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'Too Dumb to Fail' Probes Conservatism

By Friday, 06 May 2016 11:26 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Matt Lewis has emerged as one of the new breed of conservative writers and thinkers.

Increasingly, his presence is becoming more important to the conservative movement in this all to an important era and he proves it in his new book, "Too Dumb To Fail."

In this age of the rise of the Donald, will his Nixon-like approach to governance supplant Reaganism, which has been marked by American conservatism, putting individual liberty over state security?

It’s a worthy question.

Right from the beginning, Lewis shows the courage to take on conventional wisdoms in modern conservatism, and that alone makes his book essential.

Suffice to say, American conservatism is wandering in the wilderness. It is not too much to say that conservatism finds itself in a crisis. And Lewis does not shrink from saying so.

Rather than many of the IQ draining thin books by so many cleavage cable commentators, trilling on the same old, same old, which invariable feature comely pictures of themselves on the dust jackets, Lewis turns his attention to the movement, saying what is wrong with it and arguing how it can improve.

The subtitle to the book is “How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution” and goes on to lay the blame at the feet of “anti-intellectualism, courting isolationism and taking cues from amateurs who lack experience and professionalism.”

In short, the consulting classes who have taken over the party are given little quarter.

There is no license to practice political consultant and the cable shows are thick with “Republican Strategists” who never worked on a campaign, they simply work to promote themselves.

Power cannot be destroyed not created. It can only be moved around. Power, in the GOP, has over the years moved from the local party operatives and state parties and elected officials to the Washington-based consulting and media classes and Lewis challenges this. Right from the beginning, he criticizes the “anti-intellectualism, courting isolationism” of some elements of the American right.

Give yourself a test. If you received simultaneously phone calls from Karl Rove or a U.S. senator, whose call would you take first? Therein lies the problem. Power has moved from the elected to the unelected simply because they often get more media coverage than public officials.

Lewis challenges conventions with glee, taking on “empty-headed talking point reciters . . . media clowns such as Donald Trump, dim bulbs in tight pants or short shirts professionally outraged shout-fest talking heads.”

He celebrates the intellectual common sense of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater and shakes his head at Sarah Palin. He spends a considerable amount of time eviscerating Romneyism and this is also important.

Each time Republicans offer an echo and not a choice, they lose.

There are things to disagree with Lewis. He writes “there is room for populist within conservatism” but some would argue that American populist is American conservatism, if American populism is defined as being anti-bigness.

He goes off on a rhetorical flight of fancy to describe what he sees are the excesses of American populism but many would argue they are simply excesses of emotion and not philosophy.

Still, these are quibbles. Lewis has written an excellent book and a significant book. Like Vice Lombardi, Lewis argues for the all-important fundamentals of conservatism, the all-important blocking and tackling.

He writes helpfully about how to advance conservatism and he writes helpfully about the false prophets of the right, courageously taking them on as well.

This is Lewis’s first book. Let’s hope it is not his last.

Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer; his latest book is “Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan.” He is the founder of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, and has been named the first Reagan scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater. He appears regularly on Newsmax TV, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.


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Power cannot be destroyed not created. It can only be moved around. Power, in the GOP, has over the years moved from the local party operatives and state parties and elected officials to the Washington-based consulting and media classes.
Goldwater, Palin, Reagan
Friday, 06 May 2016 11:26 AM
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