Rational Conservatives Still Exist

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

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

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less