Sullivan and Wilkinson on Analytical Nationalism

Andrew writes,

I fear that many of the decent ideas in the book are undermined by a Rovian agenda to bribe a demographic to vote Republican.

Note how the valence changes when we change “Rovian” to, say, “Disraelian.” Not that Disraelian is more appropriate in this instance. But the idea of expanding a political coalition through the embrace of substantive and not merely rhetorical policy shifts has a pretty long and storied history. And of course the shifts that we identify with Rove are generally fairly narrow, e.g., steel tariffs to secure votes in a particular region, rather than, “Let’s create a freer healthcare market through a combination of deregulation and transparency, and include redistribute to the relatively poor rather than the relatively affluent.” I mean, if that were Rovian, I’d certainly think better of things Rovian.

Briefly, I’ll add that Will Wilkinson makes some excellent points in this characteristically smart post. His harsh critique of analytical nationalism and conventional political categories, a reflection of his deeply-held radicalism idealism, is worth your time.

So, when Sullivan says I “tear into GNP,” I was in fact tearing into the whole genre of partisan political books, which is obviously a banging-head-against-wall sort of thing to do. The bit he quotes was a coda to a post that defended Grand New Party against the charge that it is irrelevant because the authors are too naive to see that the Republican Party is the sworn enemy of anyone without a yacht. Just so you know.

I have to assume that Will would have serious reservations about Michael Oakeshott’s important, decidedly idiosyncratic framework. I’d love to see him engage the Sullivanian worldview. Arguments from skepticism — a reflection of liberalism at his best, which Andrew has called the conservatism of doubt — clearly resonate with “conservative theory of incremental social change.” Yet there are many other aspects of the nationalist conservatism of the Thatcherite right, and even of present-day Obamacons, that I’m guessing Will would find objectionable, if not toxic. And if there is no real daylight between Sullivan and Wilkinson, I wonder what the former would make of the latter’s forceful critique of Ron Paul’s constitutional nationalism and the cult of national identity, etc.

Will Wilkinson, someone I like and admire very much, is a strong tonic!