Mark Lilla writing in today’s Wall Street Journal:
“How, 30 years later, could younger conservative intellectuals promote a candidate like Sarah Palin, whose ignorance, provinciality and populist demagoguery represent everything older conservative thinkers once stood against? . . . There was a time when conservative intellectuals raised the level of American public debate and helped to keep it sober. Those days are gone. As for political judgment, the promotion of Sarah Palin as a possible world leader speaks for itself. The Republican Party and the political right will survive, but the conservative intellectual tradition is already dead. And all of us, even liberals like myself, are poorer for it.”
And David Brooks writing in last month’s New York Times:
“What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.”
And the thing is, once we elevate ill-educated logorrhea to a virtuous endeavor — to wit Ann Coulter, to wit Sean Hannity, to wit practically everyone writing at WorldNetDaily — we can’t very well get them to go away. After you induce otherwise thoughtful, God-fearing people to tell themselves they are protecting Western civilization by tuning in to the likes of Michael Savage (oh, the irony in that pseudonym), you can’t very well get them to turn back to NPR. You just can’t put stupid back in its box. So while I’m inclined to think that Lilla is being overly pessimistic about the future of conservative thoughtfulness, I don’t see a path out of its current narcolepsy. Do you?