February 25, 2006

The Conservative Imagination: Whither and Why?

George Will reviews Jeffrey Hart's new book The Making of the American Conservative Mind: The National Review and Its Times in today's NYT.

One of Will's opening lines is "[In the 1950s] Conservatives were marginal and embattled, but happy," recalling Thursday's disastrous attempt at accounting for conservatives' greater happiness. Seriously, who gives a damn if conservatives are happy/happier? So are manic-depressives. Half the time any way.

Also, I wonder how anyone can reconfigure Goldwater's politics as "sunny Southwestern libertarianism." Sorry, but "sunny" is not the first word to trip off the tongue when one thinks of Goldwater's most famous quote: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"

Anyway, let me cut to the chase. Will's review is dull and little more than an opportunity to say, "look at how great conservatives are! We even sometimes disagree with one another!" Hart's book sounds like a collection of gossipy anecdotes and long quotations from early issues of The National Review and a bunch of complaining about the old Republican elite being replaced by religious loonies. (I complain about that too, but not on behalf of Southern gentility.)

"The Conservative Imagination"—what a great title for this review. The conservative imagination is necessarily a poor one, if all it can do is pine for the past.

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