On the subject of cycles, Warren Buffett likes to talk about “the natural progression, the three I’s.” As he put it to Charlie Rose in 2008, those I’s are “the innovators, the imitators and the idiots.” One creates, one enhances — and one screws it all up.
Buffett was describing the process that led to the 2008 housing and financial crises. But he might as well have been talking about the decline of the conservative movement in America.
.. If we have reached the point where rank-and-file conservatives see nothing amiss with giving Hannity an award named for Buckley, then surely there’s a Milton Friedman Prize awaiting Steve Bannon for his insights on free trade.
.. Buckley shed isolationism, segregationism and anti-Semitism, and insisted the conservative movement do likewise.
.. as the gatekeeper of conservative ideas, he denounced the inverted Marxism of Ayn Rand, the conspiracy theories of Robert Welch (founder of the John Birch Society) and the white populism of George Wallace and Pat Buchanan.
.. In March 2000, he trained his sights on “the narcissist” and “demagogue” Donald Trump. “When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection,” he wrote in a prophetic short essay in Cigar Aficionado. “The resistance to a corrupting demagogy,” he warned, “should take first priority” for Americans.
.. The conservatism he nourished was fundamentally literary: To play a significant part in it you had to know how to write, and in order to write well you had to read widely, and in order to do that you had to, well, enjoy reading. In hindsight, 2008, the year of Sarah Palin, was also the year when literary conservatism went into eclipse.
Suddenly, you didn’t need to devote a month to researching and writing a 7,000-word critique of Obama administration’s policy on, say, Syria to be taken seriously as a conservative foreign-policy expert. You just needed to mouth off about it for five minutes on “The O’Reilly Factor.” For books there were always ghostwriters;
..The quality of an idea could be tested not by its ability to withstand scrutiny from experts, but by the willingness of people to swallow it.
.. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a post-literate conservative world should have been so quick to embrace a semi-literate presidential candidate. Nor, in hindsight, is it strange that, with the role Buckley once played in maintaining conservative ideological hygiene retired, the ideas he expunged should have made such a quick and pestilential comeback.
- Thus, when Hannity peddles conspiracy theories about Seth Rich, the young Democratic National Committee staffer murdered in Washington last year, that’s an echo of John Birch.
- When fellow Fox host Tucker Carlson — who once aspired to be the next Buckley and now aims to be the next Ann Coulter — tries to reinvent himself as the tribune of the working class, he’s speaking for the modern-day George Wallace voter.
- Isolationism is already back, thanks to Trump.
- Anti-Semitism can’t be far behind, either, and not just on the alt-right.
a Buckley Award for Sean Hannity suggests nothing ironic
.. a fresh reminder of who now holds the commanding heights of conservative life, and what it is that they think.