Monday, October 12, 2009

Reconsidering Beck

The question as to whether or not conservatism is dead has been making the rounds lately. Steven Hayward writing in The Washington Post makes clear that this is not the case. The headline of the piece asks if conservatism is brain dead, but in reality Hayward's analysis turns on a question of balance:
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.
Hayward argues this traditional balance is now largely lacking. He calls the Tea Party movement "authentic," but, "unfocused." He also discusses the conservative portion of the opinion media and includes a surprising take on Glenn Beck:
Okay, so Beck may lack Buckley's urbanity, and his show will never be confused with "Firing Line." But he's on to something with his interest in serious analysis of liberalism's patrimony. The left is enraged with Beck's scandal-mongering over Van Jones and ACORN, but they have no idea that he poses a much bigger threat than that. If more conservative talkers took up the theme of challenging liberalism's bedrock assumptions the way Beck does from time to time, liberals would have to defend their problematic premises more often.
I don't have cable, so I don't watch Beck, but this is the first time I have seen him discussed as tackling the issue at the heart of the opposing ideology. Lately, it seems many on the right want to focus on the question of whether or not Beck is bad for the movement. Hayward argues convincingly that he is not, and that there is no need to work to minimize or derail his efforts.

What is needed, it seems, is the passion conservatism currently displays combined with ideas resulting from clear thinking, articulated sharply.

A movement whose passionate side is grounded by rigorous thought will be far better suited to withstand the force of the passionate winds, regardless from which direction they blow.

It is also a movement that I, and many others, would find appealing. Even if it included Beck.

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