Politics, Status quaestionis

GOLDBERG IN THE ON DECK CIRCLE

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By David Beilstein

JONAH GOLDBERG of National Review chimed in on the Nov. 6 presidential elections. I agree with Mr Goldberg’s veracity, and much that stimulates my thinking on the future of a classical liberal approach to national politics.

Mr Goldberg writes,

I’ll be blunt: I do not think Mitt Romney ran a good campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I think he worked his heart out as did many who worked for him. I think he made himself into the best candidate he could (which is different from saying he was a great candidate). But I also think that Romney’s theory of the contest was wrong. As I wrote at the time, the Republican convention was a mess. I think Romney strategist Stu Stevens’ contempt for ideas — never mind conservative ideas — was absurd.

I think the failure of the Romney campaign to offer a compelling explanation of any kind (at least until the second debate) for how it wasn’t a third Bush term was fatal (as I discussed here and elsewhere). Politics is about persuasion. And persuasion requires making serious arguments. Stevens, by all accounts, has contempt for serious arguments.

I wrote about Stu Stevens (all about me) and his bloodless non-ideological approach during the Romney-Ryan campaign. Such an approach has an etiolating affect upon the way persuasion works on voters, and how classical liberalism is understood cogently. And it must be understood from the ground up because classical liberalism is all about big ideas. Those ideas, then, cannot be properly elucidated – in comparison with progressivism – without its full-orbed cohesion.

In comparison to leftist ideologies, Goldberg makes a striking point when discussing the [populist] panegyrics of the GOP’s demographical problems,

In fact, I have a different view from some about the coming wave of recriminations: I welcome it. I don’t know that things need to be vicious or personal, but they do need to be honest. And honesty requires we say things that may feel personal to our friends. This is one of the great and abiding strengths of the conservative movement and the thing I love about it most. Contrary to the conventional wisdom among liberals, conservatives are actually far more willing to examine their dogma and their first principles than liberals or “centrists” are. This has been the source of conservatism’s lasting strength.

War against despair, concludes Mr Goldberg. Lastly, there is not much more a classical liberal writer can do but end with something from Edmund Burke.

Jonah Goldberg does,

My only real counsel for the moment is against despair (see: “How to take a beating”). I hear lots of people saying they’re done with politics. I understand the impulse. But that way lies ruin. Despair is the gateway drug to cynicism and Nockian indifference. Our problems are too great and our cause too just for that. There is time to take a timeout and have a drink (or 50). But it’s worth remembering that the cause is lost only if you leave it and choose to never find it again. “Never despair,” Edmund Burke allegedly said, “but if you do, work in despair.” I don’t know that Burke actually said that, but whoever did was right. 

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