This points to the gap between the interests of young political professionals like Ruffini and Henke, and the interests of the grassroots, as I explain at The American Spectator:
Grassroots conservative activists are, by their very nature, not engaged in the political process as a career. They tend to be older, well-established in non-political occupations and less concerned about the Big Picture questions than in finding immediate, practical ways to oppose the menace of liberalism. The question one hears from the grassroots is not, "Whither conservatism?" but rather, "What can I do?"You can read the whole thing. As always, no matter how much I share certain concerns of the intellectuals, my strongest sympathies are with the grassroots. Intellectuals need the grassroots more than the grassroots need intellectuals.
The Tea Party movement -- which will host a major rally in Washington next weekend -- has given the grassroots something to do, so that joining en masse to voice their opposition to the Obama agenda, they are actively engaged in the political process.
However, grassroots activism has consequences. One of the consequences of a ressurgent conservative grassroots is that their concerns, beliefs and attitudes are sometimes not in sync with the concerns, beliefs and attitudes of smart young Republican activists like Patrick Ruffini. . . .
UPDATE: Catching up on the reaction that roiled the online Right while I was politely ignoring this dispute, Around the Sphere has a list of links, including my favorite acromegalic bride-to-be, Megan McArdle:
If the right ever wants to get back in power, it needs to start policing its lunatic fringe.Why is it always the Right, and never the Left, that is urged to suppress its lunatics? Are our Birther kooks so self-evidently more dangerous or more embarrassing than left-wing kooks like Van Jones? What is at work here, I suspect, is that those who travel in intellectual circles -- where the influence of liberal academia is pervasive --almost inevitably become intimidated by the prestige-claims of liberalism.
A concern for debunking liberalism's prestige -- the persistent notion that liberal ideas possess a presumed legitimacy that conservative ideas do not -- is why I wrote "How to Think About Liberalism (If You Must)":
The simplest way to define conservatism is this: The belief that liberalism is wrong.Once you conceive of ideological combat in these terms -- and I urge you to read the whole thing -- then you lose patience with soi-disant "conservatives" whose two basic instincts are cringe and flinch.
By God, stand up on your hind legs and fight! Grab some liberal pet idea by the scruff of the neck and pound the crap out of it. Destroy the prestige of liberal ideas, and attack the prestige of liberal spokesmen, so that it is they who are compelled to cringe and flinch.
Pussyfooting around, concerning yourself with civility and respectability -- the Marquis of Queensbury rules that liberals insist conservatives respect, while they're rabbit-punching us and kneeing us in the groin -- is a tactical error that will inevitably lead to defeat.
This doesn't mean that conservatives must be rude and uncouth. Rather, it means we ought not be defeatist and cowardly, displaying the characteristic attitude of the man whose pride in good sportsmanship is closely related to his habit of losing.
UPDATE II: Bill Quick at Daily Pundit:
Careerism and credentialism are as big a problem for the conservative establishment as for the liberal one. . . .Exactly -- the electorate will not respond to rhetoric cluttered by qualifiers or ideas expressed in dry, dull, language. "Herewith, A Brief Primer" is not a fighting creed.
The blunt truth is that unless the intellectuals are able to mobilize the grassroots, all their plans and hopes are for naught.
Like Matt Lewis, whose engagement with Henke prompted Ruffini's counter-blast, I consider Henke and Ruffini friends. Jon's critique of the errors of the Allen '06 gubernatorial campaign -- the failure to get ahead of the Allen-is-a-racist smear that was already well-developed before "Macaca" -- was atom-splitting accurate, and his phrase "the eyes of the influentials" has stuck in my mind for more than three years.
Yet Jon's attack on Farah and WND strikes me as wrong-headed and harmful, and I think Ruffini's defense of the attack included some erroneous ideas, too.
So, having ignored all this for three days, I at last felt obligated to engage. Not because I want to purge anyone, but because I want my friends Jon and Patrick to have the benefit of my ideas (which are 100% correct, as usual).
UPDATE III: Speaking of 100% correct, Matt Welch:
All signs are pointing preliminarily to a Republican resurgence in the 2010 elections, even as a growing number of political thinkers–many of them on the right–conclude that conservatism as we know it is verging on a self-inflicted death.Which points, I think, to the issue of careerism among conservative intellectuals, each of whom wishes to claim credit as the far-sighted visionary who mapped the way to the spectacular comeback victory. I think Matt Welch and I should agree in advance to flip a coin for those honors.
UPDATE IV: Now a Memeorandum thread, and Dan Riehl reminds us of Buckley's populist side:
I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.Also linked by Bob Belvedere at Camp of the Saints, by some Goth-club conservative(?) and by our old friend Conor Friedersdorf.
I'm not going to argue with Conor just now. This thread's already way too long and to address his "substantive" arguments would take too much effort on the Friday night before Labor Day. Also, my wife just brought home two large cheese pizzas from Little Caesar's. Party time!