Some conservatives live to fight.They love to take their opponents down. They hate compromise and hesitation.Think Andrew Breitbart taking over Anthony Wiener’s news conference.
Call us the Battle Cons.We feed off of the energy of conflict; we’re commandos in the war for America's culture.
And we aren’t enough.Sure, we’re fine when you need to break the glass in case of emergency, our chests emblazoned with the words “Front Toward Enemy” like a Claymore mine.But we cannot be the entire conservative movement.We need the Wonk Cons.
They’re the deep thinkers, the careful analysts, the craftsmen of future policies they hope to someday sell to whoever in the GOP manages to get some electoral juice down the road. Sam Tanenhaus’s recent New York Times Magazine article on the Wonk Cons asked, “Can the G.O.P. Be a Party of Ideas?”These are the guys who are supposed to answer “Yes.”
But to a Battle Con, the first thing we think of when we see the Wonk Cons is how we’re taking their lunch money.And they probably think we’re borderline savages because we’d rather shoot big, black rifles at stuff than ponder innovative municipal services privatization initiatives.
Too many Wonk Cons strike us Battle Cons as the kind of guys who have never been in a bar fight.We don't see a lot of veterans among them, and none of them seem much interested in the crucial area of American defense policy
We wonder if they know how to fight.They wonder if we know how to do anything else.But the fact is that we need each other, us warriors and these brainiacs. And we need to figure out how to get along.
It doesn’t help that Tanenhaus and others have painted the Wonk Cons as “conservatives with ideas.”Whenever we hear people talking about “ideas,” we Battle Cons start getting nervous. It's not that we have anything against ideas per se.It's that we’ve learned from bitter experience that most “new ideas” are bad ideas.
So along come the Wonk Cons with all sorts of intriguing ideas about how the federal government can improve the healthcare system, deal with failing schools, and address the issues of poverty in American society.Except Battle Cons don't think the federal government has any business doing any of these things in the first place.
We worry that the Wonk Cons have accepted the underlying premise of liberalism.Battle Cons pretty much think the proper role of the federal government is limited to killing our enemies, securing our borders and, well, killing any enemies we didn’t wax the first time.
If it isn’t in the Constitution, the feds shouldn’t be doing it no matter how smart, innovative and outside the envelope the policies are. We worry that Wonk Cons have made their peace with big government, and just want to do better the very things the federal government shouldn’t be doing at all.
To the Battle Cons, the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. Deep down, do the Wonk Cons really believe that?We hear about how they want to refocus our policy efforts away from the kind of entrepreneurial small business people who make up so much of the conservative movement and reorient them toward middle class working Americans who largely aren’t conservatives.But, frankly, most of these Wonk Cons appear to have never run a business, much less been the kind of workers they want to seduce.
We’ve had rule by inexperienced Democrat technocrats with Ivy League degrees. We’re not particularly excited about rule by inexperienced Republican technocrats with Ivy League degrees.
But then the Wonk Cons have a legitimate argument that Step One to a conservative future is to earn back the trust of the American people by demonstrating that – unlike someone who will go unmentioned but who is probably either golfing or partying with Jay-Z – Republicans can competently operate the levers of government power.
Of course, the Wonk Cons likely worry that we are just going to mess up their carefully prepared plans.But they need us too.The blue shirt science guys on Star Trek could figure out solutions, but they still had to have a bunch of guys in red and gold shirts with phasers taking out the Klingons.
In my new book, Conservative Insurgency, a speculative future history of the struggle to recover our culture, both Battle Cons and Wonk Cons play key roles.The Battle Cons bash down the doors, and the Wonk Cons are ready with a game plan once they do.We really do need good ideas, well-thought-out ideas, ideas that will achieve our conservative goals. Being a movement that can only fight doesn't leave us with many options once we win the battle.How many guerrilla movements have been successful on the battlefield then failed once in power?
We have to learn to trust each other. We need to ensure we’re on the same wavelength, that we all agree that a smaller government is a goal in and of itself. We need to avoid the technocratic mission creep that comes from the notion that just because one can come up with a policy proposal, one should implement it.
We need to hash this all out, us Battle Cons and our Wonk Con allies.Maybe we need a beer summit.And, for the Wonk Con’s sake, maybe we’ll also serve a nice chilled white wine spritzer.