Frequent commentor and great friend of this blog, Rod Dreher's first book, Crunchy Cons, is out:
Rod with his two sons - or should we say three? Since writing books is sort of like childbirth.
It's doing quite well at Amazon today, and Rod's been all over talk radio about it.
There's also a blog dedicated to the book over at NRO, of which yours truly is a part. The general brainpower on that blog is of such a level that I'm afraid, I told Rod, that all I can do is aspire to be the Goldie Hawn of the place, tossing off lame bon mots and stuttering about piercings. Tussling over Kirk and Schumaker is sort of beyond me.
I think it's a very interesting book and one that has expresses some ideas and realities that need to be out there. However, my question, ever since those early discussions on the subject over at the NRO blog, the discussions that inspired the book, is about the need to define and subdefine "conservatism." It's similar to the South Park Conservative discussions and even, more recently, the kerfuffle over Mark Gauvreau Judge's Right Wing Wingtips over at the Spectator:
(He's reacting to the song Redneck Woman)
I had an immediate, visceral hatred of the song. It represented the one thing I truly cannot stand about modern conservatism: its defense of anything dumb, tacky, and second-rate, as long as it comes from "the people." The common man is deified by the right. NASCAR, an absolutely idiotic "sport" which consists, as the joke goes, of "a bunch of rednecks makin' left turns," is hailed as red state America's favorite pastime -- and ipso facto comparable to the Olympics of ancient Greece. Actually, scratch that: NASCAR is not treated as something grand and noble, which makes it all the worse. To populist conservatives, the simple fact that Bush country embraces the sport makes its aesthetic quality quite beside the point. This is the sport of people, we are told ad nauseam by folks like Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity, who "work hard, go to church, and play by the rules." They are the ones who watch the WWF -- a "sport" even apes laugh at -- and who read the Left Behind series of books, which should probably be called Theology for Dummies.
This attitude would be less irritating if it were an acknowledgment of reality rather than a celebration of the mediocre. When Bill O'Reilly goes into his just-an-average-Joe-from-Levittown riff, he doesn't come across as a man who aspires to lose some of the provincialism of his upbringing, much less expand into different areas of knowledge and artistic appreciation. He's proud of being a blockhead. Yet -- of course -- the liberals are worse. Baby boomers still dress in jeans and T-shirts (like their NASCAR counterparts), listen to music that's 40 years old (the Stones anyone?), and try to sound like teenagers to impress their kids. Whereas JFK -- one of the great American metrosexuals of all time -- looked great even on vacation, with his Ray-Bans and khakis, Al Gore just looked silly when he tried to reach the common man by wearing "earth tones." It's the difference between Brooks Brothers and the Gap.
It's a big arena for discussion...is it about "true" conservatism? Is it about alternative conservatisms?
All interesting, but for me, in the end...not quite my deal. I have a great deal of interest in Rod's thesis, and agree that there is a tension within conservatism that the Crunchy Con manifesto seems to express, but in the end what drives a wall between me and the discussion is that I ultimately don't care how "conservatism" defines itself, who it includes or excludes. It's not my identification, it's not my circle, as if I even have a "circle", and while there is a lot about modern political conservativism that just drives me batty, much of which Rod touches on...in the end, my self-identification and loyalties are elsewhere.