Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Parlor Game

Several commentators have noted that the NY Times has dropped William Kristol from its op-ed page. Many have started to ask who ought to repace him as a conservative commentator, if the Times has plans to replace him at all. My first thought is Charles Murray. Murray is a distinguished and influential social scientist who consistently writes very smart, provocative, and well researched books and essays. Strictly speaking, he is a libertarian not a conservative, but it might be good to have such a voice in a prominent place. Given the Times’s racial sensitivities, perhaps Murray’s not a viable candidate, due to the Bell Curve. What other thoughts do people have?

Discussions - 8 Comments

It depends on what the NYT wants. Many NYT readers (you can read them on blog comments about Kristol) read the NYT, and especially the editorial page, in order to be comforted. They want the editorial page to tell them that everything they already think they know is just right. They want the NYT editorial page to be a printed and liberal version of conservative talk radio. The inclusion of contrary opinions is an ugly shock. This fraction of the NYT's readership might be a minority, but it is very vocal. If the NYT's priority is to not inflame this faction, then I suggest David Gergen.

But what if the NYT really wants a strong conservative voice that can speak to the NYT's mostly urban and upper-middle-class readership and influence the public debate? Then I strongly suggest Ramesh Ponnuru. He is a reformist conservative who has no trouble calling out the Right when he sees them going wrong. He was one of the first conservatives to point out that economic conservatism was failing to appeal to a broad majority of Americans and needed to be recast to deal with the economic struggles of the working class and issues that are more salient in this decade (like rising healthcare premiums) rather than focusing on across the board income tax cuts. He is a powerful, thoughtful and witty writer. Just as important, he is a religous and social conservative who is at the same time urbane. In this sense, he is the modern heir of William F. Buckley. The NYT could use a voice for social conservatism (it is a point of view with tens of millions of adherents that is totally unrepresented in the NYT at present)and social conservatism could use a voice that does not speak primarily to the already converted.

I like some of the names being mentioned in the blogoshere. Meagan McArdle is whip smart and articulate on economics, but isn't it a little weird to have your conservative writer be a social liberal and an Obama supporter? David Frum is moving in a more liberal direction on social issues. Charles Krauthammer would be better, but even he brings a basically secular sensibility that is omnipresent at the NYT. If not Ponnuru the maybe Ross Douthat would be second best.

Richard: Hell no!

The parochially cosmopolitan NYT readers need to encounter for once their lives a genuinely intelligent social conservative. Pete's on the right track.

I'm inclined to think they should sign up Pete.

When the phone don't ring, I'll know its the NYT. That was a very kind thing to say.

But there is a major problem with conservatism in that the predominantly conservative outlets(like Fox News, talk radio, the conservative blogoshere) have a limited audience. That audience is in the tens of millions but it is far short of a majority. Most nonpolitical Americans can go through life without hearing or seeing much from American conservatives except during election seasons. A strong conservative voice at the NYT could go some way in moderating this situation.

So why would the NYT do it? Well it depends what they think they can get out of it. If they can get a writer with "must read" buzz among conservatives, it could sell some papers - even New York City has some conservatives after all - and increase their web traffic. It isn't outlandish. Think about George Will at the Washington Post in the 70s and 80s. Conservative don't have to like the NYT, but if you give them a great product they might sample the product. At the same time, the urban and media classes that devour their daily NYT get a weekly dose of sophisticated, and bold conservative writing. It only needs to change a few minds to change the tone. Ramesh in '09!!!

Rush Limbaugh

My sense is that the readers of the Times need to learn to appreciate that nature places limits upon human endeavor. The thin edge of the wedge is to stress the inevitable unnteneded (but often predictable) consequences of government programs designed to solve our problems. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I simply don't think a social conservative would make any headway with that audience until they have learned to appreciate other things first.

I think they should consider that other American born in the wrong place (who is not, exactly, yet an American) Mark Steyn. Good humor and good writing go a long way. Of course . . . there's that little incident in Canada where it didn't go very far. But I hope even liberal Americans have a better sense of humor than most Canadians do.

Having to write something clever and worth reading about conservatism in the New York Times as often as the op-ed is printed would be a real pain in the butt. Why not have multiple conservative op-ed contributors? You could have Mark Steyn and Rush Limbaugh and Ponnuru and Gergen and Novak with an admixture of even darker horses like Alan Jacobs of Wheaton college, maybe even some of you. Still practically I agree with Dr. Adams, and I would add Walter Williams and periodically some other lesser known dissenting economics proffesors from NYU, UVA or George Mason. In addition I would from time to time solicit op-eds from congressmen and senators, why bother with conservative thinkers whose ideas may penetrate lightly, when you can get a fix on what republicans themselves are thinking? Get Cantor to pin an op-ed or let Ron Paul tell us what he really thinks of Keynes and the idea of a stimulus. If congress(democrat and republican) started fighting back and forth with Op ed's in the New York Times I would get a subscription.

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