A good discussion and an earnest snark-free one going on out there in the blog world about what happened to the conservative mind. How did conservatives go from William F. Buckley to Sarah Palin? How did they go from thoughtful and intellectual discourse to death panels and discussions comparing Obama's ACA to Hitler's Gestapo? A particularly good essay on this subject is this one from Noah Millman.
I am not sure who closed it, but I am quite convinced it is closed or closing. When serious conservatives around me defend the Tea Party as a legitimate voice that needs to be heard, I know that there is something seriously wrong. The Tea Party, which the Times poll showed this last week, is anti-government and wants government out of their lives, except for Medicare and Social Security which they want left alone. As I told a conservative friend this week, they aren't anti-government services, they just resent those government services going to, you know, other people. Given that the same poll said this group believes that government is spending far too much time on the needs of black people, you don't have to look to far to identify the "others."
Don't ask me to respect such rhetoric.
But back to the conservative mind, I do see a few examples of why it is closing. Millman talked about the trend of exiling dissenters, and you only have to check in with the NRO to see it in action. Jim Manzi, who I had not read, but who is respected as a conservative critic of climate change legislation, turned his criticism against Mark Levin, and found himself in deep trouble with the right wingers. Most interesting to me was the fact that many of Levin's supporters decided that Manzi was a liberal or even a Marxist. This reminds me of how Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bartlett immediately ceased being conservative when they dissented from Bush's policies.
And of course, we cannot talk about the closing of the conservative mind without considering my old friends in the conservative evangelical movement. I found this ABC report video quite interesting. Turns out a prominent conservative evangelical admitted that evolution could no longer be denied. I think his line was something like, "if we ignore facts in front of us, we become a cult."
I will leave it to you to imagine the response. The conservative mind hasn't always been closed. But it is pretty well shut right now to anything that doesn't fit their version of the world. Facts, as Colbert noted, have a well-known liberal bias.
I have to admit a bit of schadenfreude when I observe this from conservatives. As a Democrat who would prefer to win more elections than we lose, I should like this. A closed Republican mind bodes well for that Democratic electoral outlook. But it bodes extremely poorly for the country as a whole. It is hard for me, by the way, to imagine any candidate the GOP could put forward who would concede the science on climate change, or the mountain of evidence behind evolution. I find it hard to imagine a GOP candidate who would dare raise taxes even as the deficit soars, and state budgets implode, or who would dare to teach birth control.
All of those are bad for our national mind. I would prefer a real opposition party with intellectual legitimacy.