To summarize the controversy du jour, Conor Friedersdorf wrote that Sarah Palin should withdraw from the Republican presidential ticket. Joe Carter dissented. I dissented from the dissent. Daniel Larison explained why it wasn’t politically feasible. And Erick Erickson at RedState . . . went ballistic:
This may just be one of their writers, but it’s the top story on their website. And who is the writer? Some guy named Conor Friedersdorf. That’s right. A Huffington Post writer writing at Culture 11 wants to make a case for conservative leaders to get Palin to go. As if we’d take this guy seriously.
Thankfully Joe Carter has a brilliant take down of the guy. I’d link to Joe, but then I’d have to link to Culture 11 and I’m not going to do that.
There are days when I think we deserve to lose. And this is one of them. It’s all great to say you are a conservative first, but at the end of the day, there are only two teams playing on November 4th — pick one. I guess Culture 11 has chosen Obama.
So let’s not confuse them with any sort of conservative standard bearer organization. They clearly are not.
Not only is Erickson unable to divorce himself from the GOP apparatus, he’s unwilling to even entertain the notion that dissent can enhance conservatism. It’s all or nothing for McCain in ’08 – and all this despite the fact that McCain’s ideological connection to conservatism is (and I’m being charitable here) extremely tenuous; despite the fact that McCain promises to continue the worst aspects of Bush’s moronic regime; despite the fact that the Palin pick is little more than a sop to conservatives desperate for something – anything! – to vote for come November.
The conservative-libertarian movement is not the same thing as the Republican Party. If it were, I wouldn’t share any conservative tendencies, because eight years of Bush should be enough to convince anyone that conservatism as a governing philosophy is entirely bankrupt. Recognizing this distinction also happens to be the only way to preserve what’s left of conservatism’s intellectual credibility.
Some sort of firewall between the intellectual movement and its political outgrowth ensures that self-interested operatives like Bush, Tom DeLay, and George Allen don’t disfigure conservatism beyond all recognition. A disastrous political tenure may poison the electoral well for a year or two, but distinguishing between conservative ideals and inept political implementation is the only way to preserve the notion that ideological conservatism may be worth sustaining and reviving after Bush and co. have left office.
Let’s assume – for the sake of argument – that Erickson and his merry band of RedStaters have some interest in preserving the movement’s intellectual underpinnings. Rigorous dissent, argument, and dialog are the very foundation of a political philosophy. Yet here’s a guy who refuses to link to a disagreeable article out of sheer petulance. How in God’s name are we supposed to fashion a coherent alternative to progressivism if conservatives and libertarians aren’t even talking to each other?
The irony (and idiocy) of it all is truly staggering. A conservative – someone who presumably believes in the marketplace of ideas – now advocates shunning other conservatives with whom he happens to disagree. I weep for the future of the Republic if this represents the thought-processes of one of the Right’s most influential outlets. Truly, I weep.
What’s worse, this sort of thing is symptomatic of a certain strain of thought that dominates conservative media. One reason I can hardly stand to read Townhall.com, RedState, Powerline and their ilk is that the authors rarely (if ever) engage with the dissident strains of conservatism that have re-emerged in the wake of Bush. And who can forget National Review’s pro-war broadside against anyone who may have questioned the wisdom of invading Iraq?
Where has this approach approach gotten us? Right in the middle of the shit is the short answer. John McCain, despite his immense advantages in name-recognition, political stature, and media outreach, is reduced to scrapping for news cycles instead of proposing new ideas. He’s losing to a one-term senator from Illinois whose brand of unabashed, confident liberalism continues to gain in the polls. And we’re left arguing about the merits of his gimmicky VP pick, whose real achievements as governor of Alaska have been entirely obscured by gaffe after gaffe after gaffe.
The RedState approach to conservatism is sheer idiocy. The last eight years are the failure of RedState politics. If we’re to salvage anything from this wreck, we need to start talking to each other. For what it’s worth, Culture 11 is a damn good start.
UPDATE: As if on cue, Townhall provides an eloquent rejoinder to anyone who thinks mainstream conservatives prize intellectual engagement.