A Plea for Engagement
Via the American Conservative, I see that Sean Scallon’s challenging article on Jimmy Carter is getting some well-deserved attention. And for that, I’m glad – it’s an interesting take on a fascinating historical figure. But you know who I’d really like to see respond to Scallon’s piece? How about a National Review symposium, or perhaps a few reactions from Contentions and The Weekly Standard? I’d even take a good fisk from Hot Air or Powerline.
I’ve played around with this post for some time, and I never know quite how to phrase my central point. I can’t offer any empirical evidence, but after trolling the dank alleys of the blogosphere for a few years, I’m always surprised by the lack of interaction between dissident conservatives and their mainstream counterparts. Which is odd, because if anything, the last eight years have highlighted the importance of decidedly non-mainstream perspectives, from the libertarian critique of Bush’s excessive domestic ambitions to the traditionalist take on runaway consumer culture to the renewed relevance of conservative non-interventionism.
I admit I’m biased, having absorbed a lot of interesting, provocative stuff from all three intellectual traditions. But I don’t think you need to be particularly sympathetic to these arguments to grasp their significance. These are serious critiques aimed at a movement that is foundering, and deserve to at least be addressed in an equally serious manner. Agreement, of course, is not a precondition for dialogue, and I don’t expect mainstream conservatives to suddenly jettison their deeply-held convictions. But critically reexamining those beliefs in light of recent events is not the worst thing in the world, particularly for self-confessed magazines of ideas.
I’m also struck by how differently things are done on the Left, where The New Republic, The Washington Monthly and The American Prospect routinely exchange links, participate in symposiums, and generally interact with each other in a respectful, engaging manner. Some of this is undoubtedly the result of favorable circumstances – the trauma of the Bush years coupled with Obama’s ascendancy have done wonders for liberal cohesiveness – but I’m always left wondering why a similar atmosphere of respectful engagement can’t take root on the Right. If not now, when?
N.B. – I hope I don’t come off as a presumptuous scold, so to preempt the inevitable, let me acknowledge that as a young, marginally-employed 20-something, I know nothing about running a major magazine (or even a mid-sized blog – E.D. does all the legwork around here). So perhaps I’m just ignorant.