15 Oct 2008

Douthat Defends the Rats

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Ross Douthat argues that a more successful McCain campaign with better poll results would have stiffened the spines of those representatives of the center-right punditocracy currently finding all sorts of reasons (“first class temperament”) requiring them to desert the Republican cause and make peace with a Marxist democrat.

Suppose that you accept the most cynical account of, say, Peggy Noonan’s uncertainty about whom to vote for in this election, or Christopher Buckley’s Obama endorsement – that they’re just craven, self-interested bandwagon jumpers who want to keep getting invited to all those swanky cocktail parties I keep hearing about. Suppose that you regard every right-of-center writer – or single-issue fellow traveler with the Bush Republicans, in the case of Christopher Hitchens – who’s publicly hurled brickbats at the McCain campaign as a quisling and a coward, a stooge for liberalism and a rat fleeing a fast-sinking ship. In such circumstances, what’s the best course of action – denouncing the rats, or trying to figure out why the hell the ship is sinking? Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on – note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren’t Helping The Team these days – are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their “seat at the table” is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point. And if I were Hanson or Levin or Steyn I’d be devoting a little less time to ritual denunciations of heretics and RINOs, and at least a little more time to figuring out how to build the sort of ship that will make the rats of the DC/NY corridor want to scramble back on board, however much it makes you sick to have them back. Who knows? It might just be the sort of ship that swing-state voters will want to climb on board as well.

Douthat is right in observing that, when you’re winning, the wimps, opportunists, and trimmers have neither need nor incentive to take French leave, but, alas! no political party, no philosophical school of thought can always win. Sometimes fate and circumstances are against you. Sometimes victory in a particular contest, in a particular election year, is impossible. And it is at those unfortunate times that we get to discover that in the contemporary political wars not everyone is another Roland or another Leonidas.

Read the whole thing.

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