The central mode of contemporary progressive politics & the reciprocation of the The Right?

Kevin Williamson has some bracing and provocative analysis/commentary in his weekly newsletter, The Tuesday, this week:

Defining the limits of respectability is, in fact, the central mode of contemporary progressive politics. Contemporary American progressives do not engage with conservative ideas or nonconforming political opinion — they simply attempt to define those as infra dig and outside of the boundaries of that which polite intellectual society is obliged to consider.

The Right has reciprocated, in its way. And that is a big part of what the Trump phenomenon is all about: so-called nationalists who despise the commanding heights of American culture, politics, and business, along with the institutions associated with them. Hence the bumptious anti-“elitism” of contemporary conservatives whose creed is “American Greatness” but who sneer at the parts of the country where most of the people and the money are, who sing hymns of national glory while abominating the East Coast, the West Coast, the major cities, the Ivy League, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, the major cultural institutions (and, indeed, high culture itself as effete and elitist), the political parties, trade associations, broad swathes of the economy (“financialization”), newspapers — even the churches, as conservative American Christians (from Catholic to Evangelical) embrace a new antinomianism based not in religion but in the politics of cultural resentment.

Williamson goes on to point out how all of this has little connection to the “Real America” we hear so much about these days but alas:

There is much that is in need of reform in American life. But reform is not very much in fashion among populists, who are ensorcelled by the much more exciting prospect of revolution — and destruction.

This gets a bit at why I feel so politically and ideologically homeless these days.  Not quite comfortable in the “establishment” wing of the GOP having serious questions about foreign policy, and the overall direction of Bush era GOP for lack of a better term, but also not comfortable with the Trump world and the at least adjacent anti-elite/populists.

If you haven’t already, I recommend you subscribe to The Tuesday.  Interesting commentary and always some fund language stuff too.

Opening paragraph of the year candidate

What a brilliant start to this Kevin Williamson post in The Corner at NRO:

Eric Levitz of New York magazine has written a long-ish post that is mostly about my political views, which he gets mostly wrong. This is not entirely his fault. Levitz operates under two heavy disabilities: The first is that he’s stupid, and the second is that he’s dishonest. Paul Krugman seems to have put in a lot of work in his transition from respected economist to trifling partisan rage-monkey, but Levitz seems to have been born dumber than a catfish. So it’s only his dishonesty I’ll fault him for.

Devastating. And beautiful somehow …

Jonah Goldberg on The Tyranny of Cliches

It was my distinct pleasure to have Jonah Goldberg join Pejman Yousefzadeh and myself for this week’s edition of Coffee and Markets.  We discussed his new book The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, the liberal pretense to being non-ideological – and just how much ideology is found in the use of cliches – and how we might be able to combat this ideological base stealing.

Not only is Jonah smart and talented – and really more insightful than he is given credit for – but he is a genuinely nice guy who has been a great friend to me.

Listen to the podcast here.

Look for my review of the book soon.

William F. Buckley (Christian Encounters) by Jeremy Lott

William F. Buckley (Christian Encounters Series)

Two things drew me to this short bio of William F. Buckley: the author Jeremy Lott is someone whose writings I have admired for some time and the subject, WFB, is something I have been interested in since high school.

So when I was offered a review copy it wasn’t a tough choice. As soon as I got it in the mail I breezed threw this brief biography – and promptly did nothing about it.  As with so many other books, I read this back in the summer but did not get a chance to review it until now.

And? It is an excellent introduction to one of the central figures of the post-war conservative movement. But it is important to keep in mind that it is just that: an introduction.

You can’t do justice to a man like Buckley in less than 150 pages. But this book does what this type of book should do: give an interesting overview of the life and times of the subject and prompt the reader to seek out more.

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Ten Questions with Jeremy Lott on WFB

I am a big fan of William F. Buckley, Jr. Have been since high school. I have read nearly all of his books and  have read a great deal about him.

So I was intrigued when I saw that an author who I enjoy, Jeremy Lott, had come out with a short bio of WFB as part of the Christian Encounters series at Thomas Nelson.

This was another book I read back in the summer but didn’t get a chance to review until now. I thought it would be useful to bring back the Ten Questions format and ask Jeremy to answer a few questions.

He graciously agree and the Q&A is below (my questions in bold)

1. How does viewing WFB through the lens of “prophet” help us understand him better?

It helps us to see how he saw himself, at least in part. I quote from a letter that William F. Buckley wrote to Ronald Reagan recounting Buckley’s appearance on the Tonight Show. WFB told Johnny Carson “that vaticide was the act of killing a prophet, and that if he wanted to go down as guilty of that crime, all he had to do was kill me.”

Now, this was a witticism, so we shouldn’t place too much weight on it, but neither should we ignore it. I argue that it was along the lines of what Ben Stiller’s villain White Goodman said several times in the movie Dodgeball. You remember? “I’m kidding, but not really.”
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Right Time, Right Place by Richard Brookhiser

right time, right placeRichard Brookhiser I and have a lot in common.  We both started reading National Review in high school; we both idolized William F. Buckley Jr. (WFB); we both love history (including the now out of fashion “dead white males”); and we both ended up as freelance writers.

Well, to be fair Brookhiser had his first NR cover story at the age of 14; became a senior editor, then managing editor at National Review; was close friends with and, for a time, heir apparent to Buckley; and has written highly successful biographies of the founding fathers.  But take away the talent, ambition, and career success and it’s like we’re the same person!

Joking aside, it would be impossible to calculate how many young writers and politicos idealized and were inspired by Buckley and National Review.  Particularly in the period leading up to Ronald Regan’s election, WFB and NR were at the center of American conservatism.  And Brookhiser’s latest book – Right Time, Right Place – tells the story of what it was like to be at the very inner circle of this fully operational conservative battle station.

As the subtitle – Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement –indicates, RTRP is a blend of history, memoir, and political commentary.  I find this type of “creative non-fiction” can lack focus, often jumping between subjects and styles, but Brookhiser’s unique perspective, style and flair for language make this a remarkably focused and powerful read.

It is a very personal and honest look at the man and magazine at the heart of the conservative movement’s rise to power, and eventual return to earth, while at the same time a meditation on the dangers of hero worship and the nature of mature relationships.

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Q&A with Richard Brookhiser on Right Time, Right Place

I will declare my bias up front: Richard Brookhiser is one of my favorite writers. He hits the sweet spot with me; writing about politics, culture, and history with equal skill and insight.  There is a sharpness to his writing but at the same time a calmness; an ability to write about the details of the here and now but also keep history in mind.

So it is not surprising that when his latest book (Right Time, Right Place) came out I cleared the decks and read it.  Add in the fact that it is about William F. Buckley, National Review, and the history of the conservative movement, and it was a must read for me.  Look for my review later today.

As an added bonus, Brookhiser generously agreed to an email Q&A to discuss the book, his career, and the conservative movement. (Questions in Bold)

Had you always planned to write about your experience at NR, with WFB, and conservatism after Buckley’s passing?  How did this book come about?

I knew I wanted to write about my years with WFB. Death was the wake-up call: now you must get this done. I spoke to my agent, Michael Carlisle, who said, write a proposal, and I remember thinking: It’s on.

Was there ever a moment where you thought I shouldn’t write this; or I shouldn’t make it this personal?

I never doubted writing the book, which I owed to WFB, myself, and the history I lived through. If you don’t want to be personal, you should not write memoir (you will also have a lot of trouble living, but that’s another matter).

Were you worried that some would see it as a cheap shot at WFB (as some have done in comparing to Christopher’s book)?

Right Time, Right Place is a book about love—what it is, what it feels like, how it can go wrong, how you save it. Readers who can’t understand that should go back to Dan Brown.

Continue reading

Q&A with Richard Brookhiser on Right Time, Right Place

I will declare my bias up front: Richard Brookhiser is one of my favorite writers. He hits the sweet spot with me; writing about politics, culture, and history with equal skill and insight.  There is a sharpness to his writing but at the same time a calmness; an ability to write about the details of the here and now but also keep history in mind.

So it is not surprising that when his latest book (Right Time, Right Place) came out I cleared the decks and read it.  Add in the fact that it is about William F. Buckley, National Review, and the history of the conservative movement, and it was a must read for me.  Look for my review later today.

As an added bonus, Brookhiser generously agreed to an email Q&A to discuss the book, his career, and the conservative movement. (Questions in Bold)

Had you always planned to write about your experience at NR, with WFB, and conservatism after Buckley’s passing?  How did this book come about?

I knew I wanted to write about my years with WFB. Death was the wake-up call: now you must get this done. I spoke to my agent, Michael Carlisle, who said, write a proposal, and I remember thinking: It’s on.

Was there ever a moment where you thought I shouldn’t write this; or I shouldn’t make it this personal?

I never doubted writing the book, which I owed to WFB, myself, and the history I lived through. If you don’t want to be personal, you should not write memoir (you will also have a lot of trouble living, but that’s another matter).

Were you worried that some would see it as a cheap shot at WFB (as some have done in comparing to Christopher’s book)?

Right Time, Right Place is a book about love—what it is, what it feels like, how it can go wrong, how you save it. Readers who can’t understand that should go back to Dan Brown.

Continue reading