Jennifer Rubin on the folly of conservative anti-intellectualism

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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I wrote yesterday about the emerging schism between populist tea-party conservatives and what I call “cosmopolitan conservatives.” Today I had the privilege of exploring these ideas further with the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin.

Rubin, who writes the “Right Turn” blog on the Post’s website, has written extensively about the growing anti-intellectualism among Republicans.

(Listen to our full conversation here.)

While Rubin believes  anti-elitism has always been a part of the conservative movement, she believes it has metastasized into an “anti-smarts movement, as well. And  Rubin argues this is not only bad for the GOP — it’s also bad for the country. Instead of embracing the conservatism of William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk, Rubin argues that modern Republicans are more influenced by the rise of Sarah Palin, who has made no secret of her dislike of intellectuals.

Rubin also thinks the “anti-smarts” attitude is in no small measure due to the rise of President Obama, who has given intellectuals a “bad name.”

So where does Rubin think we should go from here? She argues “the best politicians we have on the Republican side are those who appeal to the populist movement — but don’t offer themselves as the girl or guy off the farm.”

As evidence, she offers up Governors Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels as “thinking people who articulate forward thinking, reform-minded agenda, and certainly push education and learning and don’t make light of the fact that there are certain people who are perhaps not enamored of those views.”

Rubin also thinks highly of Rick Santorum, whom she says not only has a firm grasp of conservative ideas, but also recognizes the importance of advancing those ideas in a bipartisan fashion to effect actual change.

For Rubin, one thing is certain: advancing conservative ideas in politics while also retaining a willingness to engage intellectually with those might hold different views are not mutually exclusive goals.

If you’re interested in this topic, you can listen to our full conversation here.

Matt K. Lewis