Tag Archives: Bruce Bartlett

The closing of the conservative mind

I’m sure many are following the fallout from David Frum’s firing over at the American Enterprise Institute. Bruce Bartlett sympathizes:

As some readers of this blog may know, I was fired by a right wing think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush’s policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D. In the years since, I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC.

Now the same thing has happened to David Frum, who has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute. I don’t know all the details, but I presume that his Waterloo post on Sunday condemning Republicans for failing to work with Democrats on healthcare reform was the final straw.

Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already.

I’ve been arguing along this front for a while. As I wrote back in June:

My recommendation for GOP party strategists? Dump the social agenda. Because it allows the everyday failings of your leaders to undermine your message and cultivates an anti-intellectual environment, marginalizing key thinkers and discouraging diversity of thought. Those concepts are at the center of any effective political movement. I’m not the only person making these arguments; here is Nobel Laureate Gary Becker (U Chicago) making a more nuanced version of the argument.

We’re living in an America where the intellectual heft on any argument now almost exclusively comes from the left. Liberal scholars have a meaningful, respected place in discourse; conservative scholars have been excluded from the discussion by the GOP.

Edit: Patrick Ruffini has more. Key lines:

This may be oversimplified. There are certainly many very good conservative health care scholars whose work I should have been reading more closely these last few years. But politics is a battle of perceptions, and the perception — that became reality — was that Republicans brought a knife to a gun fight when it came a debate about the scope and reach of health care reform.

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