Monday, December 27, 2004

Over at Daily Kos, Kos has posted a copy of an article from American Conservative Magazine.

It reflects something I have been hoping to see more of; reasonable, intelligent evaluations of policy from the conservative side of the intellectual circles. Certainly allegations that conservatives are no longer members of the "reality-based community" has irked many of the seasoned conservatives who are more interested in talking about policy than getting on television to make sophomoric jokes about liberal policy ideas and the arab/muslism community. Many, I have come to understand, have become worried about the path the Bush Administration has taken in both economic and foreign policy areas. Many prominent conservatives have even begun to express their concerns to the public (George WIll, Pat Buchanan and Bill Kristol to name a few). Even the sometimes sniping National Review blog, The Corner, has been the format for some of the National Review crowd's worries.

This is not to say that there will be some great reconciliation between the left and right thinkers in this country. It is likely that last-minute praise of Bush by some of the same people who now express their discomfort acted as a salve to the consciences of the Republicans who were not comfortable with Bush, his war or his economy, but in the end decided to vote for him because he is not Kerry.

I talked to numerous Republicans who said they didn't want to vote for Bush, but would never vote for Kerry. Many of them in the end, however, decided to hold their nose and pull the lever for Bush, mostly in the hope that the future would be different.

I wonder if their optimism held past the first Cabinet changes.

While I was encouraged by the American Conservative article, I am not yet convinced of the staying power of their dissent. I am all for an open airing of ideas and I enjoy debating policy with conservatives, a healthy debate inside the Republican party may go a long way to easing the concerns of the world, as well as liberals in this country. Yet the slide from William F. Buckley (who recently stepped down as head of National Review) and George Will to Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter has put me in a pessimistic mood.

With the previous crowd of conservatives is was possible to disagree with their ideas while at the same time appreciate the thought that went into it. Now, the invective and juvenile behavior is at such a level that debate is no longer possible. It's as if the Know-Nothings dug themselves out of their 19th century graves and got jobs at the Washington Times and Fox News. The Know-Nothings seemingly only organizing principle was to oppose any and everything. They were anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, anti-poor and anti-alcohol. They were a thorn in Lincoln's side during his Presidency and managed to survive a while longer despite his efforts.

Today the Republican Party likes to refer to itself as the party of Lincoln, yet the Know-Nothings may be a more accurate forbearer to the modern Republican Party.

This is not to paint all Republicans with the same brush. As the author of the AC article (Realism Rebuffed) makes clear, there is more than one tent in the Republican party, it just so happens that the least thoughtful, more antagonistic and brash group is holding the reins at the moment.

I wait for the day when people such as my father would put down the Washington Times and turn off Rush Limbaugh and pick back up the National Review, American Conservative and the other thoughtful conservative outlets. This would help not only improve the dialogue between the left and right in this country, but hopefully improve the policies of this government.

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