Monday, November 10, 2008

The quest for respectable Republicans

The Other McCain nails it and explains why some conservatives so hate the Wasilla Chillbillies.

One of the great woes of the conservative movement in recent years is that it has attracted a set of intellectuals who are culturally and socially disconnected from the people whose votes elect Republican candidates. This is, to an extent, a result of what Herrnstein and Murray called "cognitive partitioning."

Our intellectual class is now dominated by "meritocrats" who come from upper-middle-class backgrounds and who have been grinding it out since middle school trying to get into the elite schools that offer the fast track to success. Conservatism has sought out these brainiac types who bring with them a set of class prejudices that make them incapable of relating to State University business majors and self-sufficient tradesmen, the petit bourgeois backbone of the suburban Sunbelt GOP.

Conservative students on elite campuses seem to develop a siege mentality. On the one hand, they are forced to refine their arguments against liberalism. On the other hand, they tend to internalize the notion that conservatism is somehow less respectable than liberalism, so that there is a flinch reaction to accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. This creates within the conservative intelligentsia an obsession with respectability.

The quest for respectable Republicanism explains why so many conservative intellectuals kept boosting Rudy Giuliani during the 2006-07 runup to the GOP primaries. Giuliani is a New Yorker, a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Catholic (oxymoron alert) -- not an evangelical hick governor from Waco or Wasilla. What is odd about conservative intellectuals, especially the younger ones, is that if their class prejudices and standards of "respectability" had dominated the GOP in the 1970s, Ronald Reagan's presidency would never have happened.

Reagan's great feat was to take the fierce anti-communism of Joe McCarthy and Barry Goldwater (which had been disdained as outlandish by the intellectuals of their day) and weave it into a larger, broader critique of liberalism, delivered with a genial smile. Reagan learned from conservative failures of the past the importance of building a coalition through tactical alliances.

Today's conservative intellectuals often praise Reagan and try to claim the mantle of Reaganism for their own pet projects, but they have a very un-Reaganeque tendency: Trying to build a movement via subtraction. David Frum delivered an infamous auto da fe against anti-war conservatives. Chris Caldwell wants to run the pro-lifers and gun owners out of the Big Tent. George Will thinks the GOP's problem is too many hockey moms. And, yes, there are far too many Christian conservatives who use "libertarian" as a pejorative.

I posted a large excerpt because it's that good. McCain is one of the most underrated bloggers on the Conservative side. I discovered him when he linked to my search for the Palin hacker. Put him on your RSS feed.

If you want to see this respectable Republicanism in action all you have to do is read this lengthy Q and A between McCain campaign insider Steve Schmidt and the very liberal Wonkette Ann Marie Cox.

Cox's questions were loaded with terrible assumptions about Sarah Palin, GOP campaign rallies and other things that Schmidt failed to pushback on.

It was an inside glimpse of a Georgetown cocktail party with the supposed conservative — Steve Schmidt — not challenging the assumptions of his liberal friend — Anne Marie Cox.

That’s why so many of these beltway types are programed that way at their elite schools or eventually go native, because if they don’t every conversation turns into a fight.


rachel said...

Sarah Palin was the ONLY decent candidate in the whole race. Real Americans don't think she's a hick...we think she's one of us. Living in the REAL world, not the ivory tower of D.C.

The fact that she was so abused by the press just proves how threatened they were by her. They could see she connected with REAL people. We don't connect with the insiders of Washington DC who real Americans have no use for. And why don't we have any use for them? Because these self-serving hypocrites have no respect for US...

I'm a college educated, professional who is politically, economically and culturally Conservative and Sarah Palin was the ONLY reason I voted for McCain. I only wish she had been at the top of the ticket. She was the ONLY candidate who would likely have OUR best interests in mind.

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