Wednesday, June 30, 2010

professional conservatism

Don't look now, but there's a really interested bruhaha going on right now in the conservative community about ideological orthodoxy. Some of you may remember a post I linked from David Frum called "Waterloo" about the GOP's historic defeat when the healthcare bill passed. Frum is a big name conservative who served in the Dubya White House but who, on occasion, has been able to have honest conversations about the state of the Republican party.

As you can guess, he was promptly ostracized after his post. Among other things, his request to have his blog added to the conservative blogads network was denied. According to the manager of that network, John Hawkins, his was only one of two blogs that have been denied, the other being the dreadful Little Green Footballs which actually shifted from a Bush-loving conservative blog to a Rachel Maddow-loving liberal one.

Frum's response is very interesting. Here's one bit that resonated with me:
Hawkins seems to be suggesting that we go on TV not as individuals, to express our own ideas as best we can, to offer the most useful information we can discover. No – people should appear as representatives of pre-existing tribes: conservatives, liberals, blacks, whatever, to engage in a ritual of synchronized repetition of pre-existing phrases. You are a conservative? You must say THIS – and never that. You must approve THIS – and never admit to doubts about that.

Hawkins asks: “What’s the point of putting Frum on TV?” Take him seriously though and you have to wonder: What’s the point of putting ANYONE on TV when the job could be so easily automated?

This is similar to the point I've been trying to make for a long time when I talk about "professional conservatives." Hawkins ascribes to the same view of punditry as that of many TV news shows: when you bring on a guy that's a conservative (which you're always supposed to do, of course), he isn't supposed to be an expert with an expert's individual opinion. Rather, he's merely the representative of the conservative movement that they're for some reason entitled to in every single news segment, and thus his job is to present the conservative line. His role is to counter the expert and represent the Right.

Frum, however, has the temerity to suggest that the conservative should also be an expert bringing his expert opinion, rather than a medium for GOP talking points.

No comments: