Rod Dreher responded the other day to my post on connecting dissidents to the base. He is, for the most part, about where I was two weeks ago, so I’m sympathetic to his position. I don’t have time to fully respond now, but I think a big part of my disagreement with Rod boils down to this point of his:
“If the dissidents didn’t criticize what they see as harmful, self-destructive aspects of contemporary conservatism, outsiders would consider them patsys afraid to tell the truth to their own side.”
I’m not at all certain this is true. For the most part, the only people who engage in this kind of guilt-by-association are the most extreme elements of the left and right, who aren’t going to be convinced in any event. Most people do not, for instance, insist that Paul Krugman distance himself from Code Pink or ANSWER, and those that do aren’t about to take Paul Krugman seriously even if he does. More importantly, the goal of these reform conservatives has to be to, well, reform conservatism, so what outsiders think of their efforts should not play much of a role in their thought.
It may well be that the base is still totally unwilling to hear someone explain how, for instance, fiscal conservatism and massive defense spending are very much mutually exclusive goals. But a reform-minded conservative is more likely to convince the conservative base of that than they are to convince liberals and Democrats to undermine their own coalition for the sake of fiscal conservatism.