The editor of The New York Times Book Review and the paper's "Week in Review" section, Sam Tanenhaus is the biographer of Whittaker Chambers and is at work on the life of William F. Buckley Jr. In a new, short book, The Death of Conservatism, he argues that the right needs to find its footing for the good of the country. In an e-mail exchange with Jon Meacham, Tanenhaus reflected on the book's themes.A self described independent, he comes to much the same conclusion regarding conservatism that I have, namely that the country is best served by both parties having smart and insightful opposition, and that currently conservatives in this country show little evidence of either.
Hannah Arendt identified the ability to listen—to place oneself inside the mind of others—as the essential requirement of democratic statesmanship. The function of conservatives is not to meet every liberal program or scheme with a denunciation or a destructive counterscheme, but rather to weigh its advantages and defects, supporting the first and challenging the second. A declaration of ideological warfare against liberalism is by its nature profoundly unconservative. It meets perceived radicalism with a counterradicalism of its own.This is an article I wish everyone would read and consider.