Professor Bainbridge says: I Owe Bruce Barlett an Apology

This is from conservative academic Stephen Bainbridge at UCLA my alma mater.

Back when Bush 43 was President, I was a huge fan of Bruce Bartlett. I especially loved his book Impostor. But when Bartlett broke with the Republicans back in 2008, it seemed to me that he had gone "from being inside the tent pissing out to being outside the tent pissing in." It seemed like apostasy.

I still don’t agree with some of Bartlett’s current view on economics, which still strike me as "the sort of Keynesian economics he one would have found anathema." Likewise, I still don’t agree with his decision to vote for Obama.

But he is clearly right that there has been "a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already."

You can see the problem in the many hate-filled comments to my post on why the GOP needs an academic elite or my post on why it’s becoming embarrassing to be a conservative. You can see it even more vividly in Doug Mataconis’ post The Circular Firing Squad Takes Aim At Chris Christie,in which he powerfully argued against the trends that dominate today’s right:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has been one of the biggest stars in the conservative wing of the GOP this year, but his comments today about Christine O’Donnell’s doomed bid for the Senate have made him the focus of ire on the part of one blogger who has taken it upon himself to attack anyone on the right who bothered to take note of the fact that Christine O’Donnell was doomed from the day she won the GOP nomination:

While a Republican, a corporatist, or a governmentalist might describe Castle as potentially a good Senator, no honest, serious thinking Conservative ever would. That does not mean that O’Donnell was an ideal candidate. But it is imperative that the conservative movement learn from 2010, come to understand why we lost where we did, and reject the conventional Republican wisdom that only serves to undermine our cause. Surrendering to liberalism, while claiming victory as a Republican, is a defeat for conservatism. And it is precisely those types of defeats Republicans have been fostering for too long, damaging our movement and, ultimately, their own brand in the process.

Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is rarely a good idea, and the fact that there are now two Senate seats in Delaware that are likely to be controlled by Democrats for the foreseeable future rather than just one should stand as a lesson to those who demand purity even when it’s suicidal.

And one final note.

When you start seeing people like Chris Christie being attacked for not being conservative enough, you know that the right is in danger of going off the rails. Or at least some parts of it.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I still think of myself as a conservative, and I still vote GOP as the lesser of two evils, but I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s belief that he hadn’t left the Democrats, they had left him. When I look at the GOP these days, I know what he means.

And so, Bruce, if you’re out there, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. It just takes some of us longer than others.

I Owe Bruce Barlett an Apology
Steve Bainbridge
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 19:16:43 GMT


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