Thursday, March 29, 2007

I like American Scene as well ...

Due in large part to the fact that Ross and Reihan are able to calmly and articulately address their critics in such a way that they are able to avoid demonizing them or mischaracterizing their arguments. Mark might want to take notice of such things when he writes:
Recently, they've come under fire from the Salvation Through Leviathan By Any Means Necessary crowd for their tendency to have a high regard for the Little Guy and to suggest that a GOP that becomes more Rockefellerized and ignores the lower middle class will fail. This apparently smacks of something called "crypto-Buchananism" according to Jonah Goldberg.

I like the grace with which both Ross and Reihan reply to this latest attempt by NR to place yet more conservative in the Outer Darkness of "paleoconservatism", a term which, like "Christianism" is used largely as a swear word rather than as something with any meaning. The hour seems to me to be pretty late for the End to Evil crowd to still be talking as though somebody died and made them the arbiters of Acceptable Conservative Thought.

First of all, paleoconservatism does have a meaning to it and it isn't used as nearly as much as a pejorative as is neoconservatism. Jonah's argument, which I would challenge Mark to actually rebut in any substantive fashion, was the following:
And since Ross and Reihan are finding a Strange New Respect for Buchananism (or whatever passes for "paleoconservatism" these days) I should say that I'm reminded of a point Ramesh made years ago in his article on Buchanan. “Conservatives tend to place a lot of emphasis, maybe too much, on the idea that ideas have consequences,” Ponnuru wrote. “They hoist their ideas up the flagpole and then see who salutes. Buchananism puts its idealized social base first, and lets it drive everything else.” This sounds quite a bit like what's going on with Lower-Middle-Reformism.

To which Reihan replied:
I think this pretty much explains what's going on here. "Lower-middle reformism" is a slippery concept. Jonah associates it with the "Middle American Radicalism" of Sam Francis, which is interesting and reflects what I understand to be his admirable preoccupation with the rich history of American conservatism.

And he's right to think that I project warm feelings onto the lower-middle-class, though my idealized lower-middle-class is not quite the same as Francis' MARs (angry white dudes, to put it crudely) ... As for Jonah's comment that Ross and I are "finding a Strange New Respect for Buchananism (or whatever passes for 'paleoconservatism' these days)," I can only say that I'm flattered to think that one of our more well-regarded public intellectuals has taken the time to characterize my own views. I think of myself as open-minded, perhaps to a fault, but I guess I don't often think of myself as a Buchananite. As most of you know, I'm far more likely to praise Christopher Jencks or Lawrence Katz than, I don't know, Pat Choate? This new interpretation of my thinking is so different from anything else I've ever heard (I've heard Lindian liberal nationalist, centrist neoliberal, empirical libertarian, compassionate conservative, and pint-sized reactionary, all with varying degrees of plausibility, but never Buchananite) as to be pretty thought-provoking.

The idea that this was any kind of attempt at excommunication from the conservative movement or some such thing completely misses the point of the issue and mischaracterizes the discussion at hand. Mark's claim that paleoconservatism "is used largely as a swear word rather than as something with any meaning" is in of itself extremely ironic given that he has used the term "neocon" to refer to everything from liberal hawks to pro-war libertarians to transhumanists to classical conservatives to whatever John Derbyshire considers himself these days. It is made even more ironic by the fact that the neoconservative movement was largely formed by individuals who accepted many of the New Deal-era social programs that were aimed at alleviating the problems of the lower middle class.

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