The Corner

Culture

Anarchists for Eisenhower, Etc.

A magazine newsstand in N.Y., October 18, 2012. (Carlo Allegri/REUTERS)

Eric Levitz of New York magazine has written a long-ish post that is mostly about my political views, which he gets mostly wrong. This is not entirely his fault. Levitz operates under two heavy disabilities: The first is that he’s stupid, and the second is that he’s dishonest. Paul Krugman seems to have put in a lot of work in his transition from respected economist to trifling partisan rage-monkey, but Levitz seems to have been born dumber than a catfish. So it’s only his dishonesty I’ll fault him for.

The specific issue is my advice to conservatives who would like to make political advances among city-dwellers. Levitz writes: “The fundamental problem with Williamson’s proposition is that there is no mass constituency for his ideological commitments anywhere in the United States — let alone, the rest of the developed world.”

Well.

It is true that the last meeting of the West Texas chapter of Right-Wing Catholic Semi-Anarchists for Eisenhower was lightly attended. I am, and have generally been happy to be, a political party of one. I can’t help but think that two things are relevant to this observation that do not seem to have occurred to Levitz: One is that I am not running for office or trying to secure a position as a cable-news program host, and therefore am joyously liberated from the necessity of courting a mass constituency and pretending that the mass electorate of this country is less moronic than its actions suggest. Two, I am not suggesting that the Republican party adopt my own political preferences as the totality of its agenda. Unlike me, Republican office-seekers are — I can repeat this if it is too difficult to comprehend — seeking office.

I have suggested that Republicans seeking votes in big cities would have better luck if they stopped talking about the people who live there as though they were bipedal maggots and instead put forward some policy proposals that speak to their aspirations and interests. This does not seem to me an especially contrarian stance.

People such as Levitz often get confused by writers such as me because they are not in possession of cognitive firepower sufficient to comprehend political ideas, and instead are forced by their mental limitations to rely on primitive proxies such as declarations of tribal affiliation. For example, if you were to ask me to describe Utopia as Envisioned by Kevin D. Williamson, there would be aspects of it that are inconsistent with what I would recommend to people who are operating in a world that is not Utopia as Envisioned by Kevin D. Williamson. Philosophically, I am a pretty extreme libertarian; I also believe that here in the real world that Switzerland is probably the world’s best-governed country and that Dwight Eisenhower is the ideal modern American president — and that conservatives were mistaken to exaggerate and emphasize their ideological differences with him.

Of course, Levitz does not acknowledge these views, which are hardly things I’ve kept secret: Both were the subjects of cover stories in National Review. That means that an enterprising writer could learn about them, if he were so inclined. Levitz is not, being obviously content in his ignorance and mediocrity.

Similarly, Levitz mischaracterizes my view of Michael Bloomberg, i.e. that for all his nannying and neuroses New York City conservatives were going miss him when he is gone. Just last week, I was asked in front of a good-sized audience at a National Review event what I thought of the prospect of the Democrats nominating Bloomberg for president in 2020, and I answered that I could hardly imagine their doing better.

Levitz could have learned these things with a little bit of work of the sort that used to be called “journalism,” but he does not seem to be interested in doing so. I don’t think that’s mere laziness; I think it is dishonesty. For example, in writing about my views on abortion, he links to a half-assed and inaccurate piece in his own magazine rather than, say, my account of those views in the Washington Post, a general-interest newspaper he may have heard of. I am entirely useless on any number of subjects, but I happen to be the world’s leading authority on the political thought of Kevin D. Williamson, a resource that an honest and self-respecting journalist at a publication with intellectual standards might want to consult when writing an account of the political thought of Kevin D. Williamson.

Much of the piece is structured in this way: “Williamson advocates x, but Republicans are doing y.” It is true that the Republican party very often does things other than what I would like it to. That is one of the reasons why I am not a member of the Republican party, much less a spokesman for it. That also seems to me relevant to the conversation.

(NB: As much as I wish I were, I’m no George H. W. Bush-style gentleman, but I do not much care for writing about myself this much. But since New York seems to be on the Kevin beat, I don’t see much choice other than to let stupidity and dishonesty stand unchallenged.)

I could go on: Levitz mischaracterizes my views on social-welfare spending, i.e., that the problem is the structure of the programs and that too small a share of the benefits are directed at people who are actually poor, and that we might end up being perfectly happy to spend more on social programs that do what we want them to do. That argument is a pretty big chunk of a book I wrote a few years ago, which is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble and on Kindle — if you are in fact curious about what I think about these things.

If you aren’t curious about what I think about these things . . . It’s a big world, full of interesting phenomena, and I don’t feel compelled to compete with all of them. But if you’re going to purport to be giving an account of my views, you might do yourself and your readers a favor by discovering what they are.

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