There's much to appreciate in John Derbyshire's essay that Eve links to about the rise of right-wing talk radio and the concomitant decline of intellecutal conservatism. As an analytical exercise, it's pretty much spot-on. Just witness the reaction Tucker Carlson received at CPAC yesterday merely for saying a few positive words about the New York Times, all in a rather innocent attempt to beseech his fellow conservatives to "mimic" the Gray Lady's premier status as the country's paper of record.

But in reading this piece one should also take into consideration the conservatism that Derbyshire wants, namely the populist, paleoconservative, xenophobic, isolationist variety espoused by the publication in which his meditation appears, The American Conservative. That sort of politics was embodied last year by crank newsletter publisher (and sometime Congressman) Ron Paul, whom both Derbyshire and TAC endorsed. Mocking those who took issue with Paul's paranoid rantings about international banking conspiracies, the "NAFTA Superhighway," and other, less benign, obsesssions, Derbyshire dismisses the criticism of Paul as all guilt-by-association nonsense:

And Ron Paul, you know, has a cousin whose best friend’s daughter was once dog-walker for a member of the John Birch Society. So much for him!  

The factual record on Ron Paul and the John Birch Society is clear, and his association with the fringe organization that made itself famous by alleging that Dwight Eisenhower was "a dedicated conscious agent of the communist conspiracy" cannot be so easily brushed aside. In October, Paul delivered the keynote address at the Society's 50th anniversary dinner; prior to his speech he released a statement praising the "great patriotic organization." Nor is his involvement limited to this one address. When I reported my story last year, a Birch Society spokesman told me that Paul had spoken to the group about a half dozen times over the past decade. Sorry, but this is not the stuff of Barack Obama being at a dinner in the presence of Rashid Khalidi.  

Again, Derbyshire's withering critique of the modern conservative movement is well worth reading. It does say something about a political disposition when its most prominent expositors are Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. But Derbyshire would replace those bloviators with the likes of Patrick Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopulos. One hopes that a revivified conservative movement will look to the future, rather than its ugly Lindbergian past, in consideration of how to reform.

--James Kirchick