that I don’t know which is which. Do you?



  13. writer89

     /  August 22, 2012


    Now that I’m on your list I see how often you are posting. Sorry for the mischaracterization! I suppose if I collected all my Facebook posts every day and stuck them on my blog, I would have a lot of blog content. But I’m a counterpuncher at heart, so some of my comments wouldn’t make sense without also reposting the stuff I’m reacting to — and I wouldn’t want to give them any more press. But I will try to get my act together. Those of us who’ve been to the dark side and returned to tell the tale owe it to the world to testify regularly.


  1. Statistical Jousting | Still Skeptical After All These Years

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