Tuesday, April 05, 2005

BRIAN: YOU'RE ALL INDIVIDUALS! FOLLOWERS: YES, WE'RE ALL INDIVIDUALS! BRIAN: YOU'RE ALL DIFFERENT! FOLLOWERS: YES, WE'RE ALL DIFFERENT! David Brooks today laughs off (with the annoying, airy laugh of his) the idea that Republicans are beating the Dems with message discipline:
The theory is that liberals must create their own version of the conservative pyramid... [but] Conservatives have not triumphed because they have built a disciplined and efficient message machine. Conservatives have thrived because they are split into feuding factions that squabble incessantly...
Huh wha? I thought that was what we did ("no organized party" and all that). No no no, says Brooks (waving his hand in that highly irritating way of his), while you libs grimly enforce orthodoxy, conservatives do intellectual calesthenics -- "Liberals are good at talking about rights, but not as good at talking about a universal order" as conservatives:
Conservatives fell into the habit of being acutely conscious of their intellectual forebears and had big debates about public philosophy. That turned out to be important: nobody joins a movement because of admiration for its entitlement reform plan. People join up because they think that movement's views about human nature and society are true.

Liberals have not had a comparable public philosophy debate. A year ago I called the head of a prominent liberal think tank to ask him who his favorite philosopher was. If I'd asked about health care, he could have given me four hours of brilliant conversation, but on this subject he stumbled and said he'd call me back. He never did.
Fancy that -- someone not returning David Brooks' calls!

But you get the message: conservatives are superior because they go for philosophy, whereas liberals go for yucky policy prescriptions. You might have gotten the message, actually, several months earlier, in National Review Online, when Jonah Goldberg was bouncing it around:
Without knowledge of its own past, liberalism cannot have a serious political philosophy, it can only have feelings. I was amazed last summer at a political conference for college kids at the way the professional Democrats and liberals on a panel -- with the exception of Peter Beinart -- all began their presentations with "I believe" this or "I feel passionately" that...
Just look at the conservative blogosphere. There's all sorts of stuff about Burke, Hayek, von Mises, Oakeshott, Kirk, Buckley, Strauss, Meyer, the Southern Agrarians, et al. I can't think of a single editor or contributing editor of National Review who can't speak intelligently about the intellectual titans of conservatism going back generations... I just don't get the sense that's true of most liberal journalists. When was the last time you saw more than a passing reference to Herbert Croly?
And on and on. Goldberg said he was writing a book about it -- maybe they're waiting till they can line up Frank Miller for the illos.

So to sum up:
  • David Brooks laughs at liberal claims of conservative message discipline.
  • He says conservatism is actually ascendant because conservatives are into philosophy, while the Democrats are merely into policy.
  • This message originated with Jonah Goldberg (or, who knows? With some other labtech from the Frankenstein laboratories of the Right) and has been carried, in a very disciplined manner, by Brooks to the pages of the New York Times.
As the Amazing Maleeni knew, magic is all about misdirection.

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