Monday, July 21, 2008

Right-wing pointy-heads

Megan McArdle -- whom I once escorted home after she suffered an attack of vertigo -- has surrendered to contrarian folly, if this New York Times article is to be believed:
Meanwhile, Megan McArdle, a libertarian writer, thinks conservative organizations will actually have a tougher time influencing policy if Senator McCain is elected. . . .Indeed, to Ms. McArdle, the possibility of a Republican defeat holds a certain romantic appeal. "Younger people are kind of excited about being in the wilderness," she said, evoking the pre-Reagan years when Republican thinkers plotted their revolution at nonprofit organizations and in bars instead of in the Executive Office Building and congressional majority offices. The longer you're in power, the more you want to preserve it. "That's where the Republicans are right now, and it's demoralizing for think tankers."
Desperation has a way of focusing the mind. As Ms. McArdle said, "When they're out of power, they have to think in a clearer way."
I criticized this notion at AmSpecBlog:
Never having set foot in the Executive Office Building, I'm nevertheless dismayed by the "romantic appeal" of the wilderness for Ms. McArdle, who was in middle school the last time Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress. Should dissatisfaction with the status quo (almost universal on the Right) lead to the unconservative idea that change -- any change, even Change -- is progress?
The extreme youth of thinkers like McArdle, Douthat, et al., gives them a rather narrow experiential frame of reference. Having never been a think-tanker, nor a young conservative (I grew up a Democrat, an affiliation I didn't shed until I was about 35), I shudder to think what idiocy I might have wrought if I'd been catapulted into the midst of Washington policy disputes in my 20s. (Some would say I've wrought plenty of idiocy in my 40s.)

I worry about these brainiac prodigies who arrive in Washington fresh from the college campus and, without any seasoning in the "real world," are transformed overnight into savants.

When I was about Douthat's age, I was DJing in an Atlanta strip club, which was about as much responsibility as I could handle, and perhaps more than I could handle. Yet there is something to be said for the experience of living among The People, earning one's living outside the realm of intellectual endeavor, as a preparation for common-sense thinking about politics.

UPDATE: A liberal blogger chides the Right:
Adversity is the one thing that modern conservatives cannot stomach or stand. If they believed in it, they wouldn't have rolled over for George Bush and they certainly wouldn't have rolled over for John McCain. If adversity was something conservatives in this country as a whole could take, they would have nominated Senator Sam Brownback on principle and rejected the likes of McCain and Romney out of hand. Instead, they rolled over and took it.
She has kind of a point there. One of the things I've noticed about Beltway conservatives -- as opposed to rank-and-file conservatives out in the provinces -- is that they tend to be very power-oriented. There is a definite pecking order, and everybody's trying to move up the ladder.

On the other hand, it wasn't Beltway conservatives who rejected Sam Brownback (or Tom Tancredo or any of the other lesser Republican presidential hopefuls), it was GOP primary voters. But that is another issue entirely. And as to whether conservatives "rolled over" for either Bush or McCain -- well, look at the fall-off in the GOP vote since 2006. It's obvious that lots of rank-and-file grassroots conservatives are more or less engaged in a boycott of the Republican machine. They've stopped voting, they've stopped volunteering in campaigns, and they've especially stopped giving the kind of $50-$100 contributions that were once the lifeblood of the GOP.

UPDATE II: I think it's fair to number David Weigel among the youngsters excited about a Republican exile to the wilderness. The Bush administration's shunning of libertarians is not without a price.

No comments:

Post a Comment