Sam Tanenhaus has been getting a lot of coverage for his new book, The Death of Conservatism. I saw him on the Open Mind (Part 1 here and Part 2 here) and C-SPAN this weekend. I’ll post the video from the C-SPAN segment when it becomes available. I rushed to my local book store to pick up a copy but they do not have it yet.
From what I have heard from Tanehaus, it sounds like he is calling on conservatives to reclaim their intellectual tradition (James Burnham, Russell Kirk, Michael Oakeshott, Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, and others) and abandon the bombastic conservatism of people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. While this is certainly appealing to me, I don’t know how much resonance this book will find among social/religious conservatives and nativists who are the largest bases of the Republican party at this time.
Podhoretz explores several mysteries, and he does not fail to put them in a way calculated to touch on the exposed nerves. One example: if the Jews “never took it as a mark of friendship that under Christian rule they could escape the disabilities and dangers of being Jewish simply by ceasing to be Jewish, why did they fail to recognize that the Enlightenment was offering them the same bargain in modern dress? Why were they unable to see that the French philosophes and their counterparts in other countries were in their own way no less an enemy to them as Jews than the early Fathers of the Church?”
A second mystery he investigates in a chapter on the Marxists and other radicals, including some on the right. He puts it this way: “The question thus arises of why the Jews who joined the radical camp were not put off by the egregious anti-Semitism of Marx or that of several other major figures of the socialist movement, including Charles Fourier (to whom the Jews were the ‘the leprosy and the run of the body politic’) and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (to whom the Jews were ‘the race which poisons everything [and] the enemy of the human race’).” Podhoretz has mined the literature for choice nuggets, such as Rosa Luxembourg (“Why do you come with your special Jewish sorrows?”) and Marx, who was baptized and had a flirtation with Christianity before moving to materialism. (“What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.”)