Making Hangovers Sound Grand - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Making Hangovers Sound Grand

It is a bit awkward to write about a book written by the editor of the publication on whose site one is writing, but I feel impelled (NOT compelled, externally, but impelled, from within) to recommend to all readers the latest ouevre from AmSpec founder R. Emmett Tyrrell. I just finished earlier this week reading Tyrrell’s After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery, and I really do recommend it most highly. It is a recommendation not based on any sense that Tyrrell has come up with many earthshaking new prescriptions, but more on the observation that his descriptions of how conservatives have reached where we are today, and of exactly what the current landscape looks like, are both insightful and delightful. Much of the book, indeed, shows more of a mastery of the lost art of the raconteur, and the old-fashioned virtues of the extended, example-filled essay, than it does a policy-heavy game plan for the future. Modern conservative readers have been both spoiled and numbed by the current habit of best-selling conservative writers of organizing their books into easily digestible, Gingrich-like 10-point lists and five-concept theories and 3-fold “moral underpinnings of the new millennium,” and other such marketing tools that in lesser hands can descend into tommyrot. But Tyrrell doesn’t go there, except in a final, brief chapter called “an agenda for a conservative future” that is well focused and presented.

Instead, After the Hangover is strongest in describing, with oft-amusing stories and scattered gems of witticism, the intellectual history of conservatism (including, at great length, a series of recollections of the great William F. Buckley). In the process, he takes some hard shots at “crabs” and “Benedict Arnolds” of the conservative movement, which for purposes of this blog post I neither endorse nor denounce, because out of Tyrrell’s context they are immaterial to his broader aims. (I also happen to like, on a personal level, a couple of the people Tyrrell criticizes — which is of no import in adjudging the validity of the criticisms, but is instead just my one caveat for the sake of those friendly acquaintanceships.) One of those broader aims Tyrrell stresses most, and most effectively and most correctly, is to re-establish, within the ethos of the conservative movement, a sense that conservative thinkers and writers and doers are all on the same team and should consistenly give each other boosts, recognition, and other aid, rather than, crab-like, trying to pull each other down into the bucket so we individually can climb to the top of the bucket in their place. In short, he says, conservatives have forgotten that we should not be each others’ rivals for fame but instead each others’ mutually-supportive friends with our eyes on the larger objectives of our cause. That larger objective is to protect and defend our nation and its principles by winning its political battles not for the sake of the win but for the sake of those principles — AND (this is crucial!), to recognize that we should compete with the left not merely in the realm of politics but in the realm of the broader culture. We should no longer cede academia and establishment media to the left, but use our own institutions and talent to dominate the culture, including, eventually, academica and the establishment media as well.

A note of my own on helping each other rather than crab-pulling each other: I have definitely observed some of the unhelpful behavior of which Tyrrell warns, and it is despicable; but I also have been heartened that in the “new media,” i.e. the blogosphere etc., I have seen an encouraging amount of mutual aid and support. Especially among self-starter bloggers, the willingness to cross-link and praise other blog posts and essays is strong and it is good. I know I try as hard as possible to hand out bouquets for the work of others, and I have been incredibly grateful to have had so many bloggers do the same for me.

One of the greatest contributions of The American Spectator through the years is that it has made a habit of being the first national outlet to publish, or to publish extensively, the works of so many writers who eventually became conservative leading luminaries. On that evidence, for what it’s worth, Tyrrell has clearly lived up to his prescription for the rest of us: Find talent and promote it as mutual aid and succor, for a common and worthy cause.

Anyway, again, I urge you to read After the Hangover, published by Thomas Nelson — and, to my fellow bloggers and writers out there, to not just read it but also to promote it. And I would write the same thing even if TAS never published my work.

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