Monday, August 02, 2010

Conservative courage

Well, I'm not sure how courageous it is for a conservative to take on today's conservative movement and its leaders, though I suppose the experience of a David Frum shows that one risks being cast out as a heretic for challenging what is an increasingly narrow and extremist fringe out on the right, but credit Stephen Bainbridge, one of the smartest conservatives around, for telling it like it is:

These days it's getting increasingly embarrassing to publicly identify oneself as a conservative. It was bad enough when George Bush 43, the K Street Gang, and the neo-cons were running up spending, fighting an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq, incurring massive deficits, expanding entitlements, and all the rest of the nonsense I cataloged over the years in posts like Bush 43 has been a disaster for conservatives.

These days, however, the most prominent so-called conservatives are increasingly fit only to be cast for the next Dumb and Dumber sequel. They're dumb and crazy.  

Bainbridge proceeds to "tick off ten things that make this conservative embarrassed by the modern conservative movement," including Sarah Palin and Tom Tancredo, birthers and nativists, "mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio," and "[t]he anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement."

I encourage you to read the list -- and the post -- in full.

As a liberal, I take great pleasure in all this, not least in the knowledge that "dumb and crazy" will continue to dominate conservatism, as well as the Republican Party, without regard for the sanity of the likes of Stephen Bainbridge and the few other sane voices who wish to bring conservatism back from the abyss. He might as well smash his head against his computer, so unlikely is he to succeed in reversing conservatism's course.

I don't necessarily support Bainbridge's conservatism, the conservatism of "smart, well-read, articulate leaders like Buckley, Neuhaus, Kirk, Jack Kent, Goldwater, and, yes, even Ronald Reagan," but I respect it -- from afar, having once been there myself, an ex-conservative -- and its loss at the hands of the new mainstream of the right, today's conservative mainstream of Dear Leader Rush, of Hannity and O'Reilly, of Breitbart, of Palin and Bachmann, of the teabaggers and theocrats, has left American political discourse and America's generally bipolar political system generally, deeply impoverished. Yes, a saner conservatism is more of a threat to what I support than this insane conservatism, but the great risk is that the insane could very well prevail, as it might in November, with a poor economy largely responsible for bringing down Democrats' prospects in the midterms.

Once upon a time, a conservative victory didn't mean a grave threat to American liberal democracy. How times have changed.

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