A Numbers Game
In a September 28 post on the American Enterprise Institute blog, scholar and author Charles Murray lamented about the loss of intellectualism in conservative politics. While, Murray is specifically disgruntled about the void left by three ?giants? of the Right: Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley, and Irving Kristol, one can conclude that he is referring to the conservative world in general. He begrudgingly contrasts the positive attributes of the ?giants? with the ?angry, mean-spirited, and often embarrassingly ignorant? voices of the Right today, naming Glenn Beck and implying others.
On a similar note, two days ago, David Brooks opined that the ?talk jocks? have no real power only ?illusionary power? yet Republican politicians fall for this ?media mythology? and ?preemptively surrender to armies that don?t exist.? Whether Brooks is correct with that assessment or not, is beside the point. These ?talk jocks? obviously do carry substantial weight or the issue of whether or not they are good for conservatism and the Republican Party wouldn?t be discussed everywhere from the opinion pages of The New York Times, to right here at thelobbyist.net
For a moment, Murray?s nostalgia for the intellectual ?apogee? of conservatism can?t help but make a young conservative, such as myself, wonder if men like this walk among us today especially when you listen to what?s being said on the airwaves. While seminal figures such as the three ?giants? are nearly impossible to replicate, there are certainly a number of intellectual conservatives today who are influential in their own right, yet they are often overshadowed by the loud and angry ?populist? style pundits. The problem today is not that there aren?t intellectuals to take up the standard left by the likes of Buckley, Friedman, and Kristol, it is that their predecessors are often slandered as ?elitists? and are not as well known and unfortunately, not as influential as the ?populist? wing of conservatism who rant and rave on the airwaves and on television. More high-brow outlets for conservative opinion such as Commentary, The Weekly Standard, the now defunct The Public Interest, and the newly minted National Affairs have circulations of 35,000-60,000, compared to the over 3 million Americans who tune in to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh every day. Though I share David Brook?s critique of the ?talk-jocks,? Rush Limbaugh did pose a valid question in response, ?how many Americans know who David Brooks is?? Unfortunately, not enough.
Intellectualism in the conservative movement is not dead, but it is overshadowed by the boorish, rude, and angry voices of ?populist? red-meat style pundits. For people who so regularly and fondly quote and cite President Reagan, they certainly don?t share his cheery disposition and optimistic attitude. Unfortunately, even if the ?talk jocks? yield only ?illusionary power,? they still influence the thinking of millions of conservatives and are counterproductive to those on the Right who are interested in the future success of the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
Sam K.? Theodosopoulos is an undergraduate at the George Washington University and is the Editor-at-Large of the GW Young Americas Foundation Blog.