Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Comeuppance for "Conservative" Critics of Conservatism (Who STILL Won't Admit That They Were Wrong)

At Slate, erstwhile Journolister David Weigel interviews some of the more outspoken “conservative” critics of conservatism (or, as I once referred to them, “professional self-policers” who are the “conservative media equivalent of tattle-tales”):
... "In the fall of 2010, nobody needs Comeback and nobody needs Grand New Party," says Frum.

Rush and his listeners couldn't have planned it better. They argued then, and argue now, that people like Frum, Salam, Douthat, Sam Tanenhaus, and others care more about the fabled "Georgetown cocktail circuit" than they care about conservative principles. And they may have a point that a conservative apostate gets more media attention, and more Diet Coke in the green rooms, than a standard-issue true believer.

But that's not why the Frums of the world wrung their hands and wrote their manifestos. Yes, they were written with the assumption that the GOP was going to serve more time in detention—and that detention was actually necessary. If the GOP came roaring back by going further to the right, their theory went, that would prove that they didn't understand why they governed so poorly in the first place. They would think that all they needed to do was bang on about tax cuts and the Constitution, and that would not only win the election but make them govern more intelligently.

Of course, to the horror of the smart set, this is exactly what is happening. The conservative base looked at any attempt to answer the Democrats on policy as a cave-in to socialism. When they're making the case for their research, Douthat and Salam acknowledge that reality. But they argue that Republicans have been using their key insights anyway and that the hot rhetoric of the GOP obscures what actually happened.

"I think the way a lot of Republicans are campaigning now—as resolute foes of big government who are also going to save Medicare from the Democrats—suggests that they understand the point of Grand New Party pretty well," says Douthat. They're just taking our insight, that even many conservative voters like the welfare state, and running with it in a cynical rather than a constructive direction."


It's an ingenious argument: We're not wrong. We're just not yet right. After the election, says Frum, after the GOP has recovered in record time, either it's going to have to move away from its campaign rhetoric or it's going to be unable to govern. "What happens in January," Frum says, "when the GOP majority arrives and the Bush tax cuts expire, the U.S. economy has deflationary shock, we don't have a program for pulling the economy out of inflation, and we don't have permission from party supporters or permission from voters to compromise? You have people arriving in office with highly apocalyptic vision of a president but programs they don't know how to execute on their own. It's a formula for crisis."

And crises, of course, often require just the kind of smart thinking that only the smart set can provide. Wherever there's a Tea Party candidate who won by promising to roll back the Progressive Era, there will be the conservative critics they ignored, ready to bail them out.

My Comments:
Yes, only our elitist Ivy League-educated betters in "the smart set" can provide us with the kind of "smart thinking" we need. The kind of "smart thinking" that makes the readers of the The New York Times go all tingly as the latest house "conservative" validates their views of the conservative riff-raff.

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Self-Critical Navel Gazing for Thee, But Not for Me

Another Elitist "Conservative" Realizes Too Late That "This Obama Fellow Is Unequal to the Task"

David Brooks Wonders What Went Wrong [UPDATED]

"Educated Class" Waking Up to Fact That Us "Yokels" Were Right All Along

Noemie Emery on David Brooks and the "Educated Class"

Michael Barone on David Brooks and the "Educated Class"

The "Elizabeth Bennett Conservatives"

Brooksback Mountain

Today's Must-Read: "Palinphobes and the Audacity of Type"

A Conservative Manifesto

Another Elitist "Conservative" Likes the Cut of Obama's Jib

The Liberal Media's Elitist Conservative Rats Leave the Sinking Ship

Victor Davis Hanson: "What is Wisdom?"

Let's Get One Thing Straight ...

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At 10/07/2010 7:49 AM, Blogger Paul Zummo said...

Well I was curious to see how the Frumites were going to spin the coming electoral ass-whomping. Good to know they've got their talking points ready.

At 10/07/2010 5:08 PM, Blogger Art Deco said...

None of the individuals you name has any expertise in the realm of economics or social policy, so they are not likely to be much help in instructing the Republican Congressional caucus. They could of course reformat academic research for consumption by policy-makers. The thing is, that is among the things chaps on the payroll of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, &c. are paid to do. David Frum is no longer among them, because Arthur Brooks came to the conclusion that his predecessor had erred in paying a handsome salary to a journeyman writer who did no work. The think tanks have people at their disposal who have the background these characters do not.

As to whether we face a crisis or not in the coming months, fiscal policy is unlikely to have 'deflationary' effects if the Federal Reserve is taking care to supply the necessary liquidity to the economy. We have seen in the last year or so that the discernable practical effects of fiscal priming are modest. Might we offer the hypothesis that the inverse may also be true? One might also note that the expiration of the tax cuts (unlike, say, the revelation that the Greek government lied about its fiscal deficit) has been telegraphed well in advance and priced into the securities market.

There is a regrettable pusillanimity in the writings of Mr. Douthat, but neither he nor R. Salam are professional scolds in the manner of Messrs. Frum, Friedersdorf, Dreher, etc.


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