Why Dan Reihl Should Stop Being A Jerk

Too many conservatives forget Ronald Reagan's dictum that "somebody who agrees with you 80% of the time is an 80% friend not a 20% enemy."

In a posting titled “Why I’m Such A Jerk, Or, The Netroots Versus The Right On Line,” Dan Riehl expresses an attitude that’s seemingly widespread among conservative bloggers:

The so called conservative pundit class that is actually DC-centric punditry in new media is not our true ally. It functions more as a filter, or governor of our beliefs and desires as regards politics, than our enabler. And that will remain true until more people stop being nice to it, or fawning over it, simply because it has power and is purported to be wise. Its more truly Reaganesque thinking has long been corrupted by money, influence, access and power, just as has the GOP establishment.

He approvingly cites the Ruling Class vs Country Class piece that I discussed in my previous post and, I gather, thinks that he’s doing his part of the latter by refusing to politely engage those on his side of the aisle who don’t see themselves as part of a religious war against the evil Left.

The problem with this, as Reagan himself noted, “somebody who agrees with you 80% of the time is an 80% friend not a 20% enemy.”  If David Frum and David Brooks and George Will are outcasts in the conservative movement, then Reagan’s “Big Tent” becomes a lean-to.  Winning such a war is thus a Pyrrhic victory.

It’s doubtless true that there are plenty of us in the right-of-center blogosphere who aren’t firebrands.   We’re not enamored of Sarah Palin and the Tea Parties. We support homosexual rights and an immigration policy based on reality rather than frustration.  But we’re still on the same side on most issues.

Further, Frum and Brooks and Will and the like are much more effective in articulating conservative ideas than those who preach to the choir.  If you treat people who disagree with you with contempt, they’ll rather quickly tune you out.  So, you’re left with firing up the people already carrying pitchforks.

To what end?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mithras says:

    So, you’re left with firing up the people already carrying pitchforks.

    To what end?

    Using the pitchforks.

  2. Jeff says:

    What conservative policies have Will, Frum and Brooks convinced liberal or democrats to embrace ? Please enlighten us who want our immigration laws enforced out of “frustration” as opposed to your wonderfully reality.

    You are really full of yourself aren’t you …

  3. Of course, the sad fact of the matter is that a lot of people like it when their “side” act like jerks. People like Riehl have ascended from blogging obscurity to paying gigs and guest slots on TV shows by being jerks.

    Quite frankly, having seen Riehl on TV and having been familiar with his blog for some time, I have to wonder if part of this isn’t simply his personality–although perhaps it is a persona he uses for public consumption.

  4. grampagravy says:

    “You are really full of yourself aren’t you …”
    A perfect example of a pitchfork bearers notion of rational debate.

  5. James Joyner says:

    What conservative policies have Will, Frum and Brooks convinced liberal or democrats to embrace ?

    While I can’t pinpoint the policy victories to them per se — not sure that’s doable — they’ve largely won on a whole host of issues, especially on the fiscal side. We’re at the point where “repealing the Bush tax cuts” and returning to Reagan-level top marginal rates is a tax hike.

  6. André Kenji says:

    Hey, George Will is a true conservative,, unlike people like Riehl, that still defends nation building and things alike.

  7. narciso says:

    Sorry, Frum and Brooks sold us the Obama Edsel, and to some degree keep singing it’s praises, attacking all possible challengers. Now I’m not terribly surprised since some maliciously erroneous things have been repeated here, without significant mea culpas afterward.
    If we’re keeping score, such things matter,

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    Riehl like many others who are visible (like Limbaugh or Beck) or less visible (ranting bloggers) are just some of the conservative demons that have been released over the last twenty years or so by people like Rove in their quest for majorities. At one time they were a lunatic fringe but they are increasingly taking over the Republican party. It’s going to be much harder to get the toothpaste back in the tube than it was to release it believe me.

  9. steve says:

    Meh. Democrats went through the same thing. It seems worse because we have more media than in the past.

    Steve

  10. James Joyner says:

    Meh. Democrats went through the same thing. It seems worse because we have more media than in the past.

    Hell, they’re going through it now. Obama’s critics in the lefty blogosphere are harder on him than I am.

  11. floyd says:

    It all depends on what’s in the 20%….. And sincerity! CAUTION!

  12. anjin-san says:

    All President Reagan is to most of today’s conservatives is an icon. They don’t seem to have much actual understanding of who he was, what he believed, and how he actually functioned as a politician.

  13. grampagravy says:

    Talk about framing the discussion to your advantage.

    “We’re at the point where “repealing the Bush tax cuts” and returning to Reagan-level top marginal rates is a tax hike.”

    These tax cuts expire. They are a failed experiment and should be allowed to die of neglect under the terms by which they were sold in the first place. Declaring a “new normal” and using the terms “repeal” and “tax hike” falsify the conversation. Words matter.

  14. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 12:22
    “Hell, they’re going through it now. Obama’s critics in the lefty blogosphere are harder on him than I am.”

    There’s a big difference because no one takes them very seriously while the doctrinaires on the right are displacing people like Bob Bennett (could you be more conservative) and driving people like Specter and Crist out of the party. Don’t tell me you can’t tell the difference.

  15. Herb says:

    Count me as a liberal who finds Frum persuasive. Here he is blogging about the future of the GOP at Sullivan’s place:

    “A culturally modern party is one comfortable with science and technology, with women’s equality, and with a globalized economy. It’s a party that regards New York City and Silicon Valley as just as much “real America” as Kentucky and South Dakota.

    Yet it is a fact that many Republicans and (yes!) many conservatives are prochoice. Many more favor stem-cell research. Many again were appalled by the Terri Schiavo episode. Younger Republicans and conservatives, like younger Americans generally, are moving to acceptance of same-sex marriage.”

    Link: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/07/the-blegging-bowl-2.html

    A national, culturally moderate GOP is something I’d be willing to swing vote for. A regional, whiny, lying, extremist GOP, however, gets absolutely no support from me and never will.

  16. MarkedMan says:

    I used to swing vote all the time. I can remember some of my local politicians from the 80’s but couldn’t tell you today if they Democrats or Republicans. But lately I found myself doing something I never thought I would do – going into the booth and voting straight line “D”. The Republicans have just become too tarnished. Starting with Reagan in the 80’s and working down to local Creationist school boards in the 10’s, the brand has just become too tarnished. At every level they have failed.

  17. MM says:

    Please enlighten us who want our immigration laws enforced out of “frustration” as opposed to your wonderfully reality.

    You are really full of yourself aren’t you …

    this attitude is the problem.

    People will engage with a Brooks or a Frum. They might convince somebody to vote R when they would have voted D, or to see their own natural conservatism and persuade the target to pursue it.

    “LOL libtard Moonbat America hater” doesn’t change any minds or advance dialog. It just makes you feel good.

  18. James Joyner says:

    Declaring a “new normal” and using the terms “repeal” and “tax hike” falsify the conversation. Words matter.

    Well, as a matter of semantics, the expiration of a tax holiday yields a tax hike. But my argument is that Republicans have won the framing argument on this one.

  19. Eric Florack says:

    The problem with this, as Reagan himself noted, “somebody who agrees with you 80% of the time is an 80% friend not a 20% enemy.” If David Frum and David Brooks and George Will are outcasts in the conservative movement, then Reagan’s “Big Tent” becomes a lean-to. Winning such a war is thus a Pyrrhic victory.

    So, too, however, ishaving such people call themselves conservatives, when in fact they show themselves as RINOS. I submit that if they do not a fundamental level agreed with conservatives, they are not truly conservative. On that basis they also do not agree with this 80% of the time.

    The reason that conservatism has failed to attract large numbers of voters and adherents, is because the people who claim to be in the leadership of the conservative movement, (and I would submit to you that the people you list in your article have done so …) have failed in demonstrating any real difference between themselves and the liberals currently in power. Moderates, by definition, are not conservatives. The people you listed are moderates.

    I’ve had to laugh, in the past, one I’ve seen people complaining that George W. bush was a conservative. Or that matter his father. At best, they were both moderates. Thus, blaming what problems and sued from each of those administrations, on “conservatism, is mislabeling the situation at best.

    I think Dan has it correctly. People, we are either conservative are we are not. If we follow the moderate approach, we’re no longer conservative.

  20. Eric Florack says:

    Riehl like many others who are visible (like Limbaugh or Beck) or less visible (ranting bloggers) are just some of the conservative demons that have been released over the last twenty years or so by people like Rove in their quest for majorities.

    Laughable, because Rove is a moderate as was his former boss. Demonize the both of them if you wish, but stop making a fool of yourself by so grossly mislabeling the situation.

  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    Eric Florack says:
    Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 14:00

    “Laughable, because Rove is a moderate as was his former boss. Demonize the both of them if you wish, but stop making a fool of yourself by so grossly mislabeling the situation.”

    Yeah right Eric, Rove was a moderate.

  22. sookie says:

    >> Frum and Brooks and Will and the like are much more effective in articulating conservative ideas than those who preach to the choir. <<

    While I agree he can be a jerk, this is part of the problem he's talking about. They aren't in many cases articulating conservative ideas (or in my case libertarian ideas). They're articulating co-opted ideas.

    I do understand that we must have a bigger tent to be successful. I do think the social con movement within the republican party has been a disaster, because we lost our focus. While these writers aren't the enemey, Dan is right many times they aren't allies of good and sound governance and policy positions either. They have a soap box that other views don't. Let's not feel too sorry for them.