At some point, the spirit will be exorcised.
It’s not clear when this spirit possessed the body. It’s not clear when this perverse entity took control and caused so much havoc, unleashed so much hell, directed so much destruction.
However, at some point, this spirit will be forced out.
This spirit—the spirit of ignorance—has taken over too many host bodies on the right. It’s a dark, devastating spirit, a painful poltergeist that threatens to destroy the conservative movement as we know it.
The spirit of ignorance causes its hosts to believe that knowledge is not necessary…education is not necessary…enlightenment is not necessary…nothing is necessary except for having the right values.
You can be as ignorant as you want to be, according to the dictates of this spirit. It doesn’t matter, so long as you have the right views and values.
This spirit is antithetical to conservatism’s past—for historically, it was conservatives who brought the knowledge, brought the ideas, brought the sense, brought the reason.
Bill Buckley. Milton Friedman. Thomas Sowell. Irving Kristol. They were the intellectual all-stars, the Dream Team of the right.
Who are their heirs? Who did they pass the torch to? Did the torch just fall to the ground, incinerating everything in its path?
There’s too much ignorance on the right these days—not enough intellectual depth, not enough erudition, not enough study. We have become geniuses at catchphrases and putdowns, but moronic when it comes to lifting this country up.
It’s not enough in this day and age to have the right principles. One must have the intellectual and rhetorical skills to communicate those principles to those willing to listen. Are conservatives now so fond of talking to themselves that they’ve lost the ability to talk to anyone else? Have we lost this art?
Can conservatives take a collective vow to spend the 2010s actually recruiting new people to the conservative movement, instead of building rhetorical monuments to the last Titan of the Right who tried to reach beyond his base? Consider the realm of faith—who’s a better Christian, someone who talks about Jesus Christ all the time, or someone who actually tries to help others as Jesus helped? The answer is obvious, no?
I would rather conservatives never mention Ronald Reagan’s name again, while continuing his work of reaching others with a conservative message, than constantly mention Reagan’s accomplishments while never bothering to bring people around to the worldview he advocated. Too many folks on the right have become the real-life versions of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s proverbial showbiz kids, spending their time making movies of themselves while not giving a damn about anybody else. It’s time for that to stop. Now.
The Tea Party movement is all nice and good, but it’s nowhere near enough. Protest, in and of itself, is never enough. Remember Frederick Douglass’ words: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” What have the Tea Partiers truly demanded? And what will they do if they fail to get it?
Sometimes it seems that conservatives don’t realize just how much work they need to do to truly make this a center-right nation. The recent Gallup polls indicate that forty percent of the country self-identifies as conservative. That’s a pathetically low number. Why doesn’t sixty-five to seventy percent of the country self-identify as conservative? (And please don’t blame the mainstream media. Our message should be loud enough, strong enough, logical enough to be heard above the din of the mainstream media. If we haven’t made our message this loud and this clear, it’s our fault, not the Fourth Estate’s.)
There needs to be a real revolution within the right—a revolution that casts out the demon of ignorance, and elevates intelligent traditionalism—the sort that Buckley, Friedman, Sowell and Kristol, among others, represented—to its rightful place in the movement. There needs to be a real revolution that simplifies and clarifies conservative principles so that those principles can be communicated to those who aren’t already in the conservative camp. There needs to be a real revolution that brings about a vibrant, vigorous conservatism, not the old, musty, dusty stuff that passes for conservatism today.
If that real revolution doesn’t come, then we deserve to be trashed as teabaggers—and we’ll find ourselves steeped in spitefulness.