Friday, June 25, 2010

On Dave Weigel

For some reason, the whole dustup over now former Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel's rants on contemporpary conservatism to a liberal email list has been intriguing. I've been of various minds on this issue. First off, I have to agree with Ross Douthat that it seems rather unconscionable for someone to share what were considered private emails to the public. Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's always available for everyone to see.

That said, there is another aspect of this whole issue that has bothered me. It can be summed up in something Andrew Sullivan said regarding Weigel's departure:
A sad day for journalism. Ben Smith claims Dave is a liberal. Not from where I sit. He's a sane libertarian, which means he understood just how completely nuts the conservative movement and Republican party now are.

Weigel more often than not, focused on the more crazier parts of the conservative movement and the Republican party. Of course, they are the more "interesting" parts of the today's GOP, but Weigel seemed to be guilty of something many journalists have done: focus exclusively on a small segment of the party.

Jim Geraghty at National Review says this about Weigel:

From where I sit, he spends too much time writing about fringe figures and trends that are largely irrelevant to national politics (Orly Taitz, Birthers, etc.), but perhaps that’s his genuine fascination and/or what his employers wanted. Righties suspected Dave wanted to spotlight the freakiest and least appealing self-proclaimed “conservatives”; I suspect that at least part of Dave’s mentality was simply, “You have got to hear what this lunatic is saying.”

But Weigel is not alone in this. Many pundits, including Sullivan, tend to focus almost exclusively on the crazies, and ignore anyone that presents a sane view- unless said politician or pundit is being pilloried by the far right.

Back in late May, Mike at the Big Stick wrote about how the wider society wanted to view conservatives. He wrote:

I’ve sparred with my friend Ames over at Submitted to a Candid World for a long time about the tone of voices from both sides. He usually prefers to link to articles at RedState or Fox News clips rather than any kind of reasoned or intelligent conservatives. This is of course by design because Ames is, if nothing else, a loyal soldier for the DNC. He is smart enough to know that if he persuades people that RedState and Glen Beck are the norm for the Right and the sum of all intelligent thought it advances the liberal cause i.e. election wins. He also knows that links to RedState generate the most traffic.
Whenever I’ve pointed out his affinity for bottom-of-the-barrel conservatives his counter-argument is that until the more intelligent conservatives have the audience of Fox News, they are irrelevant. Of course this is a catch-22 scenario because they can only get that kind of audience if smart people listen to them and recommend them to others. The problem is that there’s too much risk involved in that approach. While eventually liberals like Ames might be convinced to entertain well-reasoned conservative positions, the danger is that they might just be persuaded.

Of course, conservativism and the GOP have its share of crazies and they have seemingly grown over the last few years. Contrary to what Sully thinks the Republicans have had to deal with craziness for a long time. But I think that as long as writers like Weigel only focus on the Sarah Palins of the world and miss out on the reform minded folks like Republicans for Environmental Protection, the road to reform within the GOP and wider conservative movement will be damaged.

The Republican Party and conservatism are much more than the Tea Party.

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