Friday, September 24, 2010

Matt Lewis' "5 Things Conservatives Should Be Wary Of In the Tea Party"

Matt Lewis wrote a very interesting and somewhat controversial piece for Politics Daily that is well worth reading the whole thing because he gets a number of things exactly right.  There are, however, a few things that I take umbrage with in the article.  His piece is a listing of things that "conservatives" should be careful about in regards to the Tea Party.  Let's take a look at some of the things we disagree about...
1. Lack of reverence for conservative leaders and organizations. It has been my observation that many of today's new activists are quick to conflate being "old" with being part the establishment. This is probably natural, but it is not always helpful. To be sure, many conservative movement leaders have become corrupted or co-opted. But many of the movement's respected leaders joined the conservative fight when it was not popular or profitable to do so, and have nobly dedicated their lives to this cause. This should be honored, not dismissed. A tenet of Burkean conservatism is respect for tradition and accumulated wisdom. Conservatives would be foolish to abandon the wisdom of elders, much less eschew the infrastructure that has been created over recent decades, merely because it existed prior to 2010.
This is total rubbish from top to bottom.  Tea Partiers aren't liberal or conservative so classifying whether or not one gets on bended knee and bows to the appropriate conservative icon or institution is too silly to even write any more on the subject.
2. A move away from social conservatism. Just as the rise of Christian conservatives in the late 1970s and 1980s profoundly changed the conservative movement, the tea party has the potential to change the movement once again, possibly making it more libertarian. While many tea party members are full-spectrum conservatives, it's fair to say that government spending and the failed economy are the galvanizing forces behind the movement. As such, it's fair to conclude that an influx of activists concerned primarily about fiscal issues might result in changing attitudes within the conservative movement. This could be good or bad (depending on your views), but it is a phenomenon worth considering.
While I think Lewis and I agree on the general point that welcoming Tea Partiers in to the conservative fold can be both good and bad for conservatism AND the Tea Party, I really don't think castigating fiscal conservatives as some sort of "less than holy" entity is what got the conservative movement in general and the Republican Party specifically, in to the particular mess we have found ourselves.  Nothing infuriates me more than listening to some "conservative" drone on and on about how abortion is the only litmus test that matters.  The same thing could be said of our friends in the Second Amendment community.  Basically, what I am getting at here, is that a conservative is going to be a combination of a number of philosophies and ideas and not all of them are required (although, a wandering off on some number of these positions is a legitimate cause for concern) but Tea Partiers aren't going to shake the very foundations of conservatism.  It is what it is and it always will be...
3. Anti-Intellectualism. Unlike liberalism, which began as a patchwork of disparate interest groups seeking power, conservatism began as a coherent intellectual philosophy. But in recent decades, conservatives have mocked "pointy-headed liberal intellectuals," creating an impression that intelligence is almost something to be skeptical of. While I am certainly not advocating elitism, I would strongly encourage conservatives to reject populism. Conservative candidates who can eloquently advocate for conservative positions have a better chance of impacting the culture than do demagogues who cannot effectively communicate their philosophy to the masses.
This is just more of Lewis' #1 point and it is just as absurd.  Again, conservatism isn't about elitism.  The intellectuals, BY DEFINITION (noun -- a person of superior intellect.) think they are smarter than everybody else and that isn't the brand of conservatism I care to practice.  While I find Lewis' point on eloquence to be interesting, I don't see its relevance to the discussion at hand...unless he's suggesting that Tea Partiers are incapable of putting two thoughts together in a coherent way.

Lewis' last two points on Purges and The Victim Card are not ones I take offense to, so I'll leave those to others to dissect.  Read the whole thing here.