Written Friday night, soon after scanning the latest polls and reading that Chris Buckley is casting a vote for Obama:
Rich ~ I ask your indulgence with this entire email. I know we don’t know one another and that a handful of emails from me to you over the years, and you occasionally responding “thanks,” don’t really justify what is to follow.
But, you are the editor of National Review, and tonight I am a distraught conservative, so here it is:
I got tears in my eyes reading Chris Buckley’s whole post.
Chris seems cheerful enough about all this, so it’s not for him I cry. His dear father is no doubt quite content (and causing some kind of harmless mischief) in the great Hereafter, so no need for tears there.
I feel a sense of grief and loss; what is it…?
Chris Buckley is wrong; of that I am sure; but still it feels sad.
It seems to me that the splintering of the conservative movement, and its mixed political fortunes, and a sort of crisis of identity, have led us here. Fractured, floundering, weak, perhaps conservatism no longer knows what It is and so cannot inspire and compel as it once did. (I am so tired of talk of the Big Tent…)
It seems to me attempts at fusionism have (so far) failed: if McCain is the prototype and/or product, surely we must admit that? Chris Buckley admits it, with gusto: he now throws his hat in the ring for the uber-liberal senator from Illinois, saying Obama is preferable to the inauthentic and often unconservative McCain.
Is Obama to be elected and are we conservatives to be banished to the fringe, then, as we once were? For decades the establishment ignored us. Only because of Bill Buckley and then with Reagan did history really take note.
But what principle, what policy, what politician, what philosopher will unite us now?
From 1944 to 1991 we were held together by the glue of anticommunism. Barry Goldwater tried to carry the torch onward; Frank Meyer’s fusionism attempted the same and seems to live on in the postmodern pursuit of authenticity through freedom and virtue.
But. An inclusive doctrine – which conservatism has become – though seemingly practical, can lend itself to problems. Indeed, can anyone deny that we have landed ourselves in quite a spot?
When someone like Chris Buckely throws all hierarchies out the proverbial window and says he is voting for Obama, what then?
Has the postwar conservative intellectual movement lost its way; will it now become unrecognizable?
What has become of American conservatism?