Where are the Conservative Intellectuals? II

I want Deliberately Considered to be a place where people on the left, right and center debate and take into account the position of their opposition, learning from each other, unfettered by and challenging ideological dogmas. Because of this, I am continuing to look for intelligent conservatives and radicals who challenge me in my political convictions. I know that radicals will illuminate what is wrong with the way things are, force us to pay attention to overlooked problems and explain why something completely different and new must be enacted. I also think that conservatives will help us understand what is in the present or the recent past that should not be lost, needs to be conserved and protected, force us to see the possible unintended negative consequences of good intentions and to appreciate the wisdom of past experience. Radicals warn of the dangers of the present, conservatives of the dangers of the alternatives. The debate between left and right is important. Instead, we exist in ideological gated communities to paraphrase Gary Alan Fine.

A reminder: I once had a teacher, Edward Shils, who demonstrated to me that I had to take the conservative position seriously, as I reported in an earlier post. He assigned Burke, Eliot and Oakeshott in his course on the sociology of tradition, from which I learned a lot, helping me make sense of the development of an independent cultural movement in communist Poland. I am searching for such teachers, or, at least, good students of these teachers, in contemporary political debate. But, I am having problems.

Identifying contributors to my left, whom I respect, but with whom I have significant disagreements on some fundamentals, I find to be a pretty easy project. For example, as indicated in his posts and my responses to them, Vince Carducci.

My search for conservative intellectuals, on the other hand, has been difficult. Given the ridiculous state of conservative politics, as revealed most recently at the C-PAC meeting this weekend in Washington D.C., this may not be surprising. But I persist, nonetheless. Today I will give a short progress report, in my next post, some second thoughts about the viability of my project, the search itself, through a review of Corey Robin’s book The Reactionary Mind.

When I surf the web, I can easily find objectionable and often appalling conservatives. The idiocies of the hyper-nationalists and the market fundamentalists are readily available. But even when I am guided to potential sources by reasonable people who understand, more or less, why I am doing this, I have been frustrated. Gary Alan Fine and a childhood friend of his made some suggestions.

Take a look at the National Review Online, the friend suggested. I had been there, of course, but this successor of William F. Buckley’s major journal of the conservative revival didn’t seem very promising. But I went back and looked around again. There may be material to be found, but it is opaque to me. Perhaps, I don’t get the language. On my visit yesterday, all I found were polemics against Obama and the Democrats, arguments for or against one Republican candidate or another for President, and a nostalgic piece about Ronald Reagan. I suppose that there might be something to appreciate here, but it is almost completely pitched to be read by the already convinced, which counted me out.

Fine’s friend also suggested The American Thinker. Yesterday, it opened with a piece comparing Obama to the worst despots of the recent past.

How many times will the American people have to be hit over the head before they understand that Barack Obama is the most corrupt, dictatorial, and ideologically driven president in American history?

I read the article that followed this opening to be an invitation for me to read no further. But I pushed on, trying to understand how the other half thinks. The repeated substitution of assertion for argument turned me off. And the comments were beyond belief.

Gary also recommended particularly two bloggers, “Robin of Berkeley” and Ann Althouse.

Robin is a muscular writer. She presents herself as a sane conservative in a sea of liberal madness. She confesses that there was a time, not too long ago, that she also lived in liberal ignorance:

Before Obama came on the scene, I could have been interviewed, mumbling and bumbling, just like those other frothing-at-the-mouth leftists. [in the Occupy movement, which she sees as being delusional)…

To me, capitalism was bad, communism good (which I discovered after watching the handsome Warren Beatty in the sweeping thriller, Reds).  I envied Cuba, home of the finest health care system in the world (thank you, Michael Moore).  And I, like our current occupiers, ranted and raved about the racist, patriarchal, capitalist system with its millionaire fat cats (which I learned from reading books by those millionaire fat cats, Noam Chomsky, Al Franken, Gloria Steinem and the late Howard Zinn).

Preaching to the converted, she reflects on President Obama and the meaning of life:

Just to clarify things: it’s Obama who’s putting a sledgehammer to the economy; it’s Obama who is aiding and abetting the uprisings in the Middle East; it’s Obama who is sending out the signal that it’s open season on Whitey. Not George and not Dick Cheney, but Obama, Obama, Obama.

It turns out that she is obsessed with Obama, apparently thinks he is the root of just about all evil, makes amazing attacks on his integrity, and sees the President as no better than a mugger:

Frankly, every time I see Obama, I catch a glimpse of the man who mugged me.

This is what Fine calls “pungent politics.” But I confess, it’s too pungent for my taste. I don’t know how to digest it. It makes next to no sense to me. And more to the point, there is nothing in Robin’s writing that suggests she could take part in a discussion with someone who thinks differently than she does. She was once a true-believing leftist, now she is a true-believing rightist. From my point of view, this is not a serious transformation and provides no promise for Deliberately Considered.

Ann Althouse is more interesting. She is fast, funny, posting multiple times a day. Quickly, rather than, deliberately considered, is her style. She posts odd tidbits: yesterday (February 13, 2012) about the mugging of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, along with a note on the Obama budget juxtaposed with a Monty Python clip. She is a law professor who can write critically of the left and the right when it comes to the constitution, on Rush Limbaugh’s uninformed reading of the first amendment, along with critical reflections on the reading of the legality of same sex marriage and changing social values. She is hard to pin down, which I like. I will have to read more. I wonder, though, whether she really is a conservative.

I was not satisfied by my search yesterday, but just as I was about to give up, this morning I came across a recent discussion that gives me hope, a deliberate intellectual exchange between a liberal, Conor P. Williams, and a conservative, Rod Dreher. Williams, at Thought News (inspired by a failed enterprise, a philosophical daily of John Dewey from 1892) noted the confusion on the left about the meaning and commitments of the left, gave his own position, and asked for others to add their perspectives. Rod Dreher noted Williams’s post at The American Conservative and asked for a parallel discussion on the right about the right. Both posts were serious and illuminating. The long discussion of Dreher’s was especially robust, providing a rich array, of varying quality, of positions and sensibilities. The next step is to apply these to an understanding of pressing problems of the day in a way that challenges those on the left, right, and center, beyond ideological cliché.

I am posting this now, hoping the wonders of the web will yield results.

  • Wssmith8

    The simple reason that you are never going to find a serious debate with the opposition is that the opposition has long since been purged from the university/media/WashingtonDC milieu where you are looking. In fact, opposition is so thoroughly been purged, that you are not going to find any serious person to discuss it with. The stuff that comes out of, say, the Enterprise Institute is generally annoying irrelevancies or provocations that have no meaning. I’d start by resurrecting Public Opinion by Walter Lippman and move back to Thomas Carlyle, Burke and so forth.
    I’d love to see you debate the character that runs unqualified reservations, ie, although of course you would crush him like a bug.

  • Michael Corey

    Hillsdale College has a reputation as being a leading center for conservative scholarship. This is how the graduate program is self-described, “The faculty of the graduate program have focused areas of research that will be of benefit to students, but the program’s curriculum is not built with these principally in mind. It is built, instead, around a study of first principles that transcends specialization. As such, all faculty members have broad interests in political philosophy and American politics.” I don’t know anything about the program or the faculty members, but someone there might be who you are looking for. This is the link to the graduate faculty page. There is also a page on the web site for scholars that teach in their undergraduate program.

  • Lisa

    You are not going to be able to speak to them in any way, shape or form because they are not really thinking. Just think about what Newt said—- he can fight crime from the moon. I think that no one yet knows how to process—- not the intellectuals, comedians, etc.— how dangerously arrogant and stupid the other side is— there is no appeal to facts or even anything resembling reality. They need to implode in some way or to hit bottom as a party. And we have to hope that the public sees things more clearly than they do. Who gets most of the blame— the shitty media. Your average American has no real access to anything resembling an attempt to tell an unbiased truth.

    And they are not really conservative in any meaningful sense of the word. They are religious zealots or, well, Newt or Romney.

  • Regina Tuma

    Okay, I will throw this out there. What about Andrew Sullivan? He supports Obama and he too is looking for “sane ” republicans. Along a similar vein, I have heard David Frum say interesting things. They are not perfect but they might point to an interesting start. I should say that they are somewhat marginalized figures in their party. At the same time, the republican ideological bubble may be imploding. The more mainstream republicans (still too radical for my own tastes) like Christie clearly want moderate Romney. But Romney’s message must echo through the Tea Party right and he seems uncomfortable and disingenuous. And yet, according to a New York Times poll today, the republican electorate is not happy with their choices for president. The republican electorate seems to be responding to “reality”, not ideology. And therein may lie the hope.

  • Lisa

    I mentioned both of them in earlier posts. I really like Andrew Sullivan. They are out there but they are not part of the right that seems to have taken over.

  • Felipe Pait

    I fear that your search for right wing intelligence in the United States will not be very fruitful in the near future. If you take conservative to mean the defense of traditional American values such as the liberty, common sense, pragmatism, and compassion, your search will take you deep into the Democratic party.

    On the other hand you could search for relatively conservative thinkers elsewhere, for example in Latin America, where, just to give an example of where my argument is coming from, half of the countries that voted to support Assad at the UN yesterday are located. Some sectors of the Latin American left are every bit as lunatic as the US right wing. The comparatively “conservative” side can serve as a balance to left wing commentators. Although if they were to vote in the US they would choose……..

  • Scott

    I’m glad you have not abandoned your search for conservative intellectuals, yet, as I have said before, the conservative braintrust seems to have put their brainpower into electioneering, which in turn churns out “talking points” which act as a substitute for thought. This helps create, and reinforces, a polarized political climate in which intellectual enterprise, and its demands of some degree of logical argument, leaves one vulnerable to the politics of affect, which is in fact what wins elections.

    I think “Wssmith8” has a point though. When universities become more welcoming to conservative discourses, even intelligent conservative discourses, you might find the re-appearance of conservative intellectuals which have long since gone into hiding. I doubt this will happen though until the latter embrace the need for new ideas. And when that happens, could they still be considered conservative?

  • Jeffrey Goldfarb

    Interesting. Perhaps I should look for conservatives from Latin America. Any ideas?

  • Felipe Pait

    I am not the best person to answer, but will think about it.

  • Mario

    Jeffrey, I have been intrigued by your various posts regarding your ongoing search for conservative intellectuals — and disappointed by (a) the dearth of responses from conservative readers and (b) the predictable suggestions provided by others. With your permission, please let me provide a laundry list of ideas and suggestions since, like you, I agree that fostering debate between left and right is a good thing.

    One of the biggest problems is the “gated community” mentality of which you spoke — and this happens, of course, on all sides of the political spectrum. It certainly requires an effort to pick up and read through publications that exhibit animosity toward one’s own beliefs and ideas, but doing so is terribly important: It keeps us on our toes, it exposes us to alternative ways of seeing and thinking about the world, and it challenges our beliefs (which is necessary because, as we all know, nobody is completely correct about anything all the time). That is why I insist on checking, for example, both National Review AND The New Republic; the The Spectator AND Prospect (both from the UK); The American Conservative AND The Nation.

    But allow me to suggest a few other publications ‘on the Right’ that I guarantee you will find interesting: The New Criterion, an excellent monthly edited by Roger Kimball; First Things, a monthly (formerly edited by the late Richard John Neuhaus) that deals with issues far beyond the strictly religious; the on-line University Bookman; the Humanitas journal by the National Humanities Institute; Modern Age and The Intercollegiate Review, both published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute; Chronicles published by the Rockford Institute (it’s been called neo-nativist but it has very intelligent writers); the Claremont Review of Books; and, in Europe, there is the UK’s Salisbury Review (a quarterly), as well as several on-line publications in Italy and Spain — and a small newsletter that I recently took over (and which shall remain nameless until I can ‘scale it up’ a bit).

    But in the USA, I believe that many conservatives have gone into hiding. Many have shunned Washington for academic posts at obscure schools and colleges; others have taken up commercial activities; others have simply left and gone abroad.

    For example, one of your readers mentioned Hillsdale College; but there are several other schools which have curricula steeped in the ‘Western Canon’ and which often have very well-trained if obscure scholars. I think of places like Thomas Aquinas College in California, the University of Dallas, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Christendom College in Virginia, Ave Maria University in Florida and Thomas More College in NH. (BTW, I don’t think it is a coincidence that these are all Roman Catholic schools.) Each of these is — or has been — associated with some of the most important figures of the early American conservative movement (the U of Dallas, for example, had M.E. Bradford and Willmoore Kendall — William F. Buckley’s poli-sci professor at Yale — at the helm in the very beginning) or have links to great conservative thinkers from Europe (for example, Franciscan University currently has on its faculty former students of the German philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, the Austrian philosopher Josef Seifert and the Italian philosopher — now politician — Rocco Buttiglione; and Ave Maria has the erudite Austrian scholar Michael Waldstein, for example). Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin were not the only conservative thinkers to have taught in the US.

    I’d like to also point out that I know about a dozen young American scholars — conservative intellectual refugees, if you will — who have simply chosen to pursue graduate studies in Europe. Some have chosen mentors such as conservative British philosopher Roger Scruton at Oxford and Saint Andrews (he teaches at both), Dutch ethicist and legal philosopher Andreas Kinneging at Leiden, or the French scholars Chantal Delsol and Remi Brague.

    I’ve thrown a lot of names at you. It occurs to me, however, that an important caveat needs to be made: These people and these institutions may not necessarily conform to the profile of a ‘conservative’ that some of your readers — or even Corey Robin — may have. Among the Americans I have in mind, many do not share the ‘market fundamentalism’ of American conservatives associated with the Cato Institute, the Center for International Private Enterprise or the Heritage Foundation, for example; others shun the ‘hyper-nationalism’ that too often creeps into the pages of National Review. More interestingly, especially among the European conservatives, is a phenomenon I had never encountered before, which is a sympathy and a defense of the early student protests of the 1960s (!). People like Chantal Delsol or the late Italian thinker Augusto del Noce (who taught Buttiglione) have written approvingly of the original ideas that inspired the early student mobilizations of the 1960s, seeing in them — initially, at least — a rejection of the materialism, the careerism and the standardization of the time. Of course, at the same time, Delsol and del Noce recognized that the student movements eventually got side-tracked, distracted by street clashes, intoxicated by the destructive power of the mob; but this doesn’t discredit the original vision which the students sought, which was an attempt to move away from power, say, and return to the things that matter.

    There is much more that I would like to share and discuss with you — about both conservatism in the USA and in Europe. Then there is Latin America, too. There is also an exciting tradition of conservative thinkers there — men of letters and of broad (and oftentimes European) learning. Perhaps I can tell you more another time, but Latin American conservatism is not solely about military dictatorships and repression. That would be a crude caricature.

    In closing this extended post, I want to say that I do not agree at all with the comments made by some of your readers which seem to suggest that there is no intelligent discourse on the American right, or that somehow American conservatism is a monolithic set of ideas not worthy of being analyzed, discussed or understood more thoroughly. There ARE oftentimes surprising ideas and policy proposals from Americans on the Right (and, yes, I am using ‘conservatism’ and the ‘Right’ interchangeably, for the moment); but, unfortunately, I think many of these ideas don’t quite make it past Republican ‘gate-keepers’ in Washington. That is why I was delighted to see a post yesterday by Paul Gottfried, one of the few truly erudite conservative intellectuals still left in America; sadly, he has too often been ignored and frequently has been attacked by members of the “Republican establishment” for not toeing the party line. Exhibiting a similar independence of thought, I recommend the prolific Bill Kauffman who has made a career out of writing about “reactionary radicals”, “front-porch anarchists”, “radical localists” and “back-country rebels”. Kauffman is complemented nicely by Rod Dreher (who has been mentioned here), who in 2006 coined the term “crunchy cons” — or “Birkenstocked Burkeans” — to describe an alternative conservatism that has more in common with the late Tory Bohemian, Russell Kirk, than with any of the movers and shakers at the recent C-PAC (not surprisingly, Dreher was promptly ridiculed by the gate-keepers at National Review).

    I obviously haven’t addressed any of the deeper, conceptual issues that you and other readers have raised — about what unites or divides American conservatives from liberals and progressives. There is clearly so much more to be said. But I felt a need to robustly point out that American conservatism is not as feeble, moribund or uninspired as some might think; it just seems to lack a central pole of gravity, a leader to unite all its disparate elements (like Buckley or Reagan). With the exception of larger problems that require a national or state-level response (such as communism in the 20th century or international terrorism today), I think you will find that many American conservatives are fundamentally (a) concerned about being able to live in traditional ways — in the ways or manners that they have inherited from their parents and grandparents, and respectful of established societal codes of conduct shared with their neighbors and communities — and, perhaps more importantly, (b) suspicious of any attempt to improve or re-engineer society based on an ill-defined idea of progress or some ideological model of a future utopia. History has shown us repeatedly that such projects usually require the violation of a certain group’s rights — and often lead to bloodshed.

  • Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    Mario, Thanks for an interesting deliberate response, providing an overview of the conservative landscape. It compliments Gottfried’s post. I am especially interested in the last paragraph of your reply, pointing to key conservative commitments. How could they be applied to considering deliberately the events of the day in a way that might convince people who are not conservative?

  • IrisDr

    I find your final paragraph intriguing. I consider myself a progressive and have been one of the ones who have been completely baffled by what I have understood to be conservative thinking. However, I realize that I lead a quite conservative lifestyle, and I believe that to be a good thing. Also, according to your description, I can see that President Obama is a conservative in many ways. The desire to preserve tradition can have its benefits, and Obama would like to go back to a time in this country when it was much easier for people to rise in status, either through an individual’s lifetime or families over generations. There is much evidence now that this ideal, which was the cornerstone of American life, has been lost. The gap between rich and the rest of us has been widening, and the ability to improve one’s lot in life has been degenerating. Maybe it’s the fault not of conservatives or the right, but the neo-conservatives, as Paul Gottfried derides them, but there is a problem here. Perhaps Occupy Wall Streeters are more to the right than they think they are.

  • Larry Damms

    There are certain aspects of a hypothetical traditional conservatism that I WANT to appeal to me, but these qualities are strikingly absent in the present conservative scene. (Maybe they were never there to begin with.) Any position that cannot recognize that Obama is a run-of-the-mill neo-liberal technocrat and liberal internationalist imperialist (whatever his unconventional biography) is a non-starter with me. That’s why I recommended the “paleocon” Gottfried — my ideological commitments may be about 95% different than his, but he’s no dummy and suffers no such delusions as those I identified above.

  • Larry Damms

    I wrote what I wrote before I read what Mario wrote. Even though I am a leftist with a mishmash of influences (from ecological Marxism to revolutionary Maoism to radical democratic-republicanism), I am open to being influenced by intelligent strands of traditional conservatism and I appreciate Mario’s thoughtful comments and advice.

  • Felipe Pait

    I think there are some reasonable conservatives hanging out in Walter Russell Mead’s Blog at

    But even there lies a problem: a tendency to see things from a political point of view. To give an example, there is a recent post there on high speed rail and car transportation. The political argument is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how well one side presents it or the other, it doesn’t matter who the liberals or the conservatives support. It seems the blog is trying to derive engineering answers from political arguments, and it doesn’t work.

    I don’t know where Mead stands in the political spectrum but it seems that the influence of the right wing turning everything into ideology, including science, reaches everywhere.

  • Felipe Pait

    Let me elaborate on the point. I am an engineer, so I don’t really understand what a public intellectual is supposed to do. My model of a blogger is Paul Krugman: he writes mostly about something he is deeply knowledgeable about. He uses his intellectual capital to leverage his authority with posts about things he cares passionately. Occasionally he writes something just for fun, but mostly stays away from subjects on which he knows as much as you and me. One may recall that before the age of blogs Einstein wrote mostly about physics, often about peace and human rights, not so much about anything else.

    The expression “public intellectual” unfortunately makes me think more of someone like Andrew Sullivan who writes at the blog that bought Newsweek: someone who doesn’t really know anything but writes about everything. They have a public, but it’s not me. I suppose it is easier to avoid this trap if you are an economist during our Lesser Depression, or a physicist during the Cold War.

    So going back to Brazil there are two younger journalists who I think highly of: @gugachacra, the NY correspondent for Estado De S Paulo, and @diegoescosteguy, an editor at Época, who coincidentally is also in NY, spending some time at Columbia. Both are a counterpart to the left of the Brazilian ideological spectrum in the press. (That I have more respect for the younger than for the older generation in Brazil perhaps says more about me than about Brazil, or perhaps not.) @gugachacra shows more understanding for the better Republican politicians than I do. @diegoescosteguy often gets dragged in the middle of battles started by the self-entitled independent left-wing press in Brazil. As for public intellectuals, as opposed to journalists, again I don’t know.

  • Anonymous

    If you want to intelligent and stimulating right-wing intellectuals, you’ll probably have to look beyond America. I suggest Alain de Benoist, who is one of the more brilliant examples from the last few decades. Be warned that his views are very different from American “conservatives” — he’s highly critical of the free market, for example.

    You can contact him here:
    The site is in French, but he’s fluent in English as well.

  • Anonymous

    You can find a sample of Benoist’s work in this critique of F.A. Hayek, which appeared in the journal Telos:

  • Malcolm Fraser

    During my own on-line search for “Conservative Intellectuals” I came across this article and found all my previously formed opinion of “liberal pundits” to be confirmed. Note that I do not award the title of “Liberal Intellectual” to the author since there are no examples of intellectual discourse presented. All I perceive is long pedantic rant by a self-appointed “intellectual” attempting to convince us that intelligence and conservatism are mutually exclusive. Perhaps Mr. Goldfarb should remove himself from his ivory tower and visit a few farmers in the American heartland (I recommend Oklahoma) where he will find a wealth of conservative thinkers who would never dream of referring to themselves a intellectuals because they believe the terms “intellectual” and “hard work” to be mutually exclusive.

  • Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    Standard American anti-intellectualism, Mr. Frazer. as explored by Richard Hofstadter long ago. Just what I am hoping to go beyond. I respect conservative thought. You will note this if you read many of my other posts and posts by conservatives who I have invited to contribute to Deliberately Considered. I hope to provide a platform of serious discussion among people who don’t agree. Note my post today on the Roberts court.

    Name calling doesn’t do. And by the way, I work and am not stuck in an ivory tower. Not sure that farmers in Oklahoma see or know more than I do, certainly they see other things. I am interested and welcome their perspectives, though I may disagree.

  • Malcolm Fraser

    An interesting response, Mr. Goldfarb, and I struggle to unearth the unsavory name-calling you perceived. Surely not the word “pundit”, since one can most certainly be both an intellectual and a pundit. Perhaps “pedantic rant” was a little extreme, but a pedantic indeed you are, to one who needs a dictionary on hand to appreciate the subtleties in your discourse. I’ll admit that the italics around the word intellectual were unnecessary and could imply a certain anti-intellectual bias. Obviously you know the term “Ivory Tower” is merely a figure of speech; in this case applied to a pulpit the reader has no access to. Here I applaud you for providing some limited access, and indeed, responding to it; an eventuality (no! courtesy) I did not expect. As for my comment regarding intellectualism and hard work; this is not an opinion I hold personally. I spent much of my career in front of a computer. It is, however, an opinion held by many who work hard physically to earn a living, but who are by no means the anti-intellectuals of Richard Hofstadter’s era. All of which prompts me to ask (not altogether innocently) if the word “Liberal” (capitalization intended) is not the objectionable name-calling? I understand many liberals believe the term is being used as a label in order to morph them into single homogeneous entity, in much the way conservatives are lumped in with the Tea Party, the Religious Right and fanatics of all ilk by the left. I fear we are both infected with Mr. Moldbug’s X and Y viruses. I suggest seeking a cure as a worthwhile intellectual exercise.


  • Scott

    I think you will find the article below interesting. In a way, I believe it validates the assertion that Conservative thought has steadily deteriorated. The comments section is particularly illustrative. Some Republicans also find the situation disturbing.

    Btw, I think anyone might realize that “Ivory Tower” is a figure of speech. So is “a**hole.” Regardless, a pejorative is a pejorative.

  • Felipe Pait

    Your search has been mentioned in a review of a book by David Gelernter:

    Summary: the search continues. I’d guess the best answer is still Walter Russell Mead. The problem is that if you follow his blog you spot a lot of plain nonsense. In an effort to cover ground and make points, the writers often step out of their depth, equipped only with their map of how they think the world should be. That is a dangerous way to navigate. It makes one doubt their analysis even when they appear to know more than the reader.

    Additionally, too large a fraction of the comments are useless ideological drivel.

  • Aron Hsiao

    The essence of the moment is that the mainstream demographic blocs of the Right have, as an ideological move, adopted anti-intellectualism as a central tenet of conservatism. Any marriage of democratic practice and political epistemology at the moment therefore precludes the conservative intellectual; if someone is intellectual in the slightest, the Right will disown him/her. They are the oft-maligned “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only). To make matters worse, any intellectual at the moment of any value is loathe to be associated with the totality of the present (i.e. recent form of the) conservative project in America and thus tends to gravitate toward the (D) party. My suspicion is that rationally informed self-selection (they have careers and statuses, after all) results in a state of affairs in which few serious intellectuals can be found in the (R) party.

    The best hope at the moment is therefore to find self-described intellectuals that do not declare an affiliation or that openly exercise their apolitical stripes, and to infer from this that a failure to embrace the only fundamentally and substantively pro-science-policy parties in the states (i.e. the Democrats and the Greens) indicates a latent reaction to the larger value positions and propositions in these parties, one that in another moment might have led them to a kinder, more intellectually sound Republican party. There are probably a few of these.

    Because of the current anti-intellectual self-definition of the mainstream Right in the U.S., I suspect that it will be difficult to find “Republican intellectuals” or even “conservative intellectuals” apart from those that have made anti-Republican-party polemics the centerpieces of their public identity. I know I’ve read articles from a few of these here and there, most of them media pundits with previously (R) leanings, but their focus on the problems with the party and party politics on the right tends to lead them away from work on more the broad set of intellectual and philosophical questions that Jeff would prefer to have conservatives address.

    I don’t have data on these points, but they are my strong suspicions.

  • Chef james

    Gee. I wonder if one has to be published or a columinst of note to be included in your search for an intellectual conservative. Personally, I doubt I have the cranial prowess to match wits with one so cerebrally endowed, and besides, I’m just a cook who was a liberal until I became a restauranteur, which made me reassess my progressive leanings; particularly after dealing with the oafish, narcassistic, pinheads who occupy every appointed or elected position of government. But might I suggest Thomas Sowell for a dose of unbridled conservative genius. Or maybe, if you want REALLY bright, you could call on the good Dr. Ben Carson? He IS a brain surgeon after all. One more idea tha you might find useful in your search: don’t dismiss us as intellectual midgets just because we seem to be somewhat obsessed with the current resident of the White House. After all, Obama really does stand for just about everything that modern conservatism does not. I doubt seriously if you would have called out say, Paul Krugman for his barrage against Reagan and his supply side mantra. Just a few random thoughts from a conservative of average intelligence.

  • Diane Yoder

    The author is discussing the lack of serious conservative intellectuals, not would-be Presidential wannabes. it seems to me that you are more interested in picking a fight than having a serious discussion. Conservatism is a serious ideology that has been all but lost in the current incarnation of this party. In my opinion there has not bee a serious conservative thinker since William F. Buckley in that party, although I think George Will might be the best the GOP can hope for in terms of someone who is a serious, methodical conservative intellectual.

  • Diane Yoder

    You just demonstrated the effectiveness of the current GOP’s attempt to make intellectualism seem as though it is the provenance of the so called liberal elite, and thus, something snobbish that “conservatives” would do well to stay away from. In truth, in years past, well before the days of Ronald Reagan, there were serious intellectuals in the Republican Party who used education to serve their country, not to serve an ideological straw man.

  • Diane Yoder

    You can’t help yourself when it comes to pejoratives can you?

  • Tyger Tyger

    How about a Kentucky farmer? Abe Lincoln comes to mind. He didn’t have too much trouble marrying intellectualism and hard work – indeed, he would have scorned the notion the two are somehow incompatible. I’m guessing he was the kind of Republican Mr Goldfarb has in mind.