Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 9, 2009

The right’s intellectual devolution

I’ve been reading the accounts of the 14-year-old conservative Wunderkind, Jonathan Krohn, who wowed them at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in DC. Krohn’s speech, which consisted of little more than asserting that conservatism was a principle-based ideology that’s all about protecting The People, would have been unremarkable had it been delivered by someone over the age of 20. It really wasn’t all that remarkable even coming from a precocious teenager. But so desperate is the right for rising stars these days that they’re starry-eyed over this home-schooled phenom.

It all put me in mind of my own brief career as a movement conservative, long ago. (Details here and here.) I was converted from being a high school commie into a college freshman reactionary by reading Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, William Buckley’s Up From Liberalism, and Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. These books were not free of right-wing crackpottery, but they were written at a fairly high level of seriousness. Kids these days come to conservatism by reading Bill Bennett and Ann Coulter or listening to Rush Limbaugh. (They also read an old-timer, the execrable Ayn Rand; we in the Party of the Right hated her as a vulgar authoritarian.)  What an amazing intellectual devolution.

Not, of course, that the left is exactly kicking ass intellectually. But the right has gone totally braindead.

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Responses

  1. It was such an insane line-up of weird conservative celebrities. Here’s an unemployed plumber that was on the news! Incendiary race baiter Michelle Malkin! And a baby that looks like Newt Gingrich!

    I’m not sure if I should feel relieved or terrified.

  2. Yeah, Joe the Plumber … populist CNBC dude …

    And then you have Alan Greenspan saying we should nationalize the banks.

  3. While I think we all agree that the right is spiraling outta control… I think a Gawker poster was on to something when he said : “right-wing propaganda is so easy to parrot a thirteen [sic?] year old could do it.”

    There’s something to be said for openess to new ideas, complexity and nuance. But there’s also something to be said for a movement that could clearly and succinctly summarize what it was about, and communicate it to anybody, even people that aren’t too uh, you know, mentally capable.

  4. One word: Marjoe.

  5. damn this kid is articulate… it may be my own projections, but i recall the following scene from that great film, Cabaret

  6. His role model can be William Hague:

    At the 1977 Conservative Conference in Blackpool, a 16 year old called William Hague featured in the evening news bulletins after giving a speech described by Margaret Thatcher as “thrilling”.

    The future leader of the party delivered a paean to small government, quipping “I trust that Mrs Thatcher’s government will indeed get out of the way”.


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