Rational Conservatives Still Exist

There are still rational voices on the right that have withstood the Republican push towards fundamentalism.
  • Transcript


Question: Who are the most rational conservative voices in politics?

Andrew Sullivan: There are the beginnings of an intellectual revolution at what conservatives... what has been done to conservatives as a governing philosophy in America.  And I think one of the roles the Daily Dish are now trying to play is to be a place where those voices can be... can be brought to a wider audience.  So I think of Bruce Bartlett, who along with me in the early part of the Bush Administration, called them out on their fiscal irresponsibility, is a voice that I am very happy to keep bringing.  I think much later, someone like David Frum has come to that recognition even though I think we are going to still disagree about foreign policy. 

I think there are some Libertarian voices that are out there and I think the younger generation of reasoned people, I think of people like Damon Linker, there are people out there.  Unfortunately, what’s happened in Washington and more generally is that the conservative movement is bankrolled by certain large donors with certain overwhelming interests and they police the discourse with a ferocity and a lock-step mentality that has frozen conservatism as a philosophy in place and turned it into ideology that cannot ever change.  Or aligned it with such fundamentalist concepts that there can be no real conservative dialogue, because dialogue is not what fundamentalism is about.  And the price of simply existing as a conservative in Washington, to be in good standing, is to obey the dictates of whichever this constellation of donors and organizations from Heritage to AEI to even something like Pajamas Media, which is apparently financed by people also financing West Bank settlements is, if you stray you are expelled and then also thoroughly demonized. 

So intellectually, we are, you know, the blogosphere allows these kinds of ideas to percolate.  And I mean, Conor Friedersdorf for example is a young conservative whom I brought on specifically with the mandate of, because... find, encourage, let us bring to light that young writers right of center, who are not yet... who have not yet been basically bought by this establishment and then coerced to certain positions.  Daniel Larison is another person.  Now, these people don’t all agree, by all means.  That’s the point I mean, but the do not... they have acknowledged that conservatism in the past 10, 15, 20 years; it’s not that there was a great period of pure or great conservatism; we’ve never had this sort of populist, xenophobic racist, bigoted strains.  It’s that... that was always there.  It is that there was also a lot of good stuff there that we were responding to contingent situations, such as the collapse of the social democracy model in the 1970s, like a really smart critique of the welfare state, and a really, I think critical insight into how one defeats Soviet communism. 

What’s happened is that all that stuff has slowly been marginalized and all the worst has come to the surface.  And that won’t change overnight. And I think from everything we are seeing, talk radio and these, I think essentially corrupting institutions in Washington are turning conservatism into something that is really very creepy, but also emotionally and psychically powerful for people.  

So what do you do is, all you can do is write books, write articles, write blogs that articulate what you believe.

Recorded on October 12, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller