Rational Conservative Blogs

Commenting on Ed Morrissey’s decision to shut down his blog and start posting at Hot Air, John Cole remarks, “It is a shame, too, because Ed was who I was using as my barometer for rational conservatives. Now all I have left are James Joyner and Daniel Larison.”

While I appreciate the compliment, there must surely be plenty of “rational conservatives” out there. Off the top of my head, though, I can’t think of a lot, if by “rational” we mean 1) civil, 2) analytical in style and substance, and 3) not so in the bag for the Republican Party as to be a hack.

Steven Taylor and Steve Bainbridge come readily to mind, as do a passel of bloggers on the libertarian right. Andrew Sullivan remains a daily read, but he’s not exactly a reliable Republican anymore. OxBlog usually gets lost in my RSS backlog since they post sporadically. The Volokh Conspiracy gang remains solid but are rather specialized.

Perhaps because of my academic background, my daily reads have become disproportionately center-left types like Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias, and Ezra Klein or libertarianish bloggers like Megan McArdle, Jim Henley, Julian Sanchez, or the Q and O gang.

Quite of few of the bloggers on my blogroll, which is woefully outdated and which I seldom actually use anymore, have retired or joined me here. Who am I missing? Who’s out there that can be described simultaneously as conservative, thoughtful, and intellectual?

Put another way, what conservative bloggers would be worth reading even if you disagreed with most of their posts?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    Perhaps because of my academic background, my daily reads have become disproportionately center-left types

    Jesus, first you admit that you possess Egyptian islamic terrorist-garb, now this! I think you’re turning into a terror-loving, chardonnay-sipping, wind-surfing, yellow-bellied pinko liberal!

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’m not much for chardonnay. I mostly drink reds, especially pinot noir and shiraz, but I’m not averse to German whites or even sauvignon blanc.

  3. Anderson says:

    I would read more conservative blogs, if I knew of any others that met JJ’s 3 criteria. It’s sort of disappointing, really.

    (Since “Captain Ed” was just mentioned a couple of posts down, where did he fit?)

  4. Steven W. says:

    Of course I’m biased but I love all the right minded conservative blogs featured on preciseBlogs™ 😉

  5. Scott_T says:

    Austin Bay, is pretty conservative/hawkish/real world-savee. But he doesn’t post often any more, unless you count his occassional posting on http://www.strategypage.com

    If John Cole isn’t going to read Capt.Ed anymore, just because the Captain resides at HotAir.com, that seems pretty weak on J.Cole’s part.

    Captain Ed was the one that posted everything regarding the Canadian government that they wanted secret and kept doing it because he thought it was right, to the sitting Canadian government’s detriment (yeah a very left one, which allowed a right-view government to get elected…)

    Does John Cole really think that Capt.Ed is going to suddenly shift further right because MM’s group pays him?

    So center, or center-left people will stop reading Captain Ed because he resides at HotAir?

  6. Anon says:

    Daniel Drezner might count more as a libertarian than as a conservative, though he is a Republican.

  7. Stix says:

    I think that there are a lot of thoughtful and rational conservatives out there. I think that The Anchoress, Strata-sphere, ad there are many more. I would also consider myself somewhat rational, I do go off on tangents sometime, but I am not a Party Hack. Yes I am biased and have strong convictions, but I do not tow the Republican line at all times.

    I definitely agree with John Cole, you have a great blog and are very rational.

    And I don’t think that Captain Ed will change his posting style or his rationality after going to Hot Air. He is one of my favorite bloggers and I always wee what he has got to say every day

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    My fellow Watcher’s Council member, Wolf Howling is a good pick. He’s sensible and, I think, conservative.

    I do not believe, however, that he’s a Republican. Actually, I think he’s a Brit.

    PoliGazette, Michael Van Der Galien’s site, is a sort of grab bag leaning towards the center right.

    Stubborn Facts also comes to mind.

    This is tough since most of the blogs that I read are centrists.

  9. jpe says:

    I think that The Anchoress, Strata-sphere, ad there are many more.

    These are good for getting a sense of the zeitgeist of the righty blogosphere. Anchoress is well-written, and one can tell she’s smart, but content-wise has never struck me as in the category under discussion.

    I’d add Just One Minute to the list.

  10. Mark Jaquith says:

    Honestly, you and Ed are the first two who come to mind.

    Though I don’t quite get John Cole’s lamentation. Morrissey will still be writing, and still in his own voice.

  11. Dodd says:

    I still read Eric the Viking, Patterico, and Powerline every day.

    I know that quite a lot of left-of-center folks still resent the role they played in Rathergate and would therefore automatically fail Powerline on at least Item #3, but it isn’t true. All three will merrily criticize Republicans who deserve it, are thoughtful and analytical in their approach to most issues, and (in the case of Patterico and Powerline) bring considerable (and valuable) legal acumen to the table.

  12. happyGOP says:

    Ed is a shill for the GOP, in his bland way he NEVER criticizes the party.

    But what about Ross Douthat? He seems insightful on occasion.

    What about Rod Dreher? The crunchy con? He’s rational and a Catholic con! He has very informed commenters, too.

    Funny, after 5 years of reading blogs and hunting for non-hacks, I’ve settled on the right for … Eunomia, Joyner, Sullivan, Cole, Bainbridge. I had to laugh when I read James Joyner’s own list.

    But I won’t visit Kos, Eschaton, or HuffPo most of the time, unless Memeorandum has a specific post linking to them. Their partisanship is so crass as to waste my time.

  13. happyGOP says:

    Michael Van Der Galien is good on occasion, but he can’t think straight about Obama, it’s knee jerk city. Quick, nothing posts that aren’t thought through. I’ve been genuinely surprised to see how awful his posts have been –
    oh that reminds me – what about Rick Moran – who recently moved up to the PoliGazette – and joined forces with Galien et al?

    I don’t like their new format, it seems too shallow, and most of the other posters up there don’t seem up to a high level of insight. That’s my impression, at least.

  14. Dave Schuler says:

    Yes, I’m chagrined that I didn’t mention Rick Moran whose singularly misnamed site, Right Wing Nut House, is always a good place for sound, considered opinion. He’s a Watcher’s Council member, too, and a friend.

    Definitely conservative and a loyal Republican. Probably the best answer to your question, James.

  15. happyGOP says:


    Without trying to get into a big thing here, do you think the righty blogs ‘regurgitate’ more than lefty blogs? It seems by saying that there aren’t many rightwing blogs that meet your conditions that this is indeed the case. Most of them are hacks.

    To me it seems obvious that message discipline was always far more reliable on the right. It needn’t be so loathsome, especially in a time of war, but the way the right defended Bush’s more unpleasant political instincts (signing statements, deficits, etc) and lambasted any oversight, I was always stunned at the ferocity of the counterattacks.

    On the left, there seem so many blogs that are looser, ideologically, that there are too many to count. Their problem is not diversity but lack of unity.

    I spent a few years dropping right wing blogs in disgust; Erick Erickson having problems with his site’s software – and then blaming it on … liberals? Recently, he said it was harder for conservatives because they have less free time because … his side doesn’t kill their babies?

    I can’t believe how unserious so many on the right are. When I found Eunomia, it was like an oasis, as was OTB. Sullivan’s dislike of torture, while a bit overwrought, nevertheless proved I was living in an America I understood, and not in some bloodthirsty online-cyber game. Rick Moran, Douthat, and the others mentioned have finally lived up to their promise.

    But why is it so hard for the right to meet your three conditions? That is the next post I would like to see you write, please!

  16. Stix says:

    Yes Rick Moran is a good one.

  17. happyGOP says:

    Sorry to hog, what do you all think of the Corner?

    Too stream of consciousness?

    What about Tapscott? I haven’t warmed up to him yet, myself.

  18. bains says:

    I stopped reading Balloon Juice several years ago when Cole started issuing nothing more than bile whenever the topic concerned his particular idiosyncrasies. Like many partisans, Cole sets his perception filters to those who agree with him, and everyone else. Kind of like Sullivan. Both have a petulant underpinning to many posts.

    That said, I have been following the net reaction to Morrissey’s switch with interest. With very few exceptions, how one views the change is directly related to how one views Michelle Malkin. Kinda sad that folks are more willing to allow visceral hatred to drive pontifications about Ed Morrissey’s future than Captain Ed’s talent.

    Now to your actual question… QandO is always a good read, as is A Second Hand Conjecture. Strata-Sphere usually is good, even when AJ starts tossing about the nativist label when talking illegal immigration. Protein Wisdom is always entertaining – I think the locker-room banter irritates those predisposed to be offended thus gets many unwarranted (and usually entirely off base) potshots. Bob Owens’ Confederate Yankee is a great site, unless you support gun confiscation. Stephen Green’s VodkaPundit brings a great classic liberal/libertarian perspective to the table.

    Just a few. The problem with most, or my problem, is that excepting QandO, and Protein Wisdom, single person Blogs just can’t put out enough interesting product. I read Capitan’s Quarter virtually every day, but it wasn’t a site that I checked more than once – single blogger you know. As such, Hot Air will have a lot more daily visits by me because of Morrissey’s addition.

  19. Stix says:

    The Corner is ok, but at times it is hard to read I think.

  20. Let me add two :

    Pejman Yousefzadeh


    Classical Values But it’s probably not as analytical as James would like.

  21. Derrick says:

    My right-of-aisle blogroll includes Moran, OTB, Volokh(except Bernstein who is a hack’s hack), Capt. Ed, Bainbridge, The Corner, Drezner and Ann Althouse, who continues to maintain her stance that she’s a liberal despite the evidence. I typically prefer reading from a different point of view than my own, but it has become harder and harder with some of the hacks dressed up as bloggers these days. I used to have a few more but guys like John Cole and Andrew Sullivan have moved so far to the left in at least their party affiliation that it’s hard to consider their opinions as from the “right” nowadays.

  22. bains says:

    but I’m not averse to German whites or even sauvignon blanc.

    There are some really great white burgundy/chablis’s out there…

    Your spam bot said it pulled my other (on topic) comment.

  23. anjin-san says:

    ’05 Bordeaux is not easy to obtain, but well worth the trouble…

  24. bains says:

    05 Bordeaux is not easy to obtain, but well worth the trouble…

    YOU LIE, but not… Our steak dinner this very evening will be accompanied with an 05 Bordeaux. And very modestly priced as well – I picked up a 12 pack for under $175. They are, as you say, well worth the effort.

  25. Russ says:

    Taking John Cole’s opinion about conservatives seriously is probably a mistake. He’s drifted so far to the Left over the past couple of years, I sometimes doubt the Right can be seen with binoculars from where he sits.

    Me, I’ll take Jeff Goldstein (Protein Wisdom) any day. And Captain Ed, of course.

  26. PJens says:

    I suggest Bryan Caplan and Arnold Kling at EconLog. Different type of read with an economic bent, but very solid writing and thought.

  27. PrestoPundit says:

    Give PrestoPundit at look.

    Few blogs are more intellectual — I blog lots on economics, philosophy, Hayek, etc.

    Few blogs are more conservative — I’m a true blue Goldwater, Taft, Reagan conservative. No “compassionate conservatism” for me, thank you very much.

    Thoughtful — well, yes, usually thoroughly thoughtful, but now and then I believe that to reach the higher intellectual faculties types requires a swing of the sledgehammer. Philosophy and economics with a hammer, that’s sometimes what it takes. So, thoughtful yes, and now and again a swift whack to the head.

    What I mostly insist is that my readers do some thinking and learning on central topics they’ve so far avoided. Lefties and GOP hacks read at your own risk.

  28. GW says:

    Thanks for the kind words for my blog. Just to clarify, I am American, not British, and I am a conservative Republican.

  29. barry says:

    PrestoPundit –

    Seeing as how your first page cites liberal fascism, I think I’ll pass. You claim to be thoroughly thoughtful and then … cite one of the sloppiest conservative writers out there. Joyner himself recently said he thinks his whole strain of thought is silly.

    And seeing how you get angry over the use of soldiers as props, ugh, that clinches it. The GOP has used soldiers as props for so long during Bush’s admin I don’t even have the energy to bother to rebut your nonsense.

    Boy, THAT was an efficient comment thread. Flush!

  30. bains says:

    Joyner himself recently said he thinks his whole strain of thought is silly.

    Ummm, I think Joyner said the title was silly (actually unnecessarily incendiary). I may have missed it, but I’ve yet to see where Joyner actually reviews the book.

    Further, your objection to Bush using the military as a prop is unsurprisingly one-sided. All politicians use groups of people as props – shamelessly so.

  31. barry says:

    That’s because I don’t think Joyner is going to review the title.
    See Feb 4, 2008:

    “He’s on the list almost exclusively by virtue of his book, Liberal Fascism, and the recent controversy over it. While I get the desire to rebut the notion that Fascism is right-wing phenomenon and therefore somehow comparable to American mainstream conservatism, the argument that American liberals are proto-Fascists is quite silly. The use of inflammatory titles, while an excellent publicity vehicle for selling books, is decidedly unhelpful if one’s purpose is to advance serious argument.”

    So there you have it: Goldberg’s argument that liberals are proto-fascist is ‘quite silly’; his title is ‘unhelpful’ and ‘inflammatory’ (or incendiary, same thing). So yes, actually Joyner DID call the whole strain of thought silly – ‘quite silly.’ Very sloppy, Bain.

    And as far as my objection to the military as props, the only reason I pointed it out was that Presto seems utterly ordinary for the right wing blogosphere. He claims to be so insightful, etc, but here we have a post on liberal fascism and a limousine librul on the front page. Oh my, the originality. I haven’t seen that since … yesterday.

  32. bains says:

    Goldberg’s argument that liberals are proto-fascist

    Quite a fallacy here Barry – and the prime reason I commented, both here and on the original thread. It is not Goldberg’s argument, it is Joyner’s (and I suspect, your) impression of Goldberg’s argument based primarily on the title. Have you read the book?

    Goldberg is not arguing that liberals are “proto-fascists”, rather he is arguing that it is silly for liberals to accuse only conservatives of fascism when it is, in fact, primarily from the left that fascistic states have come.

    And as far as Prestopundit is concerned, yesterday is my first visit, and yeah, it does seem… pedestrian.

  33. G.A.Phillips says:

    the argument that American liberals are proto-Fascists is quite silly.

    True, they are state of the art-Fascists.

  34. barry says:

    Bains –

    Ok, we’re talking past each other and most likely because it’s too simple an issue. I’m going to try again by restating Joyner’s position: Goldberg’s argument is quite silly. Additionally, his book’s title is incendiary/inflammatory. That’s all I was trying to state. Nothing on the merits.

    In your 6:16am you wrote:
    “Ummm, I think Joyner said the TITLE was silly (actually unnecessarily incendiary). I may have missed it, but I’ve yet to see where Joyner actually reviews the book.”

    The problem is that this is wrong. Joyner did NOT say the title was silly. He said the argument was silly, and the title was inflammatory. It’s that simple. Reread the quote.

    That’s why I went to the trouble to post the relevant source quote, which to my surprise clarified nothing for you.

    It’s not that huge a deal, but there’s just no wiggle room on this one.
    Now if you want to discuss the actual merit of liberal fascism, that’s a different beast. Above, I was just restating Joyner’s initial dismissal of it, like most others.

    I freely admit I am no fascist scholar. I have no problem going back and forth on this with you, being wrong and so forth.

    My biggest problem with (the closest thing to) Jonah’s definition of fascism that I’ve seen is that it’s far too broad. This overinclusivity would seem to be no accident because it is precisely this expansiveness that lets him bring in all of the usual suspects under his watchful eye.

    (By the way, I emailed him for a better def, and he stated he didn’t have one. He stated he deliberately (but not maliciously) left it a bit opaque for unstated reasons in the book.)

    Here is the definition I’ve seen:

    “It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is
    part of the “problem” and therefore defined as the enemy.”

    So Jonah cannot, from the outset, differentiate between fascist and totalitarian regimes. Also, he has problems with demarcating between achieving ones political goals via fascist worship of violence and … regulation and social pressure.

    I think the problem is that this is a soup-to-nuts approach to defining fascism/totalitarianism. What wouldn’t fall into this bin? This is a kitchen sink approach.

    He clearly doesn’t see modern conservatives as fascists, yet Schiavo is clearly the sort of unity of state and citizen that would precisely exemplify his definition.

    That’s for starters. I just don’t see where to go with this type of thinking – it’s … all over the place, amorphous, sloppy. He needs to define his terms more carefully, slow down, set some boundaries. I don’t see how to differentiate between totalitarianism and fascism, between liberalism and fascism, and between conservatism and fascism, with his definition. I don’t see any reason to try, either, until he does his intellectual homework.

  35. James Joyner says:

    Since “Captain Ed” was just mentioned a couple of posts down, where did he fit?

    He’s pretty solid on all three counts, I think. He’s the voice of a bright, decent guy with a passion for news rather than of an academic but his stuff’s very worth reading to get a sense of how normal Republicans are apt to view issues.

  36. Elmo says:

    Dangit …. now I gotta read the gosh durn thread [rude to comment without first reading (don’t let that stop you now Elmo!)].

    A compliment from Juan Cole? Yikes.

    The topic at hand hmmm … Fark isn’t too far out there in their oft politic posts/links (no, seriously). Dr. Sanity can be a lil edgy occasionally, but tis fun to feel stoopid trying to get through the more dense models and verbiage. And Discarded Lies has a fair number of bleeding heart neocons (among the boomsky tossers/flame throwers).

    Rational? Where’s the fun in that? 🙂

  37. tep says:

    James is such a good-natured blogger, isn’t he? That always comes through. James, you should do more bloggingheads.

    What it boils down to, unfortunately, is that he’s a reliable partisan who rarely thinks outside the box.

  38. tep says:

    Gadzukes! I screwed the pooch. Let me rewrite the above post again:

    James is such a good-natured blogger, isn’t he? That always comes through. James, you should do more bloggingheads.

    What it boils down to, unfortunately, is that Ed is a reliable partisan who rarely thinks outside the box. (I was trying to comment on how James was being diplomatic. As for me, I am banning myself from the comments for a fortnight.)

  39. vnjagvet says:

    I like Tom McGuire’s Just One Minute. It is interesting and has a pretty decent stable of commenters, several of whom were regulars with Roger L Simon before he concentrated on Pajamas.

  40. Joe R. says:

    I’ll also agree with Just One Minute, Classical Values, and VodkaPundit. There are others I would mention, but they’re probably more libertarian than right.

    Protein Wisdom is fun when Goldstein is posting, and is not when he isn’t (and he doesn’t post much lately).