Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The waning of the "T. Coddington" conservative stereotype

It's all over the right-wing blogs right now, or seems to be -- a split on the right between an older country club conservatism and a newer, more diverse, certainly more popular/populist soccer-mom small-government movement exemplified by the Tea Party. The two latest examples of the former, and the ones who've set off the recent kerfuffle, as Insta calls it, are Professor Stephen Bainbridge, who's "getting embarrassed to be a conservative", and David Klinghoffer, who thinks we've gone "From neocons to crazy-cons" (a witty put-down if ever I read one). The latter was dissected by James Taranto, in "David Klinghoffer saves civilization", who nicely points out that Klinghoffer's op-ed was published in the LA Times: "Obviously the Times, a liberal newspaper, is using Klinghoffer to score political points against conservatives. It's a familiar and transparently cynical exercise, though Klinghoffer's participation in it is possibly unwitting." To its credit, though, the LA Times also published a Klinghoffer take-down by Jonah Goldberg: "Nostagia for Buckley et al is misplaced", which starts to get at the difference between the age of Buckley and now:
... those who pine for the good old days fail to grasp that the good old days were, in the ways that matter, often quite bad. The heyday of the "institution builders" was a low-water mark for conservatism's political success (that's why they built institutions!). Conservatism hardly lacks for top-flight intellectuals these days, but the intellectuals aren't the avant-garde anymore. Thanks to their success at building institutions and spreading ideas, the battle has been joined.
But there remain those who feel comfortable in their intellectually gated communities, however sidelined and irrelevant this leaves them, and uncomfortable in the melee of political/social/cultural conflict. It's important to remember, as Goldberg points out, just how isolated was a figure like Buckley in his time, and how much his snobbish eccentricities (see Ann Althouse's take) allowed him to be patronized as a kind of harmless conservative mascot. Now, though, somebody should tell the liberal media that -- with enormous thanks to Iowahawk -- they have something even better than the real thing: the collected divagations of T. Coddington Van Vorhees VII.

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