This was a great read.
One big beef I have with the neo-conservative movement is when it comes to “ideological purity.” If you disagree with the “everybody look at me, I’m a movement conservative” crowd on any one issue, you’re a RiNo or a squishy moderate. If you admit that Sarah Palin is a flawed candidate and might not be the conservative savior he thought she was going to be, you’re only saying that so you’ll be invited to Georgetown cocktail parties. Recently I had said in a blog that I thought the phrase “death panels” was ridiculous, and then went on to support Newt Gingrich’s questions concerning rationing and his criticism of Ezekiel Emanuel. People read as far as “death panels” and said that I apparently don’t take eugenics seriously.
Patrick Ruffini recent wrote aboot some “conservative” outrage when it was suggested we should denounce the conspiracy theorists in our party, and lamented how we’re lacking intellectuals in the vein of William F. Buckley because the word “intellectual” has become synonymous with “squishy moderate.” He writes…
What is interesting about Buckley (and that is so different today) was his ability to align intellectual firepower and a faster march to the Right. Buckley was a man of class and erudition who happened to be more conservative than virtually all of his peers. That’s the key point. To the extent we think of intellectuals today, we deride them as creatures of the Left. When they are active within conservative circles, they are discarded as to the left of the movement. The archetypical center-right intellectual today is a guy like Ross Douthat, whose ideas (to be fair) are often outside the conservative mainstream. Most of the party’s rising intellectuals are seen as advocating a shift away from social conservative issues, which are still deeply relevant to a critical mass of Americans beyond the two coasts. Back in Buckley’s day, it was possible to get 175-proof conservatism in Ivy League flavoring.
Perhaps the intellectual composition of the conservative (or liberal) movement wasn’t all that different in Buckley’s time, but Buckley provided an ideal — and set a standard — for conservatives to position themselves as scholarly thought leaders within the broader culture that simply no longer exists today — despite numerous conservative academics toiling facelessly in the vineyards. This gave a Buckley the credibility to cast out the movement’s lesser lights, and impose a layer of discernment between fact and fiction inside the movement. In politics, symbols matter. Just like there could only be one Reagan, there could only be one Buckley.
The automatic problem that arises when someone who is not a William F. Buckley (and none of us here pretend to be) is that you’re instantly tagged a RINO for calling out something that is objectively and demonstrably false. The space between fact and fiction is confused as a litmus test between right and left. But what if the WNDers are not the true conservatives in this argument? What if the actual test of conservatism was not how fervently you oppose Obama, or where you went to school, or where you pray, but how firmly your conservatism is rooted in First Principles and not personalities or conspiracy?
Like I said, excellent read that you should all take the time to…well, read.
Personally speaking, we need more cats like Ruffini and Ross Douhat and less Joe the Plumbers. Just sayin’.