21 April 2010

Why Conservatism is Dying

Ross Douthat issues a challenge, of sorts, to conservative intellectuals to call out conservative politicians and entertainers. Here is the relevant bit:

What you don’t hear enough from the pundits and intellectuals, I think, are complaints about this state of affairs. Conservative domestic policy would be in better shape if conservative magazines and conservative columnists were more willing to call out Republican politicians (and, to a lesser extent, conservative entertainers) for offering bromides instead of substance, and for pandering instead of grappling with real policy questions. This is part of why David Frum attracts so much attention, positive and negative: Not because his policy preferences are so far outside the conservative mainstream, but because he’s made it his business to hold various prominent right-wingers and Republicans accountable for being vacuous or inflammatory, instead of just training all his fire on liberals. I don’t always agree with the targets he picks and way he goes about it, but conservatism needs more of that kind of internal criticism, not less. (emphasis added).

This whole thing started because a former speechwriter named David Frum was let go by the American Enterprise Institute for, apparently, not being nice to other conservatives (if you're interested, there's loads of stuff about this on the internets; I'm not getting into it here). The point is that this seems pretty sensible stuff.

Well, a fellow named Jim Manzi who has written extensively and well on climate change and how it should be addressed from a right of center approach, took this as a bit of a personal challenge and called out a fellow conservative, a little fella named Mark Levin who has a radio show and who wrote a book called Liberty and Tyranny. In his little book, the little fella spends 30 pages discussing "Enviro-Statism." This amounts to 15% of the entire text, so it is a significant sample. Manzi, who sometimes I agree with and sometimes don't, offers a well-written, well-reasoned critique of Levin's take on issues environmental. What Manzi doesn't do is employ ad hominem attacks or any of the fallacies, logical or otherwise, that Levin uses so often one would think that is what his compensation was based on. (I urge you to read the post).

So, Manzi writes his piece. Guess what happens?

He gets attacked by two colleagues at National Review, here and here. Mind you, neither of the posts address any of the substance of Manzi's post, they just don't like the "Pearl Harbor" job he does on Levin.

I read Levin's book. It sucks. I wouldn't insult my dog's feces by picking it up with a page from it. At it's very best, the book is simply nonsensical. And if someone can't say that a book that sucks sucks simply because it was written by someone with whom you are otherwise ideologically simpatico, then all intellectual honesty and integrity have been surrendered.

National Review has been going down this route for a while and it has just gotten distressingly worse. When the magazine wanted to blast immigration reform in the previous decade, and take pot-shots at John McCain, it featured on it's cover a picture of McCain and Ted Kennedy. Never mentioned was then President Bush's ardent support for the legislation and the active involvement that the administration played in the doomed legislation.

And why do radio yakkers, especially of the conservative bent, take such umbrage at being referred to as "entertainers." That's what they do (for some). They contrbute absolutely nothing of substance to any other endeavor. They attract listeners and sell products, at this they are successful. It is commercial entertainment.

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