Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some Sense

A few conservatives are seeing the damage that’s being done to their movement by the nutsery. For example, former Reagan and Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner notes that Glenn Beck makes him worry about the conservative movement.

I say that because he seems to be more of a populist and libertarian than a conservative, more of a Perotista than a Reaganite. His interest in conspiracy theories is disquieting, as is his admiration for Ron Paul and his charges of American “imperialism.” (He is now talking about pulling troops out of Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, and elsewhere.) Some of Beck’s statements—for example, that President Obama has a “deep-seated hatred for white people”–are quite unfair and not good for the country. His argument that there is very little difference between the two parties is silly, and his contempt for parties in general is anti-Burkean (Burke himself was a great champion of political parties). And then there is his sometimes bizarre behavior, from tearing up to screaming at his callers. Beck seems to be a roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger—the antithesis of Ronald Reagan.

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At a time when we should aim for intellectual depth, for tough-minded and reasoned arguments, for good cheer and calm purpose, rather than erratic behavior, he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.

In a way I feel a little sorry for Mr. Wehner; he’s finding out that having a bomb-thrower at the garden party isn’t such a good thing after all. Erratic people can turn on you so fast.

I doubt that he’s going to get much ground from the vast number of people he’s trying to reach. Pointing out the finer points of difference between being a Reaganite vs. a Perotista is lost on those who can’t tell the difference between a communist and a fascist, and you catch a lot more screen time with paranoia than you do with “good cheer and calm purpose.” I will give him credit for trying to talk some sense into his fellow conservatives, but I think he’s got a tough job ahead of him.