Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Amidst "epistemic closure" nonsense, a good observation about the Right

I think all the blather about "epistemic closure" is much ado about very little, so I won't rehash all the arguments.  But I was drawn to something Ross Douthat wrote at the end of his NYT ruminations about the scuffle.  Douthat makes an observation about the institutional/structural Right that fits well with my recent complaint that nobody was in charge of opposing Obamacare, and that the right suffered for failing to conduct and act upon some very simple analytical techniques.

It’s precisely because American conservatism represents a motley assortment of political tendencies united primarily by their opposition to liberalism that conservatives are often too quick to put their (legitimate, important and worth-debating) differences aside in the quest to slay the liberal dragon. After all, slaying liberalism is why they got together in the first place! And it’s precisely this motley, inconsistent quality, too, that encourages activists and pundits alike to stick to their single issue or issues and defer to the movement consensus on everything else. So pro-lifers handle abortion, Grover Norquist handles taxes, the neoconservatives handle foreign policy and the Competitive Enterprise Institute handles environmental regulations and nobody stops to consider if the whole constellation of policy ideas still makes sense, or matches up the electorate’s concerns, or suits the challenges of the moment. This unity-in-opposition was a great strength for the right for a long, long time, but it’s made conservatism much more brittle and less adaptable than it needs to be right now.

Nobody really has it as their raison d'être to attempt to put the pieces together in a popularly palatable manner, and the party mechanisms seem ill-suited to the task.

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