can you spell conservative without f-u-d
February 21, 2010 6:36 PM   Subscribe

i'd really like to learn more about the philosophy that seems to drive the "other half" of the united states. but i react badly to fox news and conservative talk radio. help me find a conservative writer or speaker i can trust and respect.

i'd like to learn more about why conservatives think the way they do about: the role of the national government, taxes, climate change, welfare, gay rights.

i'd like to find a writer or speaker who is intellectually honest. they do not resort to emotional manipulation or fear mongering. they sincerely feel that they have the best interests of the nation at heart. they do not say things just to attract the spotlight. this is someone who enjoys a rigorous debate but can do so without hating their opponent. bonus points to someone who is open to changing their mind.

(i honestly know few writers or speakers who meet these criteria on "my" side. jon stewart is probably one. bill maher and michael moore are definitely not.)
posted by phoeniciansailor to Law & Government (42 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
I don't agree with all of these people and some of them may associate with people you want to avoid (the emotionally manipulative) but they are all good writers/bloggers.

None of them are really associated with the left.

Bruce Bartlett
Tyler Cowen
Richard Posner
David Brooks
Bryan Caplan
Milton Friedman (no relation to me) (conservative gays. They do exist apparently.)

There are many more.
posted by dfriedman at 6:40 PM on February 21, 2010

You might want to begin by identifying the conservatives in congress who
have hugged the middle and haven't indulged in all the filthy media play...the
Obama is Stalin campaign, health care bill will authorize the wholesale slaughter
of the elderly, etc. There must be a few heroes there...only I don't know who these
people are!
posted by manwoo at 6:47 PM on February 21, 2010

A really good question. I think a good virtue to look for is some measure of self doubt and talk radio and Fox aren't great places to find that. With that in mind Andrew Sullivan is worth reading. In particular his struggles to be a gay conservative force him into interesting conflict with movement zealots. PJ O'Rouke is good from the libertarian side of conservative. Both write well.

I have never come across a cultural conservative writer that doesn't make me gag. I hope to read some recommendations here.
posted by Fiery Jack at 6:48 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about Peggy Noonan?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:49 PM on February 21, 2010

This TED talk should be right up your alley: Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives.
posted by flabdablet at 6:54 PM on February 21, 2010 [14 favorites]

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) just got soundly spanked by Bruce Bartlett and issued his typical "why are you over-reacting to my ass-covering rhetorical question that actually was meant to advance an argument while maintaining plausible deniability and oh, yeah Obama is worse" reply. He is not honest or fair, but is a snide, passive-aggressive serial linker who rarely makes a post with more than a paragraph of original writing. He is a well-known blogger largely because he got started early and links promiscuously. AVOID.

Dan Drezner is a smart guy who makes serious arguments. So is James Joyner.
posted by maudlin at 6:56 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

While not exactly conservative, The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank. If you're looking for conservative viewpoints in terms of things like free markets, government power, and taxes, you can find some articles there that are generally more thoughtful than your average TV pundit.
posted by wondermouse at 7:00 PM on February 21, 2010

Thomas Sowell is an African American conservative columnist who tends more on the economics and rational explanations rather than emotional appeals to make an argument.
posted by Dukat at 7:05 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

this is someone who enjoys a rigorous debate but can do so without hating their opponent. bonus points to someone who is open to changing their mind.

I'm a liberal, but this part of your description made me think of David Brooks and George Will as there have been times when I've read something they wrote or heard them speak on talk shows where I felt they demonstrated these qualities. However, I don't read either of them regularly, so I don't know if this is typical of them. But they both seemed to me more trustworthy and open-minded than other conservative commentators in my (admittedly limited) experience, and I think both of them have broken with the typical Republican party line from time to time, showing some independent thinking.
posted by stillwater at 7:05 PM on February 21, 2010

There are two paths you can go down, here. The first is to try to figure out the "crazy side" of things -- get inside the heads of the people angry about a socialist in the white house, and so on. The other option is to to seek out "conservatives" that are smart, rational thinkers who you disagree with but can fundamentally respect.

I've always found Daniel Larison, one of the bloggers for American Conservative magazine, to be insightful and decent as a human being. Mind you, he's now persona non grata in conservative blogging circles because he's not a neoconservative.
posted by verb at 7:12 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Speaking of the Cato Institute, I just came across Will Wilkinson's blog, which I've found digestible. Again, not really your average man-on-the-street perspective, but definitely to the right of the left.

From the Big Business side of conservativism, if you can call it a side of conservativism, The Economist and the Wall Street Journal are of course good starting places.
posted by ropeladder at 7:12 PM on February 21, 2010

I recommend Rick Perlstein’s excellent Barry Goldwater biography, Before The Storm Perlstein’s a liberal who writes with great empathy for the conservative viewpoint, really does a good job. The late William Buckley endorsed it as fair-minded.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 7:20 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed William Rehnquist's "All the Laws But One: Civil Liberties in Wartime." That particular book doesn't really have a clear position on the left-right spectrum, but he is certainly a conservative and in this book he comes off as a clear writer with serious things to say about the history of the judicial enterprise.
posted by escabeche at 7:21 PM on February 21, 2010

Id also look into the concept of identity politics. When you identify as a conservative and as a religious person, you dont need reason or logic to support these positions. You're told them via some authority and understand them to be part of your culture and identity without much skepticism.

Example: Of course Obama is not a real citizen, the people you know and trust say so, and you dont like him, so whats the problem?

Of course, there's a more intellectual conservative, but they havent been a political force in decades. I think its disingenuous to pretend those people represent a modern Republican. If anything, these elites use this bas to vote against their own interests via dirty politics. Noam Chomsky comments on this in this interview:
So take right now, for example, there is a right-wing populist uprising. It’s very common, even on the left, to just ridicule them, but that’s not the right reaction. If you look at those people and listen to them on talk radio, these are people with real grievances. I listen to talk radio a lot and it’s kind of interesting. If you can sort of suspend your knowledge of the world and just enter into the world of the people who are calling in, you can understand them. I’ve never seen a study, but my sense is that these are people who feel really aggrieved. These people think, “I’ve done everything right all my life, I’m a god-fearing Christian, I’m white, I’m male, I’ve worked hard, and I carry a gun. I do everything I’m supposed to do. And I’m getting shafted.” And in fact they are getting shafted. For 30 years their wages have stagnated or declined, the social conditions have worsened, the children are going crazy, there are no schools, there’s nothing, so somebody must be doing something to them, and they want to know who it is. Well Rush Limbaugh has answered – it’s the rich liberals who own the banks and run the government, and of course run the media, and they don’t care about you—they just want to give everything away to illegal immigrants and gays and communists and so on.
That paragraph describes modern conservatives better than anything else I can imagine.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:25 PM on February 21, 2010 [34 favorites]

We refer to David Brooks in our (liberal) household as "Our Favorite Conservative Pundit".
posted by ersatzkat at 7:25 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just finished, and enjoyed, Deer Hunting with Jesus; it is sort of a book-length version of what damn dirty ape has quoted and you may find it illuminating.
posted by kmennie at 7:32 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

thelastenglishmajor has already mentioned Rick Perlstein, and I'll endorse that recommendation: if you read Nixonland, you'll have a better sense of how the contemporary writers mentioned above map to the modern conservative political spectrum.
posted by holgate at 7:35 PM on February 21, 2010

Well, first of all, you need to understand that there is great diversity of philosophy within the conservative portion of the country: we're not some lock-step, one-mind monster. Witness, for example, that it was GOProud who was a co-sponsor of the recent CPAC event and that not everyone in attendance was down with the presence of teh gay (although those folks were outnumbered, as they increasingly are, by conservatives who believe in the power of the Big Tent).

Conservative by no means immediately means 'religious' by any stretch of the imagination. Conservatives can be, and are, anti-war, pro-gay marriage, etc.

You said you're looking for people open to changing their minds--I can think of no better start than someone who did change their mind, moving from liberal to conservative: link is to her series of articles detailing what changed her mind.

I'm a huge fan of Christopher Hitchens, the Cato Institute blogs and a good chunk of Reason. You can also never go wrong with PJ O'Rourke.
posted by gsh at 7:40 PM on February 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

My first reaction was the same as that of stillwater in the ninth post: George Will and David Brooks. I would also add the writings of the late William F. Buckley. And, you never know exactly where he is on the left/right spectrum (which says something if you can keep from being boxed in) but Christopher Hitchens is aggravating and enlightening at the same time. Of those on the "social right" many stupid comments as he makes, Pat Buchanan is still a solid political observer who is sometimes very hard on other conservatives - especially on economic issues. In fact, his American Conservative magazine is quite good with many contributors who most of us would consider, at least, reasonable. Buchanan is sometimes the most conservative writer in many issues of the magazine.

I think on many issues we are seeing a convergence of anger that is making it harder to label many who have legitimate grievances regardless of their "politics." For example, where do you put Ron Paul on the spectrum in today's political environment? Somewhere very different than ten years ago when he had the exact same positions. Paul is nothing if not consistent.

Interesting times.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 7:57 PM on February 21, 2010

I second the recommendation of Milton Friedman for conservative economic policies. Also Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative, although Goldwater was kinda more libertarian than conservative. (You are probably getting a lot of libertarian recs because libertarians tend to be more intellectually honest and consistent--I doubt you'll find much in the way of intellectual social conservative writing that doesn't take as axioms articles of religious faith.)
posted by phoenixy at 7:58 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Conservatives" hardly exist any more. The movement has become fragmented, even subverted. So there's no one idea of "conservatism" to follow.

The closest you get to a real conservative is Pat Buchanan, and you have to understand that Pat gives you a lower-middle-class Roman Catholic take on issues, with arguably some latent racism and and antisemitism (in contrast to, say, Bill Buckley's patrician RC take and more genteel racism).

Opposed to Pat are the neocons, who are interventionists, mostly former Democrats, and largely Jewish and pro-Israel. These may actually be somewhat more lefty on domestic issues, willing to fund a little butter -- but only after the guns are paid for.

Then you have your Bircher types -- Buckley essentially threw the Birchers out of Movement Conservatism, but this year they were sponsors of CPAC. Count Glenn Beck, the modern day Cleon Skousen in this Hofstadterian "Paranoid Style" camp. They're deathly afraid: of Communists, Blacks, and fluoridation.

Of course Glenn (and Cleon) are Mormons, which means the Evangelicals don't trust them here on Earth (and expect them to go, eventually, to hell), but emotionally they're closely related (except that the Evangelicals, of all the groups, seem to have become the least racist, probably because of rainbow-hued grandchildren). Both the Evangels and the Birchers see a society being corrupted and subverted, and both are concerned with regulating morality, but the Evangels are more concerned with sexual morality and its spin-off, "pro-life".

Not as concerned with morality, but very concerned about economic liberty and the Gold Standard, are the Libertarians -- who are unsurprisingly backed by Big Money, often the Koch brothers.

(You'll note I mention religion quite a bit; the older I get, the more I think that religion and politics in America are inseparable and have been ever since that bunch of religious nuts settled Massachusetts bay in anticipation of the end of the world.)

But the take home is this: Burkean conservatism no longer applies in America (though you might still find its echoes in George Will), and "conservatism" is meaningless without qualifying "which conservatism". So before you read a "conservative", before you ask what "conservative" to read, you have to say which variety of "conservatism" you mean.
posted by orthogonality at 8:08 PM on February 21, 2010 [11 favorites]

Novelty conservative author who is winning a lot of acclaim from Newt Gingrich: Jonathan Krohn!
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 8:19 PM on February 21, 2010

Andrew Sullivan is not a conservative. He's also completely nuts.

Victor Davis Hanson is highly regarded by other conservatives.

Or you might try reading National Review Corner, a conservative group blog.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:19 PM on February 21, 2010

There's also the Volokh Conspiracy. It's another group blog, whose members are mainly law professors. Their main subject of discussion is legal decisions, especially constitutional ones. Eugene Volokh, the founder, is a noted expert on the First Amendment.

Some posts can get a little dry, but it's more interesting than you might think. And it's notably lacking in invective -- as long as you don't read the comments.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:43 PM on February 21, 2010

Shortly after the 2008 election, I came across the blog The Next Right and found it to be refreshingly non-rabid. It focuses more on strategy and commentary than spreading the latest Drudge Report talking point. Although I haven't read it regularly, and it appears they've taken on more guest bloggers whose posts can get pretty raw, most of the writing seems eminently reasonable -- a lot like FiveThirtyEight, in fact. Here's a sample from last month discussing the aftermath of Scott Brown's victory:
Stop Gloating

Scott Brown’s victory is an enormous opportunity – for the Democrats.

That is if we repeat the mistakes of the past in interpreting a “change” election.

There is no doubt that President Obama and Democratic over-reaching on stimulus and health care – to no immediate effect – fueled the Brown momentum in Massachusetts. They know that and after they get through finger-pointing and in-fighting, they will do some serious soul-searching in the wake of Brown’s election much like we did after November 2008.

Republicans meanwhile appear to be reacting to Brown’s win by puffing up our chests and assuming that we will win every place we play.

However, more than anything, voters in Massachusetts – as in states around the country – are fed up with government. The have no faith in the current leadership of both parties for good reason.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:52 PM on February 21, 2010

I'd suggetst Ross Douthat. Formerly of The Atlantic and now writing a weekly op-ed for The New York Times on Mondays.
posted by Glibpaxman at 10:01 PM on February 21, 2010

Perusing the decidedly liberal Sadly No! archives might be helpful in filtering out the crazies.
posted by telstar at 10:01 PM on February 21, 2010

Andrew Sullivan is not a conservative.

Well, not this week.
In other words, AS is not a good compass to what conservatives think though he has traveled widely amongst them.

i'd like to learn more about why conservatives think the way they do about: the role of the national government, taxes, climate change, welfare, gay rights.

Rather than pundits, I'll give you thinkers. Burke is one. (You should also read Locke, to understand liberalism better.) Two key influences on the economic thinking of conservatives are Ayn Rand and Friedrich von Hayek (in particular, The Road to Serfdom [which has a deadly serious cartoon version]). Watch The Commanding Heights to understand how Hayek's ideas and those of more liberal economists such as Keynes (and more radical ones such as Marx) have been in a tug of war throughout the latter half of the 20th century.

Social conservatism is harder to nail down without falling into a well of reactionary solipsism. I suppose Goldwater is as a good a place to start as any; his book inspired many a liberal collegian into the Young Republicans (for instance, W was given his own autographed copy by his father -- even though Barry and Prescott Bush had no few differences).

We live in strange days, though, when old-school righties like George Will are almost entirely out of touch, and as sure a hand as Peggy Noonan blanched at the selection of Sarah Palin. McCain is as true-blue an old-line conservative as you can find in Congress, but he isn't trusted by the base. Brooks is a moderate who works for the devil, the NYT. Even Ross Douthat, a young rightie equivalent of Matt Yglesias, is hardly a guide to what is going on inside the heads of the tea partiers. The GOP always had a fringe but the people running the show cynically nodded to their prejudices only to the extent necessary. Well, that dynamic no longer holds. The Republicans in Congrss are just as scared of -- and just as likely to be targeted by -- the tea party-Palin wing, who are being revolutionary in ways explicitly cribbed from Saul Alinsky (who was a populist, not a socialist, but never you mind that -- his name is now a dirty word). Basically, the entire movement is in flux and finding its feet. Watching it is as challenging as keeping up with FIFA.
posted by dhartung at 10:08 PM on February 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Representing the conservative viewpoint to liberals is what David Brooks does.

He and Mark Shields (liberal) have a weekly segment on The NewsHour.

You can get this segment as a podcast here.

I find Brooks to be a likable guy and I've been listening to him for years. However, I confess, I still don't understand conservatives at all.
posted by marsha56 at 10:15 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not a short or direct answer but... Until a few years ago, I called myself conservative. I was a college campus activist, started a campus groups, the whole bit. Never Republican, per se, but conservative. The liberals I knew (1980s-1990s) struck me as too dreamy-eyed, too much like children, while the GOP seemed like the party of adults. Yeah, I was naive; but along the way, I read Russell Kirk's book The Politics of Prudence.

Kirk came from the Buckleyesque natural-law, natural-aristocrat school of conservatism. He argued, convincingly, that conservatism wasn't a party or a set of rules, but rather a mode of thinking; one which counseled prudent, restrained political action and social change. To him, a conservative cleaved to the "permanent things" in human life, rather than passing fads; he held there are multigenerational responsibilities (as Edmund Burke wrote, a contract between the dead, the living, and the yet-unborn), and that the highest goal of public life was to pass on the best aspects of culture, faith and manners. Kirk set the conservative against the ideologue, who is convinced he has the best set of ideas for everyone, and rushes to carry them out. Essentially, a conflict of prudence vs restraint.

Kirk was imperfect, much too Southern, agrarian and wrapped in a romantic vision of the past. (Better, he'd say, than a romantic vision of the future.) Still, his concept of a non-partisan conservatism, of people who share a mode of thought, and humility, was formative for me. Not, unfortunately, for most right-wing Americans. The Republicans today are radical ideologues, by and large. Whether the historic party-line of limited government was ever an honest ideal, I don't know now; they seemed to once; but you can't believe those things and actively follow Cheney and Palin. Perhaps there are a few wise among them, but I despair of finding many. Please realize that "conservative" has undergone an Orwellian twist of meaning. Today, the surest way to meet an ideologue is to find a "conservative" Republican.

Were I you, I'd look for the Kirk book -- but with he and Buckley gone there are few others who can be both contrary and intelligent. You might look over the titles published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. C S Lewis (another dead one!) certainly, and some of his essays are passionate, humane and honorable, despite many things written during his recent roasting by the literati.

Among the living, you might read some P J O'Rourke; and George Will, though for me, he's a bit hit-and-miss -- more of a restrained Republican than actually conservative. Christopher Hitchens is all over the place, politically and, maybe, mentally; so is Mark Steyn. Andrew Sullivan has his faults, but he may be among the most steady conservative popular writers.

I'd argue that some things espoused by Al Gore were essentially conservative in nature. Not right-wing, neo-whatever, of course -- but that just shows how far off course the right-wing establishment has careened.

Sorry for the rambling length. Good luck!
posted by slab_lizard at 10:51 PM on February 21, 2010 [9 favorites]

Good post slab_lizard! Do you have any thoughts on the millitantly Christian views of many conservatives? I suppose your point about "the highest goal of public life" explains a lot of that position.
posted by Fiery Jack at 2:53 AM on February 22, 2010

Seconding Thomas Sowell-- really brilliant man, extremely rational, and not at all manipulative or emotional.

Also, possibly, Mark Steyn, who's also fiercely intelligent, although occasionally a bit too journalistic for my tastes. If you're especially sensitive about "your side," his humor might get on your nerves a bit, too.

But most of all, I'd recommend browsing City Journal, the journal of the Manhattan Institute. Its writers have a generally conservative perspective on things, but are uniformly thoughtful and well-spoken: I don't think I've ever read a shrill, vituperative or poorly-evidenced article there. The full journal is by subscription, but they post lots of articles free online. Definitely worth checking out.

In general, I'd say that the farther from "entertainment" you get (on both ends of the political spectrum), the likelier you are to find thoughtful and rational writing. That's why I can't abide Jon Stewart-- although they may look the same, scoring a joke off something =/= refuting it.

Lastly, please take with a grain of salt responses along the lines of "Oh, there are no rational conservatives, they're all ig'nant/bigoted/hicks/religious zealots, that's the whole point". I'm sure it's comforting to people your political landscape with straw men, but it's not an especially enlightened or intelligent way to go through life.
posted by yersinia at 5:10 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

A lot of conservatism is understandable if you can be empathic with frightened people. Not "real" conservatism, perhaps (about which I recommend reading The Conscience of a Conservative) but the current political climate. Imagine you felt your world was out of control--economically, culturally, and militarily. You don't have time for nuance when you're in danger. You want someone to make you feel safe.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:24 AM on February 22, 2010

Another vote for the City Journal. Some of the most interesting articles I've ever found on the net are from their site.
posted by thisperon at 5:38 AM on February 22, 2010

Seconding Yersinia's recommendation of City Journal. I don't know of a better focal point of (mostly) secular conservative writing and reporting.

Some attention should be paid to First Things. It is a bit of a mind-blower to a typical liberal. Intensely cerebral writing by (mostly) tenured professors ... but with a focus that it is ardently conservative and non-secular. The heart of of First Things is Ratingzer-focused Roman Catholic intellectual conservatism, but plenty of Evangelicals, Eastern Orthodox and (politically) conservative Jews write there are well.

(Note that both City Journal and First Things offer websites that are designed to drive readership to their respective print editions, and as a result pay-wall a meaningful chunk of content.)

Chocolate Pickel's recommendation of the Volokh Conspiracy is also merit-worthy, but the conservative content is going to be more diffuse: there are several liberal posters, and many posts which focus on non ideological (or at least non right-left ideology) legal topics.

The National Review Online group log "The Corner" was noted above. I think that the original content there tends to be a bit schematic, newsy, and often featuring some fairly weak house writers ... but it is an excellent and essential source of links to conservative content elsewhere. Because of the timeliness and scope of the reporting and linking "The Corner" is essential reading; I doubt there's a serious political or intellectual conservative anywhere in the US who doesn't skim it daily.
posted by MattD at 6:29 AM on February 22, 2010

n'thing City Journal.

Re: F-Jack and "militantly Christian views," I'm not quite sure how to answer that. Reflecting on it a bit, I'm supposing you mean militant = fervent = opinionated /obnoxious? If so, yes, absolutely there are many opinionated Christians who identify with conservatism; and some that don't; and many opinionated atheists (or whomever) who identify with liberalism; etc. Many people of all political stripes are obnoxious about their own opinions. My 2 cents' worth is that a humane, thoughtful (conservative?) person ought to take some ideas fairly seriously, to take other people seriously, but constantly be guarding against taking oneself's opinions too seriously.

Else you end up sending long-winded answers into the Internets.

I'm not sure that gets at your question. Maybe you're asking why do Christians identify with conservatism? Or with Republicanism? Or, maybe, why do the Christians who vote R seem so obnoxious? Or -- why disagree with you? Come to think of it, what are you asking, exactly?
posted by slab_lizard at 9:19 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Slab_Lizard – I read your original post with interest and I found your descriptions of Kirk’s work a helpful and non-party political view of what conservatism might mean. I tried to apply that approach to some current controversies in modern American politics and the difficulty I found was “the best aspects of culture, faith and manners” too subjective to be useful. An American Christian could read that and sincerely feel they were being conservative by fighting to restrict abortion access and a pro-lifer could value choice and privacy and reach a conservative yet opposite conclusion. Despite this, the former group tends to identify themselves as conservative while the latter do not – is this just tradition? I guess there is no real substitute for finding/reading the book you suggest but I was interested in your opinion as one who has.

[My original question was vague. Sorry. I meant your first equality (fervent) and not the second (opinionated/obnoxious). Whether I find it obnoxious or not isn’t relevant to the quality of the thought. ]
posted by Fiery Jack at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2010

Fiery Jack -- yes, that's a pretty subjective description. But I also think it works, in the sense that Kirk's argument was that conservatism is a mode of thinking, and specifically not a checklist of opinions which one must hold. Holding to a party line was the definition of an ideologue, he'd say -- conservatives are free to disagree on this or that particular point, but, given a shared culture, will agree generally.

You're abortion example brings this into sharp relief. Hmm. I'm not at all saying that Republican "conservatives" today are, in fact, conservative. Many of them may have tendencies that align with traditional ideas -- but given their willingness to abandon legal traditions for torture, to pave over the environmental resources they're supposed to preserve for future generations, etc., they hold, at best, a conflicted viewpoint.

... I do think that Kirk's book is useful as a way of taking a deep breath and thinking about fundamental approaches to public life. His conservative-defining may be too idealistic, though, given how readily and forcefully we H. sapiens adhere to tribes. Progressives, too, of course. We seem to be ideologues by default.
posted by slab_lizard at 4:51 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

As with many of the posters above, I cannot promise that these links will give you any insight into what a particular Republican or Tea Party protestor feels, or why, but they should give you a better understanding of why one might choose to be conservative.

First, seconding recommendations above:

Daniel Larison

Andrew Sullivan

Second, two essays that changed the way I approached conservative thought:

Church Buildings – Monuments with Mixed Messages by Rev. Valencheck

What Is Authority? by Hannah Arendt (one of six essays in the linked document)
posted by Ptrin at 9:28 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Joyner, Drezner, Wilkinson, Larison, Bartlett, Cowen, Posner : I know of all these people from reading Sullivan. It's where he links to that makes him a worthwhile conduit for ideas, irrespective of the veracity, sincerity, prejudices and shortfalls of the man himself.
posted by peacay at 9:36 PM on February 22, 2010

Barack Obama? I thought The Audacity of Hope was really well written and gave me some insight into how someone as intelligent as he seems to be can hold such conservative beliefs.


There's also, as others have said, PJ O'Rourke. Though it's hard to imagine anyone who advocates decriminalizing drugs and legalizing prostitution fitting under today's conservative umbrella.
posted by 256 at 9:53 AM on May 7, 2010

I'd suggetst Ross Douthat. Formerly of The Atlantic

I'd say the Atlantic in general. conservative (not the small "c") without being batshitinsane about it.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 AM on May 7, 2010

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