In a world that absurdly overrates the advantage of sheer brain power, no one wants to be seen as a member in good standing of the stupid party. Yet stupidity has been and will always remain the best defense mechanism against the ordinary conman and the intellectual dreamer, just as Odysseus found that stuffing cotton in his ears was his best defense against beguiling but fatal song of the sirens.That's the close; the rest doesn't illuminate it much. Smart people will attempt to "pull the wool over the eyes of the rest of us," and though "the intellectual conservative of our day excels in good arguments," he must not use them to defend propositions such as (to use Harris' own example) resistance to gay marriage, because he might get out-argued by the smart alecks.
I suppose this is one of those just-among-us-wingnuts articles, like meditations on the fatness of Michael Moore, that are not meant to be engaged in any serious way. But it's interesting that it comes up just as conservatives fret about the dissolution of their once-winning national coalition.
Conservatives normally like to brag on their "good arguments" -- "Conservatives, rightly, have a greater ownership of their intellectual history than liberals have of theirs," says Jonah Goldberg. "We're proud of our heritage of ideas." But at present, their policy wonks seem paralyzed and reactive: While Democratic candidates compete over their health care plans, for example, conservatives denounce health-care recipients. Their response to Iraq is Iran, and their response to human rights issues is Double Gitmo.
Whither Goldberg's "heritage of ideas"? The voters aren't going for it. Historically-minded conservatives may shrug this off, remembering the Goldwater days of exile, but political operators, who have to try and win elections, may be unnerved by it. With a contentious pre-season fraying the Republican coalition, the idea men may be worrying that yet another version of "No Pale Pastels" might not do the job this time. They need magic; they need dynamite. But all they have, besides the discredited old standards, are diddly-shit demi-ideas.
So Harris' prescription could be helpful to them, at least as a calmative. If their arguments aren't working, it isn't the arguments that are to blame, but argument in general. Once this message is internalized, the heavy thinkers of conservatism may feel as if a great weight had been lifted from their shoulders. They may enter a sort of right-wing Zen state, in which all things disintegrate into red, white, and blue pieces. Then, perhaps, the magic dynamite will come.
And if it doesn't, well, they'll all get jobs at think tanks anyway.