In a grim, elegiac, must-read essay written for The American Conservative, Bruce Bartlett universalizes movement conservatism's catastrophic decline by relating his early experiences within it; then, his experiences on its wary edges; then, on its paranoid periphery; and finally, now, utterly outside of it, in forced exile. It's a riveting, historical synopsis of what should bluntly be called American intellectual fascism, which is why I despair of any "reform" of it. Unmeditative goons, sworn ideologues and ruthless enforcers don't tend to the epiphanic.
Bartlett at least partially shares my prognosis: "I am disinclined," he writes, "to think that Republicans are yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy." (Hence the horror of attempting to negotiate a budget deal with these throwbacks; their sinister strategies are always piously veiled and their philosophy is as corrupt as it is electorally repudiated. So screw 'em.)
Bartlett's political maturity went to full throttle when he began to appreciate George W. Bush's immutable "stupidity, cockiness, arrogance, ignorance, and general cluelessness" as president. That would do it--especially since his "conservative" friends, rather than appreciating same, went to full W.-defense mode. They simply closed the door to any objective analysis of contemporary conservatism's chronic degeneration.
Later, Bartlett "came to the annoying conclusion that Keynes had been 100 percent right in the 1930s"--and beyond. Thus Bartlett also had to cut his intellectual allegiance to the magical thinking of supply-side theory. His "final line ... to cross in complete alienation from the right," though? "[M]y recognition that Obama is not a leftist":
In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.
At this point, I lost every last friend I had on the right.
Not much, as they say, of a loss.
Bartlett protests that he's "not a liberal or a Democrat," which is peculiar for anyone who's in thorough accord with Keynesian economics, detests modern Republicans, and, most of all, seems to broadly endorse Obama's Democratic conservative progressivism. But, whatever. I've come to accept such Bartlett-like protests as a shrewd marketing tool--a kind of politico-philosophical "positioning" that draws readers' attention which wouldn't otherwise exist, were Bartlett et al. to simply confess their rather conspicuous conversion.
But, I'll end where I started. Bartlett's essay is a must read. Go read it.