Friday, March 06, 2009

Conservatism and the GOP: Quidnam Estis Nos?

A recent post by the Maximum Leader at Naked Villainy (worth a read on its own, despite the title) features a citation of an article written by John Derbyshire titled: "How Radio Wrecks the Right." As a fan of conservative talk radio, it is my obligation to come to its (limited) defense.

Mr. Derbyshire laments the decline of intellectual conservatism into popular radio programs. Going from the "starched-collar respectability" of Buckley (WFB, that is) to the irreverent quips and parodies of Rush Limbaugh has, according to Mr. Derbyshire, dumbed-down conservatism into a "lowbrow" state.

It may be lowbrow, but where else can one hear the ideas of Adam Smith, Friedrich van Hayek, Milton Friedman, Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr., not to mention the Founding Fathers, discussed with any sense of regularity? The Constitution plays a major part in conservative talk radio, and it is virtually the only place one finds any mention of it, save whenever a liberal is using it as a "living document" to advance his own agenda based on Supreme Court precedent.

Mr Derbyshire blames "lowbrow" conservatism for our current malaise, to borrow from Carter. Specifically, he blames conservative radio hosts for following blindly any politician with a "R" after his name:
With reasons for gratitude duly noted, are there some downsides to conservative talk radio? Taking the conservative project as a whole—limited government, fiscal prudence, equality under law, personal liberty, patriotism, realism abroad—has talk radio helped or hurt? All those good things are plainly off the table for the next four years at least, a prospect that conservatives can only view with anguish. Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs?

They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly.

With all due respect, Mr. Derbyshire, conservative talk radio hosts have not been solidly in Bush's camp, in fact, many have done a more thorough (shall I say intellectual?) job of opposing his foolish and spendthrift method of governing. Think of the expansion of medicare. Think of comprehensive immigration reform. Think of steel tariffs. Think of the first bank bailout, and Mr. Bush's comments that he went "against free market principles to save the free market." I could go on. The point is, George W. Bush was no conservative; he was simply the lesser of two weevils. I might remind you, sir, it was your National Review colleague (and son of WFB to boot) Christopher Buckley who endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain (he's really a moderate, and McCain is too old). If I recall correctly, the editors of Nationl Review also endorsed the ineffective and illegal bank bailout.

Most conservative people ("middlebrow" conservatives) just want to be left alone to live their lives, earn a living, and raise respectable children. We cannot all be "highbrow" intellectual elites. Conservative talk radio hosts are obliged to engage in "lowbrow" to entertain an audience and keep them listening. They do have advertisers, after all. I submit that our faults are not in our stars, or ourselves, but in our elected leaders. Until there are more men with "onions in the bag," willing to articulate conservative values and govern accordingly, we will continue our slow creep into socialism.

No comments: