Thursday, October 1, 2009
GOP NEEDS BUCKLEYS Not BIRTHERS & GLENN BECK
By Will Munsil - ASU
I begin by clarifying objectives: Like you, I desire a vibrant, intellectually serious, politically ascendant conservatism.
In political debates, we are often grateful for aid, from wherever it may come. But in the current struggle — a necessary one, I hasten to add — against the political agenda of President Barack Obama, too many conservatives have fallen to the temptation to find no enemies to the Right.
This has meant we have accepted, tacitly or explicitly, the aid of Glenn Beck, Orly Taitz, Michael Savage and the thousand anonymous lunatics called “Birthers” who maintain, clear evidence to the contrary, that Obama was born elsewhere, and serves in violation of the Constitution.
We have accepted, tacitly or explicitly, the Godwin’s Law-flaunting ravings of those who would compare the president, with clever ambiguities, to certain historical dictators.
We have accepted the metaphor of politics as war, and we have accepted that we must fight, as in war, with whatever weapons are at hand.
It’s easy enough to denounce the insane ranting of the Birthers, and we should. They destroy our credibility and damage our better arguments against the president’s agenda.
But we must also realize that many of the voices that have led conservatism in the past are not the voices that must lead it into the future.
William F. Buckley, the man most responsible for creating the intellectual movement that flounders today, was once faced with a familiar choice. Before Bush, before Reagan, and even before Goldwater, he was confronted with the dilemma of the John Birch Society.
The members of the society, to draw an easy modern comparison, were the Birthers of the 1960s. They were convinced that 60 to 80 percent of the American government was communist, that Eisenhower had been their agent and that anyone who did not accept these arguments was a willing accomplice to the Soviets.
Buckley treated them like the menace they were, writing what he termed a “five thousand word excoriation” of them in National Review.
We can cast out our Birchers, but where are our Buckleys?
Unlike in the 1960s, there is an intellectual void in conservatism. The market has spoken, and in many ways we have the leaders we deserve. Our side of the debate is driven by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, the aforementioned Beck and by whichever congressman has most recently insulted the president. This is not to say these are bad people, or even that they’ve never contributed to the movement.
It is simply to say that a vibrant, intellectually serious, politically ascendant conservatism needs new voices, and that a modern American conservatism must take a new shape.
True conservatism, winning conservatism, is not afraid of argument. It is not angry or shrill. It does not call names. It does not denigrate the intellect. It is calm and measured. It is passionate in defense of great truths, yet reasonable in small differences.
We will discover new voices, ones that speak the language of our changing country instead of shouting at it for changing.
Until then, we race into uneasy exile when our country needs us most.
Reach Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.