Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Death of Conservatism?

Reason's Nick Gillespie has an excellent interview with New York Times Book Review Editor Sam Tanenhaus on his book "The Death of Conservatism." Tanenhaus's thesis is one I've been harping on in this blog for months: that the right has abandoned intellectual debate in favor of a more shallow politics.

Case-in-point, the utter nonsense I heard from Rush Limbaugh on my brief car trip this afternoon. It was more Jeremiah Wright, more Bill Ayers, both of which should have been evidence to thinking people about Obama's true intentions for this country. Forget the racial angle, Rush's argument is that Obama is angry at this country and his policies are going to be based on that anger. And it's almost as ridiculous as the liberal arguments during the Bush administration that George Bush wanted to kill brown people. I can't prove either of those statements true or false, one way or another and that's exactly the point. It's dirty politics that borders on conspiracy mongering and it's the exact opposite of intellectual rigor.

When it comes to any presidency and to politics in general, what's important should be actual policy, not what may or may not be in someone's heart. It ultimately doesn't matter with Obama is driven by the good intention of helping every American or whether he's driven by a lust for government power, what matters is what laws and what policies we get under his administration. I'd take an evil bastard that doesn't do all that much in office over a well-meaning fool any day.

This is not to say that every tea party attendee with an "Obama=socialism" sign is a fool. There's a difference between a protest where you have a limited ability to project a brief and memorable message in the form of a protest sign and a public figure who has the forum of a column, blog, or radio show.

What I see from any number of leading conservative figures aren't intellectual arguments, but pomp and circumstance where spectacle is valued over depth. You just can't attack the Obama health care proposals while glossing over the numerous problems and inequities of our current system that are directly the result of government action. And sure, it may get briefly mentioned, but I hear a lot more about Van Jones, Bill Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright. And the crazy thing is, Rush was much better at hammering John McCain on real big government issues then he's been on Barack Obama.

Sam Tanenhaus points out that the late William F. Buckley, because of the intellectual level of his arguments, made liberals think and write better. Part of the problem today, according to Tanenhaus, is that people tend to congregate more with those of like minds and fewer and fewer take the time to seriously examine the intellectual arguments of the other side. And I can't disagree.

Coming from the other side, the liberal bloggers I enjoy reading most- Glenn Greenwald and Ezra Klein for example- are those who take the time to take intellectual arguments for the other side seriously. I may not agree with them much, but I can respect their intellectual honesty. What I'm interested in is people who take ideas seriously, or at least, much more seriously than politics. There's a tremendous opportunity on the right for someone to fill the intellectual void that exists right now and to become the one on the right who takes ideas seriously, but it seems to me as though as though many public figures on the right have actively stepped away from that role.


Post a Comment

<< Home