As is presumably apparent, I agree with John Derbyshire and Patrick Ruffini on relatively few political topics, but the deleterious effects on the GOP of conservative talk radio and Joe-the-Plumberism (respectively) are evidently among them. Derbyshire:

Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs? They surely did.... Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises....

In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar. Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right. But however much this dumbing down has damaged the conservative brand, it appeals to millions of Americans. McDonald’s profits rose 80 percent last year....

I repeat: There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. Ideas must be marketed, and right-wing talk radio captures a big and useful market segment. However, if there is no thoughtful, rigorous presentation of conservative ideas, then conservatism by default becomes the raucous parochialism of Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity, and company. That loses us a market segment at least as useful, if perhaps not as big. Conservatives have never had, and never should have, a problem with elitism. Why have we allowed carny barkers to run away with the Right?

Ruffini:

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was. A movement self-confident in its place in American society would not have made Joe the Plumber a bigger story than he actually was. Since its very beginnings as a movement, conservatism has bought into liberalism's dominant place in the American political process....

The legacy of that early movement -- alive and well at CPAC and in the conservative institutions that still exist today -- is one driven inordinately by this question of identity. We have paeans to Reagan (as if we needed to be reminded again of just how much things suck in comparison today), memorabilia honoring 18th century philosophers that we wouldn't actually wear in the outside world, and code-word laden speeches that focus on a few hot button issues that leave us ill-equipped to actually govern conservatively on 80% of issues when we actually do get elected.  ...

In these serious times, conservatives need to get serious and ditch the gimmicks and the self-referential credentializing and talk to the entire country. If the average apolitical American walked into CPAC or any movement conservative gathering would they feel like they learned something new or that we presented a vision compelling to them in their daily lives? Or would it all be talk of a President from 25 years ago and Adam Smith lapel pins?... We need to be confident, like the left is, that we are the natural governing party because our ideas are in alignment with basic American principles, and quit treating middle class, working class, or rural Americans like an interest group to be mollified by symbolic, substance-free BS. 

Andrew Sullivan asks whether Derbyshire had to publish in his piece in The American Conservative because National Review didn't want to run an article critical of Limbaugh. I have no idea whether this is the case--and there are any number of plausible alternative explanations for the decision. But if there's any truth to Andrew's speculation, it's a pretty sorry day for William F. Buckley's old magazine.

Update: Derbyshire says that the piece was originally commissioned by The American Conservative and that National Review was never involved in any way.

--Christopher Orr