The Corner

Big Ideas Cont’d

First, having slept on it, I fear I sounded too harsh in my broadside against Reihan. Such was not my intent. As I said even in that venting, I’m a fan of both Reihan and Ross.

Second, Ross joins the fray and ever-so-slightly changes my point to more comfortable territory. I’ve never said nor ever believed that ideas don’t have any “impact on politics.” Not once, not ever. My objection was that Reihan was making a straightline projection that if the Republicans don’t adopt lower-middle class populism — or whatever lower-middle-reformism is — then they won’t win in 2008. I think these sorts of straightline projections — particularly when offered to back up an idea a writer is deeply invested in — are almost always folly. Ideas have a huge impact, but that impact is invariably clearer after the fact (which is not to say it is actually clear, just less opaque).

And since Ross and Reihan are finding a Strange New Respect for Buchananism (or whatever passes for “paleoconservatism” these days) I should say that I’m reminded of a point Ramesh made years ago in his article on Buchanan. “Conservatives tend to place a lot of emphasis, maybe too much, on the idea that ideas have consequences,” Ponnuru wrote. “They hoist their ideas up the flagpole and then see who salutes. Buchananism puts its idealized social base first, and lets it drive everything else.” This sounds quite a bit like what’s going on with Lower-Middle-Reformism.

The late Sam Francis must be smiling from wherever he is (I have my hunches on where that might be) knowing that his Middle American Radicalism is getting a fresh coat of paint.

Update: I fixed a stupid typo where it says “I’ve never said nor ever believed that ideas don’t have any ‘impact on politics.’” It used to say I’ve never said nor ever believed that politics don’t have any “impact on politics.” Which makes no sense at all.


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