Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Defending Moderates

A few weeks ago, Kathleen Parker wrote a column suggesting that Sarah Palin should remove herself from the ticket for the good of the McCain campaign and of the country. Parker cited Palin’s dreadful interview performances as proof of her glaring inexperience, saying that “if BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.”

Parker went on to write that “only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.”

Well, there’s room for disagreement there, but that does represent a reasonable and thoughtful point of view. It’s hard to argue with Parker’s point about Palin’s interviews, and many do believe that choosing Palin was a mistake. Of course, it’s quite possible to make an equally strong case against Parker’s argument—but it is clearly a plausible idea.

Not so to many conservatives. Parker reported that she got thousands of angry emails, many of them abusive and violent. Around the conservative blogosphere, the general feeling was that Parker was a “traitor”, a “Washington insider”, and not a “true conservative.” Parker’s idea was reasonable. The reaction of too many conservatives to it was not.

Last week, National Review’s Christopher Buckley wrote a column endorsing Barack Obama for president. Buckley is probably the most prominent of the conservatives endorsing Obama—there have been others, but they tend to either be a bit obscure or a bit crazy.

Buckley’s reasoning was that Obama’s eloquently written books reveal a temperament suited to the presidency, and in the absence of any real difference between the candidates, is a sort of tiebreaker for Obama. Apparently, Buckley thinks that temperament is a substitute for ideology.

This line of thought isn’t exactly closely reasoned (I’d love to know where Buckley got the idea that there aren’t any meaningful differences between the candidates), but it does not represent any kind of repudiation of conservative principles on the part of Buckley. His position is that both candidates are liberal enough that things like temperament assume great importance, a position that is reasonable, if not one I agree with.

After Buckley delivered this opinion, conservative opinion swelled against him. He claims to have gotten the whole Parker email treatment of nasty emails, and felt compelled to offer his resignation. Apparently, he thought National Review’s editors would be grateful for his consideration, but graciously insist on him staying with the magazine. They weren’t, and accepted his resignation. Needless to say, the conservative blogosphere was jubilant.

There are just two examples of conservative intolerance for differing views—there are many more, such as the backlash against Peggy Noonan after she said that Palin’s selection represents “identity politics,” the dislike of David Brooks and David Frum for not being “true conservatives,” and the astonishing anger of so many conservatives at John McCain (okay, McCain isn’t wholly conservative, but he’s not nearly as liberal as people like Michelle Malkin seem to think). Conservatives seem to think that there are two kinds of people in the world—people who think exactly like them, aka conservatives, and far left liberals. There are no other categories.

There is a puzzling and stubborn meme in the conservative movement regarding the influence of Washington cocktail parties. Apparently, nearly all heretical writing by conservatives-in-name-only is due to a burning desire to get invitations to elite Washington parties. It’s hard to follow this line of thinking—I’m pretty sure David Frum and the rest of his breed would be much more in demand if they starting toeing the standard conservative line instead of advocating their own brand of conservatism, and anyway I’m not sure that anyone much to the right of Michael Moore is ever invited to those elite parties anyway. But many conservatives are convinced that anyone who calls himself a conservative but has the temerity to disagree with accepted conservative thought is only doing so out a desire to be accepted in liberal circles.

This thinking should cease. There is no value in attempting to ostracize anyone whose thinking is not wholly in line with that of Rush Limbaugh’s. Is David Brooks particularly conservative? No. But he does have some strong conservative views, and can express them, which makes him worth listening to. Conservatives should seek to emphasize their similarities with pundits like Brooks and Frum and Buckley, not stress their differences.

A more welcoming attitude is essential for the survival of conservatism. Any political movement should take care not to become stagnant, but should rather welcome new ideas. Some ideas (such as Buckley’s proposal to vote for Barack Obama) are stupid, and will be criticized and condemned. But conservatives should argue over and discuss these ideas—not shoot the messenger. Having people like Christopher Buckley and David Brooks on board is good for conservatism, and conservatives should welcome them.


At October 14, 2008 at 9:53 PM , Blogger Beth said...

You are not defending moderates here Daniel, you are asking conservatives to set aside differences in the name of unity, and I disagree with that idea. It's like just going along with whatever the GOP says, just for the sake of unity, which is no different from the Democrats doing the same thing.

Now I have no problem having disagreement with people, libs or cons, if we can have a rational discussion about our differences. Your examples where journalists were threatened for their views I wholeheartedly do NOT think that is right in any way. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, regardless of their political affiliation or ideology.

As for me, I confess, I do probably fight harder in arguments with conservatives I disagree with moreso than liberals who I disagree with, my explanation being that I EXPECT liberals to be inconsistent and irrational, and I guess I expect better from conservatives.

At October 15, 2008 at 4:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m already being labled a racist simply because I refuse to vote for Barack Obama. I’ve heard what he has to say, I’ve seen what little he’s done as far as a leader or a legislator, and I know his track record for liberalism and his Marxist Ideals. I simply don’t like what he stands for and I don’t like the direction he plans on taking this country.

I could give a damn that he’s black, excuse me, African-American. His race means nothing to me. It’s not the color of their skin it’s the content of their hearts and souls.

It seems the only people that are making Obama’s race an issue in this election are Obama himself and his fellow Democrats. They seem to be the only people bringing up his “funny name” and that fact that he’s black. Not once have I ever heard McCain, Palin or any other Republican mention his race in this election.

The reason I am voting for McCain and Palin are simply because they best represent my interests and my values.

I believe in a strong military and a strong defense for this great nation. I think that America is the greatest Nation in this world, a Country I’m proud of. I don’t think America is mean and I am not proud of America simply because Barack Obama was nominated. I am a citizen of the United States of America, not a citizen of the world. I hold my hand over my heart when I hear the Star Spangled Banner and because I have a son fighting in a turd world country for our freedom I even tear up upon hearing it. I recite the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag with great pride in this country and what it stands for.

I believe in lowering taxes. I believe I know best what to do with my money and I don’t feel it should be redistributed to someone who has not worked hard for it as I have. I did not sweat and bleed for some crack whore who got knocked up screwing some douchebag in order to score some more dope.

I don't need this guy to have a "vision" for me. And neither should you!!!!!!! We should have visions for ourselves and stop looking to the government for help!!!!!!!!!!!

I highly doubt that you're a card-carrying republican. Let's forget about all of the facts except how he continuously proves that he could have been a character in "Animal Farm."

Obama is like the King of Handouts. Watching him pander and promise handouts to ignorant people truly disgusts me.

But his presentation skills are good yws, but that only shows how much of a phoney he reall is. I'll give him credit for that.
Obama is a socialist if I've ever seen one. If you want our country to be more like Cuba, just vote for this guy. He can definitely assist us in our goal of becoming a third-world country - And it doesn't make people racist because they don't support him politically. he is obviously trying to play "whiteguilt.
I believe in Freedom of Religion and not freedom FROM religion. Yes, I am one of those people Obama spoke of to his rich elitist friends in San Fransisco who cling to their religion.
And speaking of clinging….Yes, by g-d, I cling to my gun and any schmuck who ventures into the territory of taking that right from me is worthy of my suspicion and does not deserve my vote. It was the gun that won our freedom, it is the gun that preserves that freedom.

While we’re at it, the man called Barack Obama who wants to lead the free world, sat for twenty years in a congregation of a preacher that spoke of racial hatred and despised this country, yet says that he never knew about Pastor Wright’s feelings of hatred toward whites, Jews, and America in general. Anyone who is that oblivious does not deserve to lead even a troop of Boy Scouts let alone a nation, and further more, if he is so full of himself that he thinks for one freaking minute I believe that he (Obama) was not aware of Pastor Wright’s hate speeches, then once again, that man does not deserve my vote.

As for his association with known terrorists and criminals, that’s just the icing on the cake

But, honestly, Obama's a flash in the pan. You'll see, mark my words
I read the books - I'm not impressed.

At October 15, 2008 at 8:00 AM , Blogger Daniel Ruwe said...

Beth, I wouldn't say I'm asking conservatives to set aside differences, I'm asking them to accept differences in the name of unity. I disagree with Rush Limbaugh on fairly important issues, such as immigration--but I can accept these differences and acknowledge that we're fighting for much the same things. I don't agree with the Libertarian movement on everything--but again, we're fighting for much the same things. I'm not comfortable with the whole "you're with us or your against us" idea. I think that conservatives can disagree. When I disagree with conservatives, I try not to pull any punches--I've criticized most of the conservative pundit class when I felt they were wrong--, but I think that there is no need to start accusing them of closet liberalism or anything. I think that Buckley's reasons for voting for Obama were stupid--but I can think that and still accept that he is a conservative, and someone I respect on other issues.

At October 15, 2008 at 9:41 AM , Blogger Beth said...

I think that there is no need to start accusing them of closet liberalism or anything

As someone who has been accused at your very blog of this (not by you of course, Daniel) I can appreciate this comment!

As for accepting conservatives I disagree with on certain issues, I can do that, but that doesn't mean I won't keep trying to help them see the light, lol.

At November 2, 2008 at 9:29 AM , Blogger knowitall said...

Conservatives shouldn't have to put their beliefs aside. No one in favor of the left-wing illuminati is doing so.

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