Conservative intellectuals

Yesterday in my office two students and I were having a discussion that culminated in an unanswerable question for us. Where are the conservative intellectuals?  this was the subject of today's Politico as well.

The 1940s - 1960s were full of such figures. These public intellectuals went to bat for conservative ideas in smart ways and persuasive ones to boot. They were giants. People like William F. Buckley, Jr., George F. Will, Norman Podhoretz, Sydney Hook, and Leo Strauss.

But no figure even close to any of these people (except for George Will who has all but dissapeared) that exists as a voice of conservatism today even comes close of licking the boots of this list.

Who do the conservatives have instead? Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and a number of other two-dimensional figures.

The conservative movement in the United States has replaced the public intellectual with the political celebrity.

It's really a shame that I am forced to conclude that the conservative public intellectual is extinct.
Why and how did this happen?

At first glance it is quite obvious: The right in the United States has shifted toward a religious base and not an intellectual one.  When religion is the centerpiece, there's little space for intellectualizing.  Often times, intellectual work is seen as the doubt of the non-believer or the act of the willfully evil. There's not much to think about when higher beings are involved.

The religious capitalization of the Republican party has sent the intellectuals who might have defended conservative ideas into the realm of moderates, or perhaps the realm of non-existence. There's no real reason to practice intellectual activity on the right; it just isn't rewarded. It's more rewarded to keep attention with cheap tricks.

This isn't to say that Coulter, Limbaugh, et. al. don't have important concerns worth discussion. Unfortunately, they offer the concerns as being beyond discussion - there's no place for dissent in the realm of absolute correctness.

I'm also not saying that the left is free of these issues. Just look at that loser Al Franken. But in the past when the left had celebrity in its intellectuals it was at least somewhat legit. Herbert Marcuse was a towering intellect and wrote in a way that his books still command respect and attention from the reading public as well as academics. Phillip Rav and Stan Greenberg produced and wrote in journals that they hoped would enlighten the general working-class public to the point of revolution. Limbaugh and Coulter however will command only morbid curiosity for their books in a generation. They will be as interesting to the future as anti-masturbation books from the Victorian age are for us.

Where are the conservative intellectuals? Have you spotted one recently? These ideas deserve representation, but not by people who could just as easily be rejects from reality television programs.