There’s lots of pundit chatter on the topic these days…
Steven F. Hayward remembers William F. Buckley Jr. and wonders is conservatism brain-dead?
Today…the conservative movement has been thrown off balance, with the populists dominating and the intellectuals retreating and struggling to come up with new ideas. The leading conservative figures of our time are now drawn from mass media, from talk radio and cable news. We’ve traded in Buckley for Beck, Kristol for Coulter, and conservatism has been reduced to sound bites.
During the glory days of the conservative movement, from its ascent in the 1960s and ’70s to its success in Ronald Reagan’s era, there was a balance between the intellectuals, such as Buckley and Milton Friedman, and the activists, such as Phyllis Schlafly and Paul Weyrich, the leader of the New Right. The conservative political movement, for all its infighting, has always drawn deeply from the conservative intellectual movement, and this mix of populism and elitism troubled neither side.
Jacob Weisber remembers Irving Kristol as a savior of the American Right in the 60s and wonders, who will save it right from intellectual bankruptcy now?
In the heyday of Kristol’s influence in the 1980s, Republicans styled themselves the party of ideas. Whatever you thought of those ideas—challenging Soviet power, cutting taxes, passing power back to the states, ending affirmative action, cutting off welfare benefits to the undeserving poor—they represented a genuine attempt to remodel government around a coherent vision. Today, as during the pre-conservative stage of Kristol’s career in the 1950s, the Republican Party takes itself much more lightly. It has fallen back upon what Lionel Trilling once called “irritable mental gestures“—crankily rejecting liberal attempts to come to grips with the country’s problems without offering any plausible alternatives. Since the last election, it has been the brain-dead home of tea parties, pro-life amendments, and climate-change denial.
Peggy Noonan remembers William Safire and wonders who will keep America safe from the ranters?
I was once in a small joust with Roger Ailes about violence on television. I was worried about it. He responded, I paraphrase: But there’s comedy all over TV, and I don’t see people breaking out in jokes and laughter on the streets. True, I said, but depictions of violence are different. Violent images excite the unstable. Violent words do, too.
This is why, I think, so many people—I include, literally, every person I know, from all walks of life, and all ages—are worried that our elected leaders are not safe, that this overheated era will end in some violent act or acts.
Stop reading this and ask whoever’s nearby, “Do you find yourself worrying about President Obama’s safety?” I do not think you are going to get, “No.”
She calls on the new Elders, Left & Right, to do the job they once did. Who do you think those new Elders are? Where will they emerge from?