The NYT Has <em>Advice</em> for Conservatives

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jul 21, 2008 9:40 AM

It’s usually the case that when the NYT seeks to interview conservatives about the state of conservatism, they find people who believe the key to saving conservatism is to inject liberalism:

"Another new-generation conservative, Ross Douthat, argues that 'Reagan was right for his time, but now it’s a different time.' Mr. Douthat, 28, and Reihan Salam are the authors of a new book, 'The Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.' Mr. Douthat says that social conservatives have gotten stuck and need to move beyond their focus on gay marriage and abortion — a focus, he said, that does nothing to help a single African-American mother trying to raise a family. Instead, conservatives need to “figure out a way to talk about the problem of family breakdown and the extent to which that’s linked to social mobility, economic troubles.”

So let me get this straight:  Reagan was "right for his time"???

This notion, of course, is not relegated to so-called conservative intellectuals.  It has actually become the default position of liberals -- including Barack Obama -- when it comes to discussing (and explaining) the 1970s and 80s.  Of course, the notion that Reaganism once worked is, at least, a tacit admission by the left that attacks on Reagan are fruitless.  The American people have made up their minds about him.  Their praise is pure revisionism, though, inasmuch as the left fought his ideas every step of the way.  Still, it is good to know this battle seems to have been won.

It is also sagacious; rather than fight the losing battle of continuing to attack Reagan's legacy, the left, instead, chooses to argue that his ideas are not relevant today.  In doing this, they hope to stem the bleeding and relegate his ideas to the "ash bin of history."  Sadly, they are aided and abetted by so-called conservative intellectuals. 

Of course, this argument ignores the fact that Reagan's ideas were not merely pulled out of the air or invented to suit the zeitgeist.  Nor were they a fad to be tossed aside like Jimmy Carter's 70s-era suits.   Rather, Reagan borrowed from the same philosophy espoused by classical liberals "from Burke to Eliot".  These same classical liberal ideas, I might add, were relevant prior to Reagan, as much as they are relevant post-Reagan.  In fact, as Rush often says, conservatism works every time it is actually tried.  The problem, of course, is Reagan was the last president to really try.

To simplify matters, it is clear the attacks on Reagan have evolved as follows:

- Lie 1 (1970s and 80s):  Conservatism/Reagan's ideas will never work in today's modern society.

- Lie 2 (2008):  Sure, Reagan's ideas were right.  But times have changed.  They are no longer relevant. 

In fairness, it is true that too many Republican politicians have failed to apply classical liberal philosophy to today's times, preferring, instead, to merely spout pro-Reagan rhetoric.  The intellectual laziness of some of his followers has created an opening for liberals who wish to undermine Reagan's ideas.  But while I appreciate the notion that we must seek to apply classical liberal philosophy to today's times, I reject the notion that we should abandon these ideas in favor of big government solutions.  Sadly, this is essentially the argument being espoused by many of these intellectuals.

As for the MSM's, there is no dearth of conservative writers to quote.  Nevertheless, few of them travel in the social circles that would lead them to be found in the rolodex of the typical NYT writer.  This, of course, is a common lament.

In this instance, almost all the folks cited were recently listed as up-and-coming conservative intellectuals by the Times' in-house "conservative" David Brooks -- which sort of explains the problem ...