the Rage Machine, Cont'd

02.27.13

More Conservative Denialism

Ross Douthat blogs today about an exchange between William Voegeli and David Frum in The Claremont Review of Books, conservative quasi-sort-of-answer to The New York Review. William Voegeli is a leading conservative policy analyst, while David Frum is David Frum.

In the exchange, they disagree about the efficacy of the Ryan budget, Voegeli enthusiastic and Frum pretty negative. Douthat tries to put the best face on their disagreement by arguing that there exists a possible synthesis of their view on entitlement reform and the broader questions of how to distribute wealth in society.

But here's what is noteworthy to me. Look at what Frum wrote in part, and note that with his first sentence in this graf he is saying, but this is really my most important point:

But that is a lesser point. The more important point is: Times change. Conditions change. Problems change … Within the context of our present politics—a politics in which market-minded people have won, not lost, most of the major arguments since 1975—we need a party of the center-right that can advocate private initiative, reasonable taxation, and sustainable government in ways that make sense to contemporary voters: without despair, without rage, without resentment, and without reliance on pseudo-facts and pretend information. We need a center-right that does not blame the voters for its own mistakes of head and heart. We need a center-right that is culturally modern, environmentally responsible, and economically inclusive. There’s the “finale” we should be seeking after the broken crockery from the Tea Party tantrum is cleared away.

Notice how central the issues of termperament and fanaticism are to Frum's critique. He is saying, our party has to drop this rage, and this use of pseudo-facts. We cannot resent modernism and continue behaving in the culturally reactionary way we do now. Abandoning the politics of resentment is at the heart of his critique. It is a prerequisite for having conservative ideas being taken seriously by the American people.

Douthat ignores this pretty much completely. He refers very quickly to Tea Party zeal, but to the extent that he mentions, he basically defends it as necessary:

Seen in this light, the fact that the party is now generally united behind a premium-support reform to Medicare is not a small thing or a pointless detour, but a major breakthrough for sound right-of-center policymaking — and one that wouldn’t have been possible absent Tea Party zeal and Paul Ryan’s efforts to direct that zeal into constructive projects.

These guys just won't deal with the rage problem in the conservative base and the congressional GOP at all. I really don't understand it.