Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Pundicrats vs. McCain cont'd: Ideology vs. Virtue

Here's TPM's Josh Marshall with some clips and commentary

Michael Medved recently named right-wing talk radio the biggest loser in South Carolina's primary -

For more than a month, the leading conservative talkers in the country have broadcast identical messages in an effort to demonize Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If you’ve tuned in at all to Rush, Sean, Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and two dozen others you’ve heard a consistent drum beat of hostility toward Mac and Huck. As always, led by Rush Limbaugh (who because of talent and seniority continues to dominate the medium) the talk radio herd has ridden in precisely the same direction, insisting that McCain and Huckabee deserve no support because they’re not “real conservatives.” A month ago, the angry right launched the slogan that Mike Huckabee is a “pro-life liberal.” More recently, after McCain’s energizing victory in New Hampshire, they trotted out the mantra that the Arizona Senator (with a life-time rating for his Congressional voting record of 83% from the American Conservative Union) is a “pro-war liberal.”

Well, the two alleged “liberals,” McCain and Huckabee just swept a total of 63% of the Republican vote in deeply conservative South Carolina. Meanwhile, the two darlings of talk radio -- Mitt Romney and, to a lesser extent, Fred Thompson—combined for an anemic 31% of the vote.

And in spite of Rush's dire warnings about the death of conservatism, Benjamin and Jenna Story write at the Weekly Standard why John McCain's resurgence is good for conservatism's future:
(h/t Donald Douglas)

SOME OF THE SHARPEST minds of conservative punditry have lately been whetting their knives on the candidacy of John McCain. The trend of these arguments is disturbing, because it indicates conservatism may be drifting far from its roots. The ire against McCain contains elements of two of the greatest fallacies of modern political thought: the notion that ideology can replace virtue as the mainstay of a decent regime, and the cynical assumption that virtue is not real but vanity in disguise.

The main current of opposition to McCain faults him for departures from strict free-market ideology. McCain's decisions about tax cuts, campaign finance, and greenhouse gas caps may be prudent or imprudent, and it is important to debate their practical effects on our economy and on our nation's well-being. Nonetheless, if conservatives succeed in marginalizing anyone who does not toe the doctrinaire line of their free market ideology, they will lose an important--indeed the most central and precious--aspect of their creed: the faith in the virtue of individuals to make a good society for themselves, rather than the faith in an ideology to make a good society for us. . .

Many think that the conservative movement is currently on shaky ground. In a perceived crisis, it is a human temptation is to run to ideologies to save the day. But conservative thought will be impoverished if its advocates close themselves in the "clean and well-lit prison of one idea," as G. K. Chesterton warned. To do so would be to fall prey to the fallacy that theories can govern men. Men must govern men, and men have characters, good or bad, and those characters are decisive for how the country is led. . .
UPDATE: Responding to the Weekly Standard article, at Burke's Corner:
The latter-day Jacobins of the GOP's hard right, the McCain-haters, have forgotten the wisdom of Burke, the father of conservatism. Governing is not about ideology - it is about virtue, prudence, moral judgment. Which is why McCain is the candidate of authentic conservatism.


pathickey said...

Some of these folks need some fresh air; get out and taklk to the neighbors; take walk through the neighborhood - they'd meet the people who will be voting for John McCain.

Brian Crowe said...

Many thanks for comments on Burke's Corner and the link in your post. I've added metaxupolis to my blog roll.

Here's hoping they vote right in Florida ...