“Getting serious” in the age of polemics: Columnist argues for conservatives to return to their rich intellectual tradition

There are enormous, almost insoluble problems with today’s political babbling. I won’t call it “discourse,” because it’s hard to talk over the screams of “RACISM” and “SOCIALISM” coming from talking heads on both sides of the political spectrum.

Neither the right nor the left holds a respectable worldview. The right harbors some basically good instincts: man is flawed; there are rational limits to politics; there is a moral order that transcends man’s whims and errors.

Yet it nourishes itself on the paltry political ramblings of Republican polemicists who, in turn, merely regurgitate the news as reported by the major newspapers, all of which have strong statist leanings.

After President Obama won the election, they paused briefly for some deep yet inconclusive self-examination but quickly abandoned this attitude in their rush to condemn the new President for continuing the very same policies they lauded under President George W. Bush’s reign.

They are almost all bluster.

An opposition as despicable as the left should bring out the most robust, most intellectually intimidating arguments of the right.

While liberals are sharpening once-normal words into throwing knives to flick at conservatives and anarcho-capitalists at the slightest provocation, the right should be calmly reaching into the depths of its greatest thinkers’ works to draw out the now-obscure truths and expose the forgotten fallacies of the old Progressive and socialist movements.

One of the left’s justices said it best: sunlight is the best disinfectant. Scrubbing away liberals’ illusion of credibility is perfectly possible if the right rejects their absurd presuppositions.

Unfortunately, conservatives have come to share many of the left’s assumptions, especially the belief that government is capable of exemplifying and enforcing morality.

Most Republican politicians still believe some compromise with the left is possible, that liberals are only doing what they think is best, and that they, like all people, are basically good, just genuinely mistaken.

This has never been true. What kind of opponent precariously balances his case on emotional drivel and then reviles anyone who has the audacity to present a logical counter-point?

The right doesn’t understand. The left has always sought power. It does not search for the truth, for it sees itself as its own Alpha and Omega, its own first and last.

How convenient it must be for those who believe their new-age fashions to be eternal, immutable truths.

Not all liberals so foolishly ignore reality. Leftist constitutional scholar Raoul Berger once remarked that his predilections were often at war with his conclusions.

He eviscerated President Richard Nixon’s rationale for his executive power grabs in two separate books, and for a while, he enjoyed praise from academia and the intelligentsia.

The next book he wrote, however, dismantled the rotten legal superstructure built atop the spurious Fourteenth Amendment. He was immediately shunned.

But he didn’t stop. He kept writing, despite ire he drew from like-minded scholars. The right needs to model this kind of intellectual honesty.

Unfortunately, conservatives have done themselves an immense disservice by excluding their best thinkers and their allies from daily debate.

How often do Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh cite the brilliant polymath Murray Rothbard? For years his invaluable works were ignored.

Or how often, for that matter, do they cite the men who preceded them, some of the first prominent intellectuals to refute the left (William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review, and Albert Jay Nock, author of numerous books including Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, to name a couple)?

Calling everyone who doesn’t toe the Republican party line a kook cuts conservatives off from a boundless well of arguments.

The right also needs to stop posturing as anti-spending while it embraces foreign, undeclared wars, the central banking system, Social Security and Medicare, and the other monstrosities foisted onto the American people.

It should rail against the establishment only after it has shaken off its doublethink, its mannerisms and its twitches.

Certain watchwords liberals use to identify their enemies should have no effect on the right, nor should it use those words to condemn any liberals.

The right needn’t play petty games with the liberals.

Getting serious will take a little effort, but it’ll be worth it.