The brilliant Dan Riehl observes Rachel Maddow's MSNBC guest host Ana Marie Cox (speaking of "sworn enemies") interviewing Tanenhaus "discussing how WND is the equivalent of the Birchers today? Detailing how the Birchers were shut down." Dan continues:
Going on about the lack of intellectuals in conservatism today? Questioning where the Republican leadership is?Ouch. Here's the MSNBC video, so the reader may appreciate the extent to which the liberal Tanenhaus has influenced this species of "conservatism":
Damn! Almost seems to me I heard precisely all that just recently.
Then going on to pull in NRO, claiming that NRO (wink wink) only pretended to reject, while bringing forth new evidence, in the Birther conspiracy? Calling today's conservative "mouthpieces" pseudo-intellectuals? Do they mean Talk Radio? I'd bet they do.
No point in reading The Next Right anymore, perhaps. I can just wait to catch the latest young conservative wisdom on MSNBC. . . .
"The Republicans Who Really Matter":
The Republicans Who Really Matter can be relied on to reinforce liberal stereotypes of the GOP, and to pen op-ed columns offering "helpful" advice to the Republican Party which, if followed, would lead to certain electoral disaster. . . .The inarguable fact that liberals dominate the publishing industry, academia and other such institutions of intellect means that liberalism and its advocates possess a prestige that no out-and-out conservative can ever enjoy.
No Republican pundit is ever going to become influential by buddying up to Wayne LaPierre or right-to-lifers; make favorable mention of environmentalism, however, and MSNBC producers will flood your inbox with e-mail invitations to a 10-minute guest segment on "Hardball."
One reliable method for advancing to the pinnacle as a Republican commentator is to argue that the party is badly divided, and to blame this fragmentation on some constituency universally loathed by liberals. . . .
The Monopolization of Prestige
Neither Joseph Farah nor Dan Riehl will ever be published by the New York Times, will they? If Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin or Ann Coulter wrote biographies of William F. Buckley Jr., would their books be praised in a feature NYT book review? Would they be excerpted by The New Republic?
Of course not. Liberals would never lend the prestige of their institutions to such avowed enemies of liberalism. And anyone who desires to research the career of Buckley may easily discover the vehemence with which he was once denounced by liberals -- up until such time as liberals discerned that they might use him as a weapon to attack other conservative targets.
To be the sort of conservative intellectual acceptable to liberals, one must never make a criticism of liberalism that is genuinely effective, an argument that undermines the prestige of liberal ideas and liberal heroes. Why? Because once an intelligent person comes to suspect that liberalism does not deserve its prestigious reputation -- well, the emperor has no clothes, you see? Therefore, Pinch Sulzberger hires a neurasthenic weakling like David Brooks, and not a vigorous, forthright and courageous advocate of conservative ideas.
At some level, the shrewd and ambitious young Republican-leaning writer perceives all this. He understands that he can gain an especial distinction by courting the praise of liberals, in quite the same way a junior varsity cheerleader can become "popular" by dating the defensive line of the varsity football team. And the analogy is all the more apt in that the JV cheerleader who seeks the easiest way to "popularity" so often condemns as ill-motivated hypocrites those more virtuous girls who eschew her ways.
'Boring' or Burkean?
When, in a symposium on Tanenhaus, Austin Bramwell declares that conservatism is "intellectually boring," he is in one sense quite correct. The basic principles of American conservatism -- the defense of constitutionally limited government, opposition to the welfare state, sympathy for tradition, foreign policy based on strength, sovereignty and national interest -- are so well-known that they offer no attraction to those who crave novelty in political thought.
The upstart who desires to gain a reputation as an "innovative" thinker is welcome to seek employment outside conservative politics, if he is not content to find new ways to celebrate old verities or new arguments with which to eviscerate liberals.
Instead, what we see over and over -- see Brooks' disastrously influential "National Greatness" as a textbook example -- is an enthusiastic race to get ahead of the Zeitgeist, to become the Promethean author of a new Welltanschauung, to establish one's place as the founder of Some Other Conservatism.
Wise men are not deceived by these pretentious intellectual hustlers. When a self-described conservative begins slinging around words like "creativity" and "progress" in political discourse, it is not generally taken as evidence of doughty resolve. Rather, it is wise to suspect such a person of being what the Brits would call a trimmer.
The Cruelty of Ambition
Conservatism is a philosophy of opposition. Excuse me for repeating myself, but some of our Young Turks do not seem to be paying attention to the lessons.
They invite chastisement, lest they become still more impudent (if such a thing were possible). I call them "Young Turks," but they rather remind me of certain Young Hegelians of yore, unwisely eager to hasten the historical synthesis. Their conceited trust in their own superiority is dangerous, perhaps more to them than to the hoary elders of the "movement" whom they seek to supplant, and I suspect there would be far less tolerance of dissent if these ambitious youngsters were mounted in the saddle and empowered to wield the whip.
We need no Nietzschean ubermensch nor Platonic archons to rule over us, to enlighten our supposed benightedness and soothe us with their tendentious myths about Olympian idols. This dishonest campaign to employ the aid of Tanenhaus to enlist the departed Buckley as a ghostly advocate of Pragmatism deserves to be rejected with extreme prejudice. And any Young Turks who desire to keep pursuing this approach will do so at peril to their own ambitions.
Whatever the Zeitgeist amongst the intelligentsia, the balance of power within the conservative movement does not favor "Pragmatism," which means that would-be leaders of Some Other Conservatism will suffer from a shortage of followers, and will find themselves isolated and ignored.
Even while I was writing this little essay, the brilliant Dan Riehl was busy discovering what sort of advice Sam Tanenhaus offered to his own party in 2003. The liberal Democrat urged Democrats to embrace their own radicals, while the same liberal Democrat's arguments are now being used to urge Republicans to purge Joseph Farah and WND.
"Maximize the contradictions," as Abby Hoffman said.