What is conservatism?
Yesterday, the Contra Costa Times (Right wing to get its time at Berkeley) reported that
An anonymous donor has given $777,000 to [UC Berkeley] to establish a Center for the Comparative Study of Right-wing Movements. Researchers will study the right wing in other countries and its relationship to U.S. movements.
The CCT reporter notes that conservative movements don’t get much attention among scholars. Larry Rosenthal, a sociologist who will head the new program, notes that UC Berkeley will be studying the right wing when, if anything, such studies will be in retreat.
—And when the Republican Party is asking itself what it stands for.
Sounds good to me. Contrary to John Stuart Mill, who called conservatives the “stupid party” (strictly speaking, he said that about the Tories), I think that conservatism is rich in ideas that are worthy of study. Possibly, however, the Berkeley program will be studying movements—especially those outside the U.S.—and not so much ideas or philosophies.
Well, we’ll see, I guess.
Speaking of philosophies and stupid parties, have you been following the “war” between beltway Ditto Heads and conservative writer David Frum? On Monday, Frum wrote that
… [Rush Limbaugh, the self-appointed] leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence—exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word—we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.
But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? … [H]e cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise—and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important.
Frum has taken quite a pounding from his "conservative" colleagues ever since. Unlike others who've challenged Rush and reaped the ditto-wind, Frum hasn't run to Rush to offer a heartfelt apology.
We are gradually shrinking from our former ambition—to govern—and taking our pleasure instead in alienation and complaint. Those journalists who cover the conservative world are surprised by how relieved and happy conservatives seem to be about having lost the 2008 election. No more irritating compromises, no more boring policy debates! We can recline into the pure assertion of conservative dogma, a job nobody does better than Rush Limbaugh himself. As Limbaugh told the CPAC crowd: We need no new policy ideas. Conservatism, he said, cannot be reshaped or reformed, and those who suggest otherwise must be “stamped out.” And who knows? That view may prevail among Republicans for some long time to come. But if it does, watch out. Just as the American left retreated from politics into the universities in the 1980s, so—if Rush has his way—will the American right retreat from politics into the airwaves in the 2000s.
These are interesting times.
Republicans display cute trained monkey: