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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    Conservatives Able to Go Both Ways

    By Kyle | March 29, 2012

    My esteemed friend John Podhoretz makes a point that I’ve often thought before. Conservatives, because the culture is liberal (in a place like New York, D.C. or L.A., certainly, and other places as well) are forced to hear and digest liberal arguments. Liberals, on the other hand, can and often do wall themselves off from conservative thought (I specifically exclude reader YankeeFan from this group, by the way) and have no idea what our arguments may be; in the words of Lionel Trilling, they believe that conservatism is merely a collection of irritable mental gestures.

    On the other hand, maybe I just think all this because I’m a conservative.

    Says JPod:

    But this gets at a more fundamental point about American discourse. Until very recently, American conservatives were, by necessity, bilingual. To be sure, they were fluent in the language of conservative or classical liberal thought—the language of Burke and Adam Smith, the language of enumerated rights and governmental limits, the distinction between freedom and egalitarianism and between liberty and license.

    But they were also entirely conversant with liberal concepts—the centrality of fairness as an organizing principle, the notion that justice (in John Rawls’s understanding) involves redistributing goods to repair the injustices of nature and human nature, the elevation of reason over faith.

    That has never been true of American liberals. They know their own language but they don’t know the language of their ideological and partisan opposite numbers, and usually default to a form of prosecutorial analysis or psychoanalytic diagnosis to explain how so many people could come to so wrong a conclusion about things. They ascribe it to naked self-interest (i.e., greed), or irrational hatred and fear (i.e., ignorance), or mere stupidity

    There will be a certain amount of liberal apoplexia when ObamaCare is properly overturned by the Supreme Court 90 days or so from today, but to quote Churchill, “In victory, magnanimity.” And let us heed the advice of James Q. Wilson when asked by a conservative professor how he might approach a career in the left-wing hegemony of academia: “Be twice as productive and four times as nice as your colleagues.”

    Topics: Politics | 14 Comments »

    14 Responses to “Conservatives Able to Go Both Ways”

    1. yankeefan Says:
      March 29th, 2012 at 10:57 am

      I know liberals in Nebraska and other parts of the more conservative midwest and south who live yours and JPod’s experience, but in reverse. Possible that JPod’s view here is NY-or LA-culturati/media centric. (But I’ll have to read the column.)

      As to the vote on ObamaCare: I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if it were overturned (as you generously note, I’m not walled off). Apoplexic, maybe. But I actually think the Court will uphold the law for the simple reason that one or two conservative justices,(I am betting Roberts and/or Kennedy), being conservatives, won’t be entirely comfortable with the judiciary overturning a major piece of legislation, passed by two democratically elected houses of Congress and signed by the executive. I think this will be a case of, “I really hate this law and would love to overturn it…but judicial restraint’s a bitch.” O-care will be upheld, in my view, because a pair of conservatives will be judicially conservative.

      My prediction: 6-3 vote upholds, and if it’s 5-4 upholds, it’s Kennedy, not the chief justice, who crosses over.

      To your inevitable, and welcome, next question Kyle: Wanna bet? Sure. Drinks at one of our nearby watering holes

    2. K Says:
      March 29th, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      “Be twice as productive and four times as nice as your colleagues.”

      Because that approach worked out so well for the Juden in Deuschland?

    3. Kyle Says:
      March 29th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Yankeefan, I do want to bet! 5-4 to overturn. And root and branch. By affirming this decision, Kennedy and Roberts understand they would be opening the door to essentially any federal action that pretends to involve interstate commerce. Neither of them could live with themselves if they did that.

    4. Kyle Says:
      March 29th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      As for the argument that the red states are walled off from liberalism, I don’t buy it. They watch a Hollywood movie: liberalism. They turn on the Oscars or the Grammys: liberalism. They turn on any TV news network save one: liberalism. They read any national news magazine with few exceptions: liberalism. Even their local newspaper editor, who dearly wants to work for the New York Times or the Washington Post, is probably a liberal.

    5. yankeefan Says:
      March 29th, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      You’re on. Though I think the tally will be 6-3 to uphold, with those very two justices holding their noses, let’s just do a straight up, root-and-branch bet. 5-4 wins it either way.(I’m not giving points!) Loser buys a couple o’ rounds.

      If they do something like punt the mandate but keep the other parts, we can call it a draw.

      Willing also to talk presidential bet, but if you want to wait till Mitt wins the pennant, that’s fine.

    6. yankeefan Says:
      March 29th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      >>>As for the argument that the red states are walled off from liberalism, I don’t buy it.

      Not my argument. Was saying that red-state liberals have learned to swing both ways and are continually exposed to conservative thought and perspectives. That they are in the same position as you and JPod. Many red-state libs I know, while they have deep convictions, also have a deep understanding of conservative perspectives, and respect for certain aspects of it.

      I enjoy JPod’s work, but his worldview often seems as Upper West Side parochial as his lib neighbors. If he were to venture occasionally out of Zabars land, and into the red states he heralds (but I suspect hasn’t actually spent much time in, though I could of course be totally wrong), he’d find a good number of liberals who don’t fit this description:
      “They know their own language but they don’t know the language of their ideological and partisan opposite numbers…”

    7. Kyle Says:
      March 29th, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      er, not willing to bet on Mitt. I’d say he’s a slight underdog at this point.

    8. Patrick Wahl Says:
      March 30th, 2012 at 12:28 am

      My guess is that Obamacare gets the Supreme Court chick vote (Kagan, Ginsburg, Sotomayor), but still is overturned. I think the consequences of the government being able to tell people what services they must buy would be so far reaching that at least 5 of them will vote against it.

    9. KS Says:
      March 30th, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Is yankeefan an attorney?

      I can’t bring myself to call Kagan a chick (and I haven’t educated myself as to why she shouldn’t recuse herself), but I cautiously agree with Patrick.

    10. yankeefan Says:
      March 30th, 2012 at 10:30 am

      Yankeefan is argumentative, but not a paid advocate, no.

    11. Kyle Says:
      March 30th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Like John Cleese in the Argument Clinic: “I could be arguing in my spare time.”

    12. Yankeefan Says:
      June 28th, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Kyle: I’m thirsty.

    13. Kyle Says:
      June 28th, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      I accept defeat. Name the place.

    14. yankeefan Says:
      June 28th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Details TK.