Modern Conservatives

Via Andrew Sullivan comes an article by Rich Moran that provides an elegant, brutal critique on the direction of the conservative movement:

Classic conservative principles are timeless; immutable tenets that have inspired great changes in government over the last 400 years and spoken passionately and plainly to the needs and hopes of ordinary people. Since the end of World War II, those classical principles have informed a  devastating critique of the welfare state, presenting a reasoned and logical alternative to statism and dependency. Conservatism has stood for human liberty based on the fundamental idea of natural law; that from his first breath, man is born free.

But conservatism has gone off the rails, becoming in some respects a parody of itself. A philosophy that is all about honoring and conserving tradition while allowing for change  that buttresses and supports important aspects of the past, has been hijacked by ideologues who brook no deviation from a dogma that limits rather than expands human freedom. Conservatism has become loud, obnoxious, closed-minded, and puerile, while its classical tradition of tolerance and hard-headed rationalism has been abandoned in favor of emotional jags and a vicious parochialism that eschews debate for “litmus tests” on ideological purity.

He concludes by saying:

Until conservatives can practice some painful introspection, looking with a self-critical eye at the reasons for the debacles of 2006 and 2008, most in the movement will continue to delude themselves that simply reaffirming conservative love of small government, low taxes, and less regulation will be enough to convince a majority of Americans that they recognize their shortcomings and have changed their tune. There must be a reckoning with those who violate the very nature of conservatism by obstinately adhering to exclusionary, anti-intellectual precepts that have thrown classical conservatism over in favor of ranting, ideological tantrums.

The anti-elite, anti-intellectualism displayed by broad swaths of the conservative movement during this last election worry me the most.  The idea that the majority of this country’s major problems can be solved by the application of a little common sense may play well on talk radio, but it is blatantly false and needs to be exposed as such.  Health care reform is hard.  Fixing our economy is hard.  Properly designing a program that will lead to true energy independence while not tanking our economy is hard.

Republicans pull together to recover their party.

Republicans pull together to recover their party.

All of these problems cry for the attention of experts, individuals who are smarter than you or I and who can properly design the innovative solutions these problems require.  Foreign relations similarly demands the attention of experts who can properly understand the countries we are dealing with so as to conduct negotiations in a manner that is to our advantage.  Basic government services — from putting criminals in jail to cleaning up after natural disasters — require competence much more than the application of a particular ideology.

These individuals are, or at least should be, elite.  They should be the best of the best.  For the conservative movement to turn its back on the people with ideas, to actively work to alienate such individuals and throw scorn upon those who devote hard work to solving hard problems, is rightly at the core of recent electoral failures.