It occurs to me that Buckley enjoyed the great advantage of beginning a movement ex nihilo. Yes, there were others at mid-century discontented with liberal hegemony at home and Soviet aggression abroad. But conservatism in the 1950s had very little in the way of an institutional base — the think tanks and advocacy groups and policy journals and so forth. Buckley burst upon the scene in 1951, four years later launched National Review and from that point forward held an unrivaled preeminence in the public mind as a conservative intellectual.
Now I am sure that, had you asked the embattled Buckley in 1955 if he thought his isolated position to be an advantage, he would have rather had the help of many more allied forces than he then had. Yet at least he did not have to deal with the problem of we now have of a conservative Babel, where one can find people calling themselves “conservative” who advocate anything and everything, including many things quite the opposite of conservatism.
Al Regnery has pointed out how the success of conservatism has attracted hordes of opportunists, so that people who dream of Cabinet posts and congressional seats have an incentive to attach themselves to the banner, motivated mkore by personal ambition than by philosophical agreement. And as Mr. Regnery says, there were few opportunists in 1951 because there were few opportunities. We’ve seen a few rats (e.g., Ken Adelman) jumping off what they perceive to be a sinking ship, and one good reason to permit pessimism about a conservative revival — WE’RE DOOMED BEYOND ALL HOPE! — is to encourage more rats to jump ship.
Sanchez makes many good points, but to describe support for Sarah Palin as a “death spiral” strategy is to completely misunderstand the causes of Republican woe. Sanchez has a very good point here:
Washington is absolutely crawling with snake-oil salesmen who’ve discovered that you can make a tidy living extracting cash from credulous politicos who didn’t learn anything from the last dot-com bubble, provided you’re able to sling Web 2.0 jargon passably.
This is true, and as John Hawkins pointed out, the current wave of Republican technophilia is based on a profound misinterpretation of the Obama phenomenon. The high-tech stuff didn’t drive the enthusiasm, the enthusiasm drove the high-tech stuff. And, uh, who has a growing online army of more than 60,000 enthusiastic supporters? The same person who is odds-on favorite for the nomination in 2012? It seems to me that a fairly obvious plan of action is at hand, if only the damned snobs would stop whining about it.