Thoughts On Thought

This is worth a read, especially by conservatives. Written by a fellow conservative (of the sort whose existence I've always assumed exist in numbers greater than just my coffee-buddy: the thoughtful kind) on the blog of a fellow conservative, one whom I've occasionally quoted and who's become anathema to the teabaggRs exactly because he is thoughtful, it suggests a possible future for the Republican party. Namely, by returning to actual conservatism, as opposed to the insanity that's taken firm hold on the party he seems to have loved:

A colleague once compared working on Frum's blog to "monks preserving knowledge during the Dark Ages." If this is true, then what were we preserving? I've thought about this for several weeks, and I think the following are the most important lessons I've learned from my time on this project.

(Quotes that follow are taken from memory, and are often paraphrases.)

1. Inequality is Real, and it Matters.


There needs to be an acknowledgment that mobility and opportunity are not as prevalent in America as we want them to be. Admitting that can allow for an honest discussion about how to rectify that.

2. A Positive Republican Alternative is Possible.

At times, talking with David about the GOP felt like talking about a Republican Party that had yet to be brought into existence.

Instead of just bemoaning the latest ridiculous comment from talk radio, a lot of time was spent discussing what conservatism could and should be.

Why couldn't the Republicans and conservatives…

-Embrace gay marriage with the same enthusiasm as David Cameron? ("I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.")
-Would it really be so hard for the GOP to renounce Austrian economics and support monetary stimulus in an emergency? (As Milton Friedman would have done.)
-Could the pro-life movement change priorities from criminalizing abortion to working to find effective ways to disincentivize it?
-Can Republicans acknowledge that a Tax Credit is just as bad a subsidy?


3. If you Abandon the Party, Crazies Take Over.


4. Sarah Palin is not the Problem, Thought Leaders Are

I think there are many people who initially supported David's project back in 2009 because they agreed, at least in whispered tones, that Sarah Palin was probably not the best standard-bearer of the party, and that she may not even be qualified for higher office. (What a contrarian viewpoint to hold at that time!)


There is definitely an appeal in critiquing Republicans who are obviously unqualified to govern. But critiquing Sarah Palin, Todd Akin, Sharon Angle, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann, is actually very easy. (Often, you just have to quote them.)

Where it gets hard is when you have politicians and thinkers who are not self-evidently troglodytes but who none the less have ideas that are deeply problematic. There are a lot of bad ideas that get a decent amount of mainstream credibility and acceptance just because they sound technical or smart.


Successfully challenging thought-leaders is not as easy or as fun as laughing at social conservatives who don't believe in evolution, but it's more important.

Well, one can hope. A functioning two party system requires that both parties remain within an arm's reach or two, a standard deviation, of reality; it presupposes willingness on both sides to move toward solutions, and that both are starting from points which, if at different ends of a spectrum, make a modicum of sense in the real world.

Were I to repeat how much I long for a reasonable and responsible Republican party, it'd be for the millionth time. There are conservative ideas with which I agree, and there was a time when I recognized that those whose positions I considered wrong weren't necessarily idiots. That was, largely, because back Republicans weren't actively seeking to damage the country in order to bring down a president they've never considered legitimate, because he's not, well, you know.

They weren't, as policy, deliberately deceiving their base and lying about their opposition. They weren't actively fomenting hate as a political weapon, and using religion as a tool for making people too dumb to notice what was going on. They didn't idolize demonstrable liars and crazies like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, nor elect raving lunatics like Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert and Todd AikinAkin, low-road takers like Sarah Palin; or nominate disgraceful panderers and proud liars like Mitt Romney or religiously motivated social destroyers and mathematics-impaired budgeteers like Paul Ryan.

Their party contained a handful of honorable leaders, like Mark Hatfield and Jacob Javits and Everett Dirksen and Barry Goldwater (yes, honorable he was) and Dwight Eisenhower and even George Bush the First (occasionally). Bob Dole (sometimes). William Weld, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge, Tom McCall. Dan Evans. Margaret Chase Smith. And, sure, you can even throw in version 1.0 of John McCain.

Of course, that's a list of people reviled by their own party nowadays. In their willingness to work across ideological divides, their thoughtfulness, they're now considered traitors. Much as we need such people, now more than ever, I can't think of a way for politicians like them to take control again, before it's too late not just for their party (whose disappearance in its current form would be no loss) but for us all.

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