Friday, May 15, 2009

More Volunteers For The Circular Firing Squad?

The time to have a witchhunt is not when your village is already decimated by plague. That's what's going on in the circular firing squad of American conservatism today.

California is a perfect example of what this can do: it's projected that in the next election cycle, there will not be a single district with a registered Republican majority. But hey, all those Californians are gay America-haters anyway, right? Good job, write us off; and all the other academics and young people that we need if the GOP isn't going to go the way of the Whigs. Strong work!

The recent attack on Jerry Taylor is a perfect example of what's happening. Someone dares to have an independent thought - someone who happens to be a Cato Institute Senior Fellow - and offers criticism that he thinks will strengthen the conservative philosophy. Immediately he's a heretic. He dared speak out against our converse-cheerleader-in-chief Rush Limbaugh? Where's the kindling! Burn him! Burrrn! The same thing happened to Charles Johnson when he refused to swallow the time-wasting conservative shibboleth/distraction that Obama is secretly showing allegiance to the Saudi king with his bow.

What's worrisome about this is that no political philosophy can survive if free inquiry is being stamped out by the hyperventilating fourth-graders that insist on calling themselves the "real" conservatives, and are threatened by the style of frank and open discussion that comes naturally to well-educated, crisp-thinking scholars. Those coastal types with Audis and PhDs (like David Brooks and Bruce Bartlett) can't be real Americans? They can't be real conservatives? Yet another demographic we've alienated - and the one that builds the future. Just look at this chart:

If conservatism is going to survive, it's not going to be demanding loyalty oaths and suppressing open discussion. We need Andrew Sullivan and Megan McArdle and the eggheads at the Secular Right. We need Austrian-school economists like Tyler Cowen. We need to get over our allergy to the term "intellectual"; it's frankly embarrassing that it has to be defended. Saying that you don't need intellectuals steering your political philosophy is like showing up to a football game with no quarterback. Yes, there are real problems that require the application of a conservative viewpoint - for example the resistance to what is frankly Obama's dishonest accounting scheme vis a vis nationalized healthcare - and the on-the-fence policy-makers and local politicians who play into this debate are more likely to listen to Tyler Cowen than to Glen Beck. That's not a bad thing, because Cowen actually knows what he's talking about.

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