Brain-dead Conservatism?

Ann Althouse linked this commentary from the Washington Post yesterday.

“During the glory days of the conservative movement, from its ascent in the 1960s and ’70s to its success in Ronald Reagan’s era, there was a balance between the intellectuals, such as Buckley and Milton Friedman, and the activists, such as Phyllis Schlafly and Paul Weyrich, the leader of the New Right. The conservative political movement, for all its infighting, has always drawn deeply from the conservative intellectual movement, and this mix of populism and elitism troubled neither side.”

Reading it I thought that the likely reason for an apparent lack of intellectual leadership in the conservative movement was because everyone was too busy trying to shut up the populists and remake the Republican Party or redefine conservative as something smarter by insisting that it shed the unwashed masses.

Which is what I was reminded of when I saw this about McCain. (And “compared to what?” was a laugh out loud moment, Bruce.)

Rather than being comfortable with populism and intellectualism together (I’ll not say “elitism” because I think the word requires exclusivity) everyone seems to be trying to decide who to throw out or shun in order for conservatism to be fit for refined company. If it’s not the god-botherers it’s the social cons or the neo-cons or (even!) the tea partiers or it’s those foolish enough to be excited about Sarah (who could never win!) or it’s Limbaugh or it’s Hannity… and it’s certainly Glenn Beck!

From the Washington Post commentary:

Beck, for one, is revealing that despite the demands of filling hours of airtime every day, it is possible to engage in some real thought. He just might be helping restore the equilibrium between the elite and populist sides of conservatism.

Wow. Glenn Beck.

I think that there are other things going on as well, sort of a social shake-down happening that has the potential to turn out very well for the promotion of reason… when I manage to get my mind around the specifics I may write a post. (At the moment it’s all rather ephemeral with bits of disjointed pieces such as “the exploding helicopter constant” trying to find where it fits with all the glimpses I haven’t yet discovered evocative name-hooks for.)

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One Response to “Brain-dead Conservatism?”

  1. on 06 Oct 2009 at 5:02 pm Ric Locke

    I think you may be right. Could you drop me an email when and if you get the essay together?

    There’s a lot of controversy going on in what might be called “the Right”, although that’s a bit simplistic (well, a lot simplistic). The “Left” is coasting, regurgitating memes that have been around for a century and a half at least — doing well, mind you, but that’s because their themes specifically do not address the intellectual component. Agriculture and industrialization are intellectual constructs that don’t match the “instincts” we picked up during the tens of millenia we spent wandering the savannah as hunter-gatherer-scavengers, so they’re difficult or impossible to frame in “instinctive” terms.

    It’s infuriating, despite being somewhat amusing, to watch the abandonment of intellectual constructs, replacing them with primitive hunter-gatherer-scavenger ideals, being trumpeted as “intellectualism” or “elitism”. Balderdash. It isn’t Progressive, it’s retrogressive.

    I’ve been trying to address some of those issues on my blog; particularly, the notion that we need to go back and re-think some of the basics, because the argument from the set of basics we now assume has been polluted by Leftoid Jesuitry.

    If the “Right” can re-establish, via competing with one another, the intellectual basis of the things that keep us alive day to day, perhaps we can communicate it with others. The competition for attention is thus a good thing, though as always we need to watch out for con-men (and -women) and charismatic ideologues. Neither of those is “intellectual”.


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