Hilzoy (who is a better person than I am) says she will no longer take The Corner seriously because they can no longer affect policy.
I will write about those arguments if they seem to be gaining broader currency, and I can imagine writing a thoughtful post on, say, what's gone wrong with the conservative movement in which I might quote them. I will also keep reading them, just because I think it's a good idea to know what other people are saying. But I will not feel any general need to point out when they are wrong. They have no more power. Some of them have gone so far over the edge that they have lost any credibility they might ever have had. I wish them well, but I will not comment on them unless I see some particular reason to do so. I now have the luxury of debating only thoughtful, sane conservatives who argue in good faith, and I intend to enjoy it.
Ah. I used to have an idea of what a "good faith debate" was; that was in 1999. My general feeling now is that a liberal who says "fuck" a lot is one who got mugged by a conservative who pretended to be interested in a "good faith debate."
I am going to insist here upon the grouchy perspective: I do not believe that there is any such thing as a "conservative intellectual," never mind one who is "thoughtful" or "sane." I contend that "conservatism" in its 21st century incarnation is nothing more or less than a particularly ill-conceived social formation based upon pernicious doxa. Or to be blunt, it is stupid identity politics. Sound unfair? Well then. To be a conservative nowadays and not be Cast Forth from the Tribe, you need to believe:
1. Anthropogenic climate change is a Lie.
2. The "Main Stream Media" has a partisan bias in favor of Democrats.
3. The invasion of Iraq was based on an honest appraisal of the evidence.
4. Torture is acceptable, and also, we do not torture.
I could go on, but these will do to make the point. To be a conservative in the 21st century American sense, you need to believe things that are not true, and you need to tie yourself into knots to pretend otherwise.
The usual, Andy Sullivanian, dodge here is that there is a Deep Conservatism whose adepts are capable of drinking from the True Font of Conservatism and thus escaping the taint. Perhaps, but my response would be, NO, and those are, indeed, tough bananas.
There is no such thing as an "intellectual movement" that attains a higher or truer reality than its actual manifestation among real human beings. If, say, Andrew Sullivan wants to argue that Conservatism in 21st century America is not all about denying gays equal rights, more power to him -- but when that fight is won, "liberals" are going to get the prize for it, not "conservatives."
I could make an argument that gay marriage is in line with "classical liberal" values, and so essentially "conservative," etc. etc., but as a practical matter, you want gay rights? Vote Democrat, call yourself a "liberal," and get your ass out there on the "Left" with the rest of the "socialists." This is the world we live in. And to get back to my main point, we live in this world to a large degree because "conservatives" insist we live in it.
So while I quite respect Hilzoy, I think she is dangerously mistaking the nature of movement conservatism. To go back a bit to the Tim Burke post she cites:
But I think we can all make things just ever so slightly better, make the air less poisonous, by pushing to the margins of our consciousness the crazy, bad, gutter-dwelling, two-faced, tendentious high-school debator kinds of voices out there in the public sphere, including and especially in blogs. Let them stew in their own juices, without the dignity of a reply, now that their pipelines to people with real political power have been significantly cut.
Tempting, but absolutely wrong. In the 1990s this was a fashionable attitude towards the crazy anti-Clintonoids -- against whom the best and the brightest on the left failed to mobilize. This failure occurred because Clinton was, well, not really very far to the left, so why defend him? But it was also because it was assumed that Clinton could take care of himself. Which he could. But what happened underneath...? Well, the foundations were laid for the Bush administration, that's what. The media in particular had their own institutional biases manipulated, with almost no pushback from liberals, who should have known better, but let themselves by and large get rolled. Where did the 21st century wingnuts come from? The 1990s. The case rests. And then throws up.
It seems to me that there is a powerful, but foolish, desire on the part of certain liberals, especially academic liberals, to want to engage in a nice, friendly, open debate with "conservatives." This is an error. You will always lose a game you do not realize you are playing.
The most ridiculous thing anyone seriously interested in politics will ever try to do is to "debate" an opponent [like 21st century conservatives -- that phrase was supposed to end this sentence, got lopped off, sorry]. You're much better off trying to win. Try to fight for things like, say, a responsible environmental policy, or equal rights for homosexuals, or no more stupid wars that get a lot of people killed. Win one of these points, and I'll cheer you on, even if you had to stomp your opponent to do it. Go figure!
I dislike the notion of "debate." It is naive and counterproductive.
Ye take the high road, and I'll take the low road, and I'll get to gay marriage before ye.
UPDATE -- Duncan's clarification works for me too.