contact
Main
Contact Me

about
About RightWing NutHouse

Site Stats

blog radio

Listen to internet radio with RINO Hour of Power on Blog Talk Radio
Click Here to Pay Learn More

testimonials

"Brilliant"
(Romeo St. Martin of Politics Watch-Canada)

"The epitome of a blogging orgasm"
(Cao of Cao's Blog)

"Rick Moran is one of the finest essayists in the blogosphere. ‘Nuff said. "
(Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye)

archives
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004

search



blogroll

A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT
A Conservative Lesbian
ABBAGAV
ACE OF SPADES
ALPHA PATRIOT
AM I A PUNDIT NOW
AMERICAN FUTURE
AMERICAN THINKER
ANCHORESS
AND RIGHTLY SO
ANDREW OLMSTED
ANKLEBITING PUNDITS
AREOPAGITICA
ATLAS SHRUGS
BACKCOUNTRY CONSERVATIVE
BASIL’S BLOG
BEAUTIFUL ATROCITIES
BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
BELMONT CLUB
BETSY’S PAGE
Blacksmiths of Lebanon
Blogs of War
BLUEY BLOG
BRAINSTERS BLOG
BUZZ MACHINE
CANINE PUNDIT
CAO’S BLOG
CAPTAINS QUARTERS
CATHOUSE CHAT
CHRENKOFF
CINDY SHEEHAN WATCH
Classical Values
Cold Fury
COMPOSITE DRAWLINGS
CONSERVATHINK
CONSERVATIVE THINK
CONTENTIONS
DAVE’S NOT HERE
DEANS WORLD
DICK McMICHAEL
Diggers Realm
DR. SANITY
E-CLAIRE
EJECT! EJECT! EJECT!
ELECTRIC VENOM
ERIC’S GRUMBLES BEFORE THE GRAVE
ESOTERICALLY.NET
FAUSTA’S BLOG
FLIGHT PUNDIT
FOURTH RAIL
FRED FRY INTERNATIONAL
GALLEY SLAVES
GATES OF VIENNA
HEALING IRAQ
http://blogcritics.org/
HUGH HEWITT
IMAO
INDEPUNDIT
INSTAPUNDIT
IOWAHAWK
IRAQ THE MODEL
JACKSON’S JUNCTION
JO’S CAFE
JOUST THE FACTS
KING OF FOOLS
LASHAWN BARBER’S CORNER
LASSOO OF TRUTH
LIBERTARIAN LEANINGS
LITTLE GREEN FOOTBALLS
LITTLE MISS ATTILA
LIVE BREATHE AND DIE
LUCIANNE.COM
MAGGIE’S FARM
MEMENTO MORON
MESOPOTAMIAN
MICHELLE MALKIN
MIDWEST PROGNOSTICATOR
MODERATELY THINKING
MOTOWN BLOG
MY VAST RIGHT WING CONSPIRACY
mypetjawa
NaderNow
Neocon News
NEW SISYPHUS
NEW WORLD MAN
North Star National
Northerncrown
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY
PATRIOTIC MOM
PATTERICO’S PONTIFICATIONS
POLIPUNDIT
Political Byline
POLITICAL MUSINGS
POLITICAL TEEN
POWERLINE
PRO CYNIC
PUBLIUS FORUM
QUESTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS
RACE42008
RADICAL CENTRIST
Ravenwood’s Universe
RELEASE THE HOUNDS
RIGHT FROM LEFT
RIGHT VOICES
RIGHT WING NEWS
RIGHTFAITH
RIGHTWINGSPARKLE
ROGER L. SIMON
SHRINKRAPPED
Six Meat Buffet
Slowplay.com
SOCAL PUNDIT
SOCRATIC RYTHM METHOD
STOUT REPUBLICAN
TERRORISM UNVEILED
TFS MAGNUM
THE ART OF THE BLOG
THE BELMONT CLUB
The Conservative Cat
THE DONEGAL EXPRESS
THE LIBERAL WRONG-WING
THE LLAMA BUTCHERS
THE MAD PIGEON
THE MODERATE VOICE
THE PATRIETTE
THE POLITBURO DIKTAT
THE PRYHILLS
THE RED AMERICA
THE RESPLENDENT MANGO
THE RICK MORAN SHOW
THE SMARTER COP
THE SOAPBOX
THE STRATA-SPHERE
THE STRONG CONSERVATIVE
THE SUNNYE SIDE
THE VIVID AIR
THOUGHTS ONLINE
TIM BLAIR
TRANSATLANTIC INTELLIGENCER
TRANSTERRESTRIAL MUSINGS
TYGRRRR EXPRESS
VARIFRANK
VIKING PUNDIT
VINCE AUT MORIRE
VODKAPUNDIT
WALLO WORLD
WIDE AWAKES
WIZBANG
WUZZADEM
ZERO POINT BLOG


recentposts


RINO Hour of Power: Baltimore Riots: Are we in for a long, hot summer?

RINO Hour of Power: Is the GOP doing a better job of running Congress than the Democrats?

RINO Hour of Power: Hillary Announces: Should we bother to count the votes?

RINO Hour of Power: A Preview of the 2015 Major League Baseball Season

RINO Hour of Power: Indiana religious freedom law: Bigotry or defending the 1st Amendment?

RINO Hour of Power: A Conversation with David P. Goldman, AKA ‘Spengler’

RINO Hour of Power: Eight Year Anniversary of Broadcasting on Blog Talk Radio

RINO Hour of Power: Political Potpourrie

RINO Hour of Power: Mr. Netanyahu Goes to Washington

Boycott CPAC

RINO Hour of Power: GOP playing chicken with Homeland Security funding

RINO Hour of Power: What does the Brian Williams fiasco tell us about modern journalism?

RINO Hour of Power: The Vaccine Controversy and the Anti-Science Right

RINO Hour of Power: The State of the Union - The State of Obama’s Presidency

RINO Hour of Power: A Tour d’Horizon of Global Terrorism

RINO Hour of Power: How will Republican factionalism in the House affect Congress?

RINO Hour of Power: The Opening to Cuba

RINO Hour of Power: The Death of The New Republic

RINO Hour of Power: Political Potpourri

Ten Reasons Why Thanksgiving is My Favorite Holiday

RINO Hour of Power: The Fallout from Ferguson

RINO Hour of Power: Gruber Fallout and the Lame Duck Session of Congress

RINO Hour of Power: Election Night Extravaganza

RINO Hour of Power: GOP eyes Senate majority status one week from mid terms

RINO Hour of Power: War Drums Beating in Washington


categories

"24" (117)
ABLE DANGER (10)
American Issues Project (11)
Arizona Massacre (5)
Bailout (32)
Bird Flu (5)
Birthers (16)
Blackhawks (2)
Blagojevich (9)
Blogging (404)
Books (10)
CARNIVAL OF THE CLUELESS (68)
Caucasus (1)
CHICAGO BEARS (40)
Chicago Bulls (3)
Chicago East (3)
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE (29)
Cindy Sheehan (13)
Climate Change (3)
Climate Chnage (11)
conservative reform (96)
cotton candy conservatives (20)
CPAC Conference (13)
Culture (11)
Debt ceiling (2)
Decision '08 (402)
Decision 2010 (13)
Decision 2012 (34)
Deficit reduction (5)
Election '06 (9)
Entitlement Crisis (4)
Environment (15)
Ethics (290)
Fairness Doctrine (1)
Financial Crisis (53)
FRED! (28)
FrontPage.Com (79)
Frum Forum (2)
Gaza incident (1)
General (431)
GOP Reform (61)
Government (295)
health care reform (66)
History (298)
Homeland Security (18)
IMMIGRATION REFORM (28)
IMPEACHMENT (3)
Iran (114)
IRAQI RECONCILIATION (13)
Israel vs. Hamas (6)
KATRINA (29)
Katrina Timeline (5)
Lebanon (18)
Liberal Congress (12)
Manzine (1)
Marvin Moonbat (14)
Media (262)
Middle East (183)
Moonbats (81)
National Health Insurance (4)
NET NEUTRALITY (2)
Newsreal Blog (1)
Obama inauguration (2)
Obama-Rezko (15)
OBAMANIA! (80)
Oil Spill (2)
Olympics (6)
Open House (1)
Palin (23)
Pirates (1)
PJ Media (119)
PJ Tatler (5)
Politics (1271)
Presidential Debates (7)
Presidential Transition (9)
RINO Hour of Power (140)
RNC (2)
S-CHIP (3)
Sarah Palin (5)
Science (70)
Space (33)
Sports (18)
Star Trek (1)
SUPER BOWL (7)
Supreme Court (28)
Swine Flu (4)
Tea Parties (15)
Technology (5)
Tenth Amendment (3)
The Caucasus (1)
The Law (19)
The Long War (11)
The Rick Moran Show (306)
Too Big To Fail (8)
Torture (2)
UNITED NATIONS (22)
Walpin Scandal (2)
War on Terror (402)
WATCHER'S COUNCIL (117)
WHITE SOX (7)
Who is Mr. Hsu? (7)
Wide Awakes Radio (9)
WORLD CUP (11)
WORLD POLITICS (127)
WORLD SERIES (16)


meta

Admin Login
Register
Valid XHTML
XFN







credits


Design by:


Hosted by:


Powered by:
9/6/2009
MOVEMENT CONSERVATIVES vs. THE PRAGMATISTS: THE BATTLE IS JOINED

I could have just as easily titled this piece “Ideologues vs. The Realists” or some other descriptive caption for what boils down to a debate now fully underway among conservatives about the best way back to power.

Are the ideologues in the movement correct? Is a lack of “passion” regarding opposition to the left, as well as a less than 100%, strict adherence to their idea of conservative “principles” responsible for the right’s slaughter at the polls in 2006 and 2008?

Or are the pragmatists correct that the demand for “purity” by the ideologues coupled with the prominence of a conspiracy mongering, angry, paranoid base has connected conservatism to an unsavory, and unelectable politics?

At stake, a battle for the soul of conservatism in America and perhaps even the preservation of republican virtues given the left’s ascendancy and their first real opportunity in 40 years to “remake” America in ways that are an anathema to the tenets of modern conservative thought.

In the midst of this fight, a book by Sam Tanenhaus called The Death of Conservatism has been published which has already added fuel to the fire. Tanenhaus’s thesis is that movement conservatism has undermined the Burkean roots of conservative philosophy and that rather than trying to preserve and “conserve” institutions, movement-cons, who he terms “revanchists,” seek to destroy that which has been carefully built up over centuries.

The book is based on a shorter essay Tanenhaus published in The New Republic (no longer available) that I wrote about in depth here. I found that the essay reflected some of my own beliefs about where conservatism had gone off the rails, but was seriously flawed in its analysis of what Tanenhaus believed were “excesses” of the movement.

In reviewing the book, Garry Wills pointed to the classic tension between Burkeans and the movement personified by one of the most intellectually productive relationships in American history; the friendship and mutual admiration society that existed between Whittaker Chambers and William Buckley:

Tanenhaus is a deep student of modern conservatives. He wrote a biography of Whittaker Chambers, a self-professed Beaconsfieldian (Disraeli was the Earl of Beaconsfield), and he has been working for some time on a biography of William F. Buckley Jr. This short book is a kind of bridge between his two great projects, and it fits his revanchist–Burkean paradigm. Chambers and Buckley, though friends, began at opposite ends of the “conservative” spectrum. Buckley, who admired Chambers’s witness against communism, tried with all his lures and charms to recruit him as an editor of National Review when it began in 1955. But Chambers thought Senator Joseph McCarthy, whom the magazine championed, would doom Republicans. Besides, he was loyal to his ally in the Hiss case, Richard Nixon, and to Nixon’s meal ticket Dwight Eisenhower, while the magazine opposed them both as impure compromisers. (In 1956, only one National Review editor, James Burnham, endorsed Eisenhower for reelection.)

But Buckley finally wore Chambers down—in 1957, with great misgivings, Chambers joined the magazine. Murray Kempton wrote that Chambers finally went to work for a boss he could respect—which was not saying too much, since “Chambers’s former employers happened to be Colonel Bykov of the Soviet Secret Police, the late Henry Luce, and John F.X. McGohey, ‘then United States Attorney’ for the Southern District of New York.”[2] Chambers soon had to withdraw from the magazine for health reasons, but he and Buckley stayed in constant communication, Chambers advising, Buckley deferential. Tanenhaus makes the case that Chambers finally converted Buckley from a revanchist to a Burkean. Kempton, who studied both men closely, doubts that Chambers’s advice ever really took: “Buckley worshiped and did not listen: the Chambers of his vision is a saint whose icon stands in a Church where his message is never read.”

So close, yet so far apart. What we should take away from that extraordinary exchange of ideas between two brilliant men is that it was done amicably, with great respect for each other, and the debate was carried out with the recognition that both were working toward a common goal.

I don’t see that being possible today. With the absolute refusal of the ideologues to abandon their purge of who they consider less than ideologically pure conservatives, and with the pragmatists fighting what amounts to a rear guard action to marginalize the crazies who are, if not embraced then certainly tolerated by the revanchists, there is no “common purpose” that could lead to any amicability or respect.

Indeed, the revanchists look with askance upon most attempts to criticize conservatism at all, believing that “intellectual elites” are simply playing into the hands of the enemy by taking fellow conservatives to task for their idiocy, or paranoia. Relatedly, any criticism of conservatism coming from the left is automatically dismissed - usually without even reading it - because that would be allowing your enemy to define you.

As for the former, the idea that honest criticism is rejected outright because we’re at war with the left reveals a sneering anti-intellectualism among the revanchists that flies in the face of conservatism’s most cherished and important virtue; a duty to the truth above and beyond loyalty to ideology.

And while I sympathize and agree to a certain extent about not allowing your political foe to totally define your philosophy, that shouldn’t preclude anyone from exposing themselves to ideas with which you may disagree or close one’s mind to looking at the world from a different angle.

Tanehaus is a man of the left (former editor of the Times Book Review section) but he has also immersed himself in the history and personalities of modern conservatism more than most. He is a sincere critic of the right, a thoughtful man who wants to engage in serious discussions about the issues he raises. And while there is precious little empiricism on which you can hang your hat in his writings, some of his analysis will ring true with students of history who have given some thought to what ails the right today.

When Tanenhaus points to the very un-Burkean beliefs of many movement-cons, he is questioning how these revanchists can square their conservatism with the more traditional school of thought represented by Buckley, Hayek, Kirk, Arnold, and others who believed that preserving society’s institutions was the right’s highest calling. A reverence for our past has morphed into a psuedo-reformist mantra that seeks to destroy rather than build upon, tear down instead of conserve. Hence, liberals should not be defeated, they must be annihilated, along with the Great Society, the New Deal, and other “socialist” ideas. Supporting anything less calls into question one’s “true conservative” credentials.

The recent efforts by Jon Henke and Patrick Ruffini to counter these destructive beliefs are instructive. Henke’s call for advertisers and the Republican party to boycott World Net Daily for their enthusiastic coverage and endorsement of the Birther nonsense (among other idiocies) and Ruffini’s defense of Jon, along with a general criticism of the revanchists that is both trenchant and on point:

As a fiscal and social conservative, I happen to think Jon is completely in the right here, both substantively and strategically. Don’t raise the canard that we ought to be attacking Democrats first. Conservatives are entirely within their rights to have public debates over who will publicly represent them, and who will be allowed to affiliate with the conservative movement.

The Birthers are the latest in a long line of paranoid conspiracy believers of the left and right who happen to attach themselves to notions that simply are not true. Descended from the 9/11 Truthers, the LaRouchies, the North American Union buffs, and way back when, the John Birch Society, the Birthers are hardly a new breed in American politics.

Each and every time they have appeared, mainstream conservatives from William F. Buckley to Ronald Reagan have risen to reject these influences — and I expect that will be the case once again here.

But there is another subtext that makes Jon’s appeal more urgent. As a pretty down-the-line conservative, I don’t believe I am alone in noting with disappointment the trivialization, excessive sloganeering, and pettiness that has overtaken the movement of late. In “The Joe the Plumberization of the GOP,” I argued that conservatives have grown too comfortable with wearing scorn as a badge of honor, content to play sarcastic second fiddle to the dominant culture of academia and Hollywood with second-rate knock-off institutions. A side effect of this has been a tendency to accept conspiracy nuts as a slightly cranky edge case within the broad continuum of conservatism, rather than as a threat to the movement itself.

In addition to “the trivialization, excessive sloganeering, and pettiness” exhibited by those in the movement, one might add the curious and debilitating attitude of equating thoughtfulness with “elitism.”

Stacy McCain, who can be brilliant when the mood strikes him, wrote this about Henke’s and Ruffini’s efforts at marginalizing the crazies:

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?”

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.

Stacy, who later goes on to say that the Birthers “are diverting attention from more valid critiques of the Obama administration and its liberal policies. So they should be discouraged or ignored…” fails to see the Birthers as a symptom of a larger problem; movement-cons rejecting criticism - even of Birthers - as “elitist” and ascribing dissent from their closed, ideological worldview as the critic having insufficient attachment to conservative principles.

McCain doesn’t engage on quite that level but doesn’t mince words when it comes to taking down those he believes have “elitist” attitudes toward the movement (”rubes”). And while he makes some valid points about “careerism” and its deleterious impact on what passes for “acceptable discourse,” methinks he paints with too broad a brush at times. The Ruffini-Henke critique is hardly born out of a desire to advance or augment those two gentlemen’s standing with other conservatives or the Republican party but rather - and I think this fairly obvious - the practical, and pragmatic calculation that we can’t get there from here. Changes are in order so that the public face of conservatism has a smile, rather than a snarl, and promoting the idea that one can vigorously oppose Obama without descending into the fever swamps of conspiracy and hate.

The road back to political power and intellectual relevance for the right will not be found in the rantings of Birthers, the false accusations of apostasy directed against conservative critics, a dogmatic and ideological approach to defining principles, nor an unrealistic and unattainable political agenda.

Nor should we count on the self destruction of the opposition which, at this point, seems well underway. What we do when we achieve power is as important as how we get there. For that, Jon Henke, Patrick Ruffinini, and others like them should be heard out and their call for a return to reason heeded.

By: Rick Moran at 10:54 am
5 Responses to “MOVEMENT CONSERVATIVES vs. THE PRAGMATISTS: THE BATTLE IS JOINED”
  1. 1
    funny man Said:
    3:50 pm 

    It is quite instructive to just look at all the love Ruffinini got at HotAir. So the basic story line is as follows: there is the evil left and the RINO traitors (all elitist, of course) and here are the true conservatives, fighting in the trenches, defending freedom, Rush and Sarah, real men and women (not sissys like all those East Coast country club conservatives) who don’t need any of this intellectual babbling to know what is right from wrong. I’d call that attitude pretty arrogant and elitist!

    However, surprisingly I’m pretty optimistic that sound minds will prevail because ultimately most of this is really nothing more than Hot Air. It will just play itself out. What are they going to do? Drive Olympia Snowe from her Senate seat to be replaced by….? Not a lot of clear thinking here.

  2. 2
    John Said:
    5:53 pm 

    the original article is now located at:

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/conservatism-dead

  3. 3
    Doug King Said:
    6:04 pm 

    When differences arise, it’s easier to lecture than to listen and compromise. If conservatives hope to influence the direction of government, they must somehow reconcile differences and present a positive agenda to the public. My fear is that Republicans would rather focus on regaining control than go through the hard work of finding essential principles worth fighting for. Right now, the two political parties act like the “Spy versus Spy” cartoons in Mad Magazine. They’re so preoccupied destroying each other they’ve lost sight of their political mission, which isn’t to govern but to govern well. The purist and pragmatist factions within the GOP may be headed down the same road.

    I would love to see more civil discussion and debate within the GOP about the great issues such as health care, immigration, social security, and defense. One reason I value this blog is that I learn things from people who think differently than me. The GOP needs a balance between principle and Realpolitik. It will die if it does not recover that balance. And it has to start with RESPECT for each other.

  4. 4
    Richard bottoms Said:
    6:10 pm 

    John Said:
    5:53 pm

    the original article is now located at:

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/conservatism-dead

    How did this happen? One reason is that the most intellectually sophisticated founders of postwar conservatism were in many instances ex-Marxists, who moved from left to right but remained persuaded that they were living in revolutionary times and so retained their absolutist fervor. In place of the Marxist dialectic they formulated a Manichaean politics of good and evil, still with us today, and their strategy was to build a movement based on organizing cultural antagonisms. Many have observed that movement politics most clearly defines itself not by what it yearns to conserve but by what it longs to destroy–”statist” social programs; “socialized medicine”; “big labor”; “activist” Supreme Court justices, the “media elite”; “tenured radicals” on university faculties; “experts” in and out of government.

    So basically a bunch of Marxists joined the right-wing conservative movement forty years ago, took it over and almost destroyed America from the inside?

    You’ve got to wonder if ex-Marxists like David Horowitz aren’t really still a part of the Brotherhood of Evil Muntants and that he, as Magneto is having a glass of wine every night saying to himself “suckers”.

  5. 5
    SJ Reidhead Said:
    8:08 pm 

    Excellent work.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.