The Corner

Douthat and His Corner Critics

Victor: I don’t think that Ross was calling you “intoleran[t]” in his two posts that have caused such a stir around here. Nor was he faulting Mark Steyn and Mark Levin for excessive cheerleading for McCain. His explicit point was rather that conservatives should spend more time addressing the causes of Republican political weakness than speculating that this weakness is motivating some erstwhile conservatives to jump ship; his implicit point, I take it, is that this sort of speculation is useless and untoward. Now as it happens I think Douthat’s first point was overdrawn. If a conservative thinks that Christopher Buckley or Christopher Hitchens or whoever is making a lame argument for Obama–and I did not find either Buckley or Hitchens remotely persuasive–why not say so? I think Douthat’s second post is closer to the mark about all this:

Maybe Kathleen Parker’s delight at appearing on the Colbert Report is unseemly, and maybe Frum and Brooks and Will are getting carried away in their anti-populism. But the counternarrative being pushed by the critics of the critics – namely, that the GOP ticket is losing mainly because the media is biased, Obama’s playing dirty, McCain isn’t a true conservative and his campaign won’t go after the Ayers connection hard enough – is vastly more damaging to conservatism’s long-term prospects, I think, than anything that Brooks or Parker or Buckley or anyone else had said and done.

I’d strike that “maybe” in the first line, but I think Douthat is basically right.

And I disagree strongly with the great Mark Levin when he writes, “I sense the Wal-Mart (or is it Wal-Mart these days?) voters-thing isn’t exactly working out in its first electoral introduction. It could be that McCain is just not explaining it the right way. But isn’t that always the case? Christopher Hitchens says that about Marxism.” Levin is referring to the idea, advanced by Douthat among others, that Republicans should try harder to appeal to “Sam’s Club voters,” by which they mostly mean people without college degrees. In no important sense is McCain adopting any of the policies and strategies recommended in Douthat’s book or in related writings. His tax cuts are tilted more heavily toward the affluent and corporations than any Republican presidential candidate in history. On taxes, McCain has managed to let Obama slide into the space to his right as far as a lot of middle-class voters are concerned. If Douthat’s ideas, many of which I share, are unsound, this election certainly doesn’t prove it.

(And by the way, does Hitchens say that about Marxism?)

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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