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New Yorker: Conservatism has fallen; can’t get up

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By See-Dubya  •  May 19, 2008 08:21 AM

A long piece by George Packer about the death of conservatism graces this week’s New Yorker. You can tell it’s hard-hitting because he interviews such movement luminaries as pro-choicer David Frum, NY Times columnist David Brooks, and paleocon dissident Pat Buchanan. Imagine my surprise to learn these fellows didn’t have much nice to say about the way the movement is going.

Conservatives have, of course, been made acutely aware of the differences between the Republican party and conservative principles lately. So a big problem with Packer’s article is that he doesn’t seem to distinguish much between conservative thought and the political machinations of the GOP, at least until the end of the article when he explains how John McCain’s ideological emptiness may be the key to victory:

Most Presidential candidates move to the center once they’ve locked up the nomination; McCain, however, still has to try to win over the suspicious Republican right, and he recently vowed to appoint only judges who “strictly interpret” the Constitution to the bench. But pledges of fealty to his party’s ideological interest groups diminish what’s appealing about McCain. “Feeling fraudulent is very debilitating to him,” Mark Salter said.

When McCain opened the floor for questions, a woman asked about border security. He replied, to general laughter, “This meeting is adjourned.”

Hint: we’re not laughing with you…

Anyway, the article’s long and I’ve just skimmed it, but it’s probably worth your time simply because this is what the liberal New Yorker crowd will be reading to form their ideas about where conservatives are headed.

And once you get done with that (or before, if you want to skip the arugula and go straight to the ice cream) the editors of the New York Sun have already responded to Packer’s article, and they’ve done so quite well. I say that not just because they kindly mention this site, but because they offer the correct and classic response to the perennial complaints that conservatives need a bunch of “fresh ideas”:

What the New Yorker calls a lack of “fresh thinking” may be a surfeit of abiding principles and enduring ideas. The Bible is thousands of years old. The capitalism of Adam Smith is hundreds of years old. Freedom is as universal and God-given a right today as it was when it was set forth in the Declaration of Independence. What matters is less whether the ideas are “fresh” than whether they are correct. And the latest panic of beltway Republicans or New Yorker writers notwithstanding, the view from these columns is that the death of conservatism has been greatly exaggerated.

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{Post by See-Dubya. Michelle’s recent interactions with the New Yorker and their anthropological style of studying conservatives are detailed here.}

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