Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jonah Goldberg on Rick Perry

An interesting column by Jonah Goldberg on Rick Perry, his critics and his defenders.  Goldberg has tweeted that it has been widely misinterpreted.  So perhaps I should stay clear at the risk of confirming that I can’t read.  But I’ll take a stab at it anyway.

It is kind of an oddly structured column, as it takes a sharp turn at the three quarter mark.  But what I take to be Goldberg’s point is that while East/West coast shots at candidates who don’t fit their stereotypes are absurd, the resulting automatic defense of these candidates by conservatives is a mistake.  If liberal snobs dismiss someone as stupid because they are from Texas, conservatives shouldn’t rush to claim that the charge is false and due only to the person being from Texas.  The argument should be on the merits which includes the possibility that a folksy Texan isn’t very bright.

When Goldberg writes “I think conservatism needs to spend less time defending candidates for who they are, and more time supporting candidates for what they intend to do,”  I think he means by “who they are” their cultural persona as distinct from who they are in terms of political philosophy, intelligence, experience, articulateness, etc.

The latter is no small point.  2012 will represent an excellent opportunity to make the case for conservative governance, but just making better policy choices only takes you so far.  Far better is to be able to make those choices and explain convincingly why they are better.  That is to make the case for conservatism intellectually at the same as you demonstrate its superiority.  Or to put it slightly differently, just because liberals place too high a value on being articulate doesn't mean that conservatives should fall into the habit of argueing that it doesn't matter.  An argument, as Michael Palin pointed out, isn't the automatic gainsaying of what the other person has said (yes it is).

Note: The Michael Palin reference is here:

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