The Salad Bowl
Jonah Goldberg makes an odd claim in his latest column:
The mainstream perception that conservatives are close-minded and dogmatic while liberals are open-minded and free-thinking has it almost exactly backward. Liberal dogma is settled: The government should do good, where it can, whenever it can. That is President Obama’s idea of pragmatism and bipartisanship: He’s open to all ideas, from either side of the aisle, about how best to expand government and get the state more involved in our lives. Meanwhile, conservatism’s dogma remains forever in flux. We constantly debate the trade-offs between freedom and virtue, the conflicts between liberty and order.
I’m sure anyone who reads this site or peruses our blogroll will attest to the diversity of conservative political thought, but I’m not sure we’re constantly debating anything anymore. More frequently, mainstream conservative outlets adopt a fairly uniform approach to some policy or another, the rest of us carp incessantly about what they’re missing, and life, as they say, goes on. I’ve made this point before, but you really don’t see a lot of dialogue between the various conservative tribes (though on the fringes, at least, we’re still pretty free-wheeling). So while the idea that conservatism is a narrow ideology is somewhat laughable, insisting that we’re constantly involved in vibrant intramural debate is equally so.
As a self-described dissident, I suppose I have something of an incentive to find a bigger megaphone. I also happen to think that having CATO’s Jerry Taylor sound off on something other than global warming at the Corner – perhaps on one of those issues where, ahem, there’s a bit of institutional divergence – would be a lot more interesting than the usual chorus of agreement. Right now, however, our tent resembles nothing so much as a series of self-contained ethnic enclaves, each with its own customs, chieftains, and favored viewpoints. We are a salad bowl, not a melting pot, and all the ideological diversity in the world won’t matter without genuine dialogue. After eight years of Bush, self-congratulatory pronouncements about the movement’s intellectual diversity seem a bit premature.