The Corner

Me & Rod

I’ll do my best to take a rest until things get going for Rod’s book, too (note to suits: A debate/fundraiser might be fun). That is unless Rod wants to get the party started. Regardless, here’s my last word lest Rod wants to keep it going.

Rod, you refer to a response you made to an email offering fine distinctions about what you meant when you wrote in the Times of London:

I heretically came to realise that Hillary Clinton was right: it really does take a village to raise a child. We conservatives, with our exaltation of consumer choice and the sovereign individual, were dismantling that village as effectively as the statist libertines we opposed.

But no such distinctions were made in your piece broadcast to the English-speaking world. If your agreement with Hillary wasn’t substantive, why was it “heretical”? Also, while you are right that the phrase “It Takes a Village…” doesn’t originate with Hillary Clinton (it’s an African proverb, after all), you wrote that you agree with her. And Ms. Clinton wrote a very subantive book on the subject which — stray redeeming sentences here and there not withstanding — should be considered wolfsbane to conservatives of any food preference or wardrobe. Oh, and in the modern context the phrase comes from the Children’s Defense Fund crowd not, say, Russel Kirk.

I don’t have much sympathy for the argument that using one liberal-left buzzword and catchphrase after another in a forum like the Times and then to smaller conservative audiences saying “Oh that’s not really what I meant. What I meant is my particular interpretation of that phrase.” You’re too good a writer for that.

Re: Geldof’s “admirably scruffy” appearance. Fair enough on the defense that you were joking. But let’s be clear that from your first shots at “blue blazer” Republicans, the whole gestalt of crunchy conservatism has been to make scruffiness into a uniform of authenticity. I find that to be an example of a certain rot in conservatism not the flower of conservatism’s more hopeful springtime.

As for Whole Foods, we can argue about that later. As I have many opinions on the subject.

And, lastly, I return to my basic complaint about the whole enterprise. Ideologically, where Crunchy Conservatism is “new” it still strikes me as consumer-oriented fad. Where it is not new it is not, well, new. I have no doubt that there is ample sociological insight and reporting in your book about what is a real trend and I think you should be applauded for identifying it. My problem is that you celebrate and embrace the trend rather than criticize or at least treat it with some skepticism. The proper temperamental response to all new things for a conservative should be, at least, mild skepticism. If you (or Mark Krikorian or Jeff Hart) think conservatives should embrace environmentalism or the agrarian poets or whole grain brussel sprouts, by all means make the arguments. But the need for invidious distinctions escapes me and grounding such arguments in “lifestyle” strikes me as ill-advised.

Anyway, I still have to read the book. But for readers interested in this stuff, here’s my original take.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, will be released on April 24.

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