James W. Ceaser, "Alive and Kicking: Reports of conservatism's demise have been greatly exaggerated". February 25
SO far as I know, The Washington Post Company, or whoever cuts the checks, has agreed to pay Col. Kristol for that piece, or "piece" on the Obama speech, despite the fact that the headline somehow manages to say more than the Colonel does, and with more rhetorical skill. Seriously. Read the damn thing if you like; it's 350 words and dull as a second-grader's scissors.
And yet one imagines they're standing around the doughnut box this AM bemoaning the slow financial strangulation of News Gathering Organizations Too Ugly For Television. I know--we could start charging for internet content!
Too often lost in the bridge collapse, subsequent trainwreck, flash flood which suddenly swept the locomotive and several trailing cars downsteam and over the falls, skidding up the bank to slam into the Orphans' Hospital, where the overturned coal stove ignited a fire that consumed everything fine and decent about the country which is Col. Kristol's accumulated body of public utterances is the abiding idea that he represents some sort of vital portion of the public debate we'd be the poorer for not finding in every newspaper in the country, or on its own cable network. As opposed to what he is, which is someone who is inerrantly wrong about shit while acting as a paid shill for Well-Born Idiots, which, seeing as how that seems to be the one thing he's qualified to be, he'd likely do for free. I was pondering that when the idea struck me to flip over to
Here's something I'd forgotten, if I ever knew it: the link to the Author's Archive at the Standard is entitled "Other Stories By...." And they say "conservatives" have no sense of humor.
Once there my eye was naturally drawn to Professor Ceaser's story. (He's a professor of Politics at the University of Virginia--I've been estranged from academia a long time: does the entire field eschew "science" now? Or does the School at U of V delve into other areas, say the Theory and Practice of Office Politics, or senior seminars in Student Council Elections: Just Popularity Contests?--and may I say it's refreshing to read a man of letters with thirty years in academia, who hasn't lost the common touch of excessive use of scare quotes?) For one thing, I wanted to know why, if "Conservatism" isn't dead, it's had the same answering machine message for forty years. And, two, I can never resist the incontinent application of that old Mark Twain "greatly exaggerated" bit. Never gets old.
Alas, Professor Ceaser didn't seem interested in explaining to me why such reports could be labeled exaggerations; apparently I, Weekly Standard reader, was presumed to already possess that key bit of information from the lively Burke Weekend just past. Instead he meant me to witness a line-up of the Damned Exaggerators themselves, in whose honor I presumably had brought my own shootin' iron along:
In the rare moments that public intellectuals have not been extolling President Obama's supposed new philosophy of pragmatism, they have turned their efforts to writing requiems for conservatism. These contributions offer variations on the same theme. The conservative movement is dead or dying, the victim of its own theoretical errors. Not mistakes of political leaders, nor the occurrence of unfortunate events, nor even the inevitable grievances that accumulate with holding office, are to blame. The root cause of the death of conservatism lies in the realm of ideas, and conservatives today have earned the just deserts of a defective philosophy.
The "end of conservatism" genre made its appearance just after the election, in the full flush of Obama's victory. Despite ritual claims of intellectuals to their independence of judgment, the general reaction of most of them showed how greatly they stood in awe of the voice of the majority, at least where that majority could be depicted--as it universally was in 2008--as representing the progressive wave of the future. With the moral weight of the public behind them, it was time to pronounce final judgment on what had been the dominant governing coalition of a whole era.
It's all a Liberal Elitist Obama-worshipping plot! Gee, there's a take we haven't heard before.
Reader, imagine yourself a middle-aged Midwesterner whose coffee addiction and grapefruit-sized prostate fortuitously combine to get him up off his office chair every fifteen minutes, max, or else his surgically-repaired knee would lock into place. And suppose that you have adopted, with a reasonable amount of intellectual rigor given your predisposition to indolence, what might be termed a "left-of-center" view of the history and current international activity of your own country. Oh, you're not immune to its Good Points your Rightist opponents are always going on about: its commitment to the exercise of Bronze Age superstition, free of any tax burden; its solid record of defending Free Speech Within Reason, for a large portion of its history, even expanding that to include owning all the fucking television and radio stations in the country, the better to get your message across; the unfettered capitalism ushered in by its Civil War profiteers, now so hallowed as to be imagined it began with its inception, which has provided mostly regular work in good times for its free citizens, and a never-ending backlog for both its own immigrants and the otherwise unemployable children of various other countries. You share the pride in being part of a country which has been brave enough to stare the enormities of enslavement and destruction of its Native Peoples by its White Christian European "Founders", and their subsequent importation of unemployed Africans to perform some field chores, straight in the face and say, "Let's put these people on a stamp!" You frankly get choked up every time you study the remarkable sacrifices American men and women made fighting for others' freedom in World War II, in every theatre of that war. Though you can't seem to remember the name of the Goddamn Socialist Pinko who was President at the time. You bask in the warm glow of her consumer electronics, the wide-ranging nightly salute to the lively arts on her teevee screens, and the astonishing selection of fresh, frequently pathogen-free foodstuffs in her groceries and supermarkets.
No, you're no bomb thrower, Dear Reader, or anything else so radical and physically demanding. But for your entire adult life the one major party candidate for President you supported with more than 80% certainty, and not just because his opponent was A Scum-Sucking Toad, a War Hero and prairie populist has, for pretty much that entire lifetime, been portrayed, even by the great majority of the inheritors of his own party, as a sort of American Trotsky served in Neville Chamberlain's bowler with a Quisling garnish. You have, during that same stretch, seen America's shameful history of attempted post-War reconstruction of Colonialism in Indochina, and subsequent defeat, turned into a sacred crusade for Freedom from Tyranny Provided The Country Was Small Enough To Invade, stabbed in the back at the moment of Victory by Walter Cronkite. You watched with something approaching frank disbelief as a second-rate ham actor with brain bubbles, ensconced at the head of a party of Western train robbers and impenitent former slave owners quadrupled the National Debt while being hailed as the Great Savior of small government. Of the--difficult as it is to imagine--decided downturn events have taken from there in the last fifteen years, or the happy-talk, issues-free, "social" "conservative" pandering in the nation's mass-market media which helped drive them, I feel comfortable in leaving you as judge. Tax cuts Flag burning Partial birth Tax cuts 9/11 Death tax Teri Schiavo What "is" is.
So let me ask you, then: how exactly do you react, Dear Impersonator of Someone My Height, when you read from a professor of politics, that E. J. Effing Dionne and his Commie ilk have once again murdered Edmund Burke out of sheer spite? Oh, and Obama worship. There's that little critique they're hiding from you at play, too.
How 'bout this: Professor, if fucks like Bill Kristol weren't demonstrably wrong nearly every time they open their mouths, it's a good bet we'd never hear any side but yours at all.