Long time readers will know that I am fascinated by the "taxonomy" of the conservative movement. I am interested in, and have studied, the political and intellectual history of the movement. And not infrequently I have been drawn into the internecine quarrels of conservatism. These fights seem to have intensified and deepened with the end of the Cold War and the Republican Majority. We now have terms like paleo-conservative and neo-conservative being debated in the conservative press and even seeping into the mainstream press in weird ways. Trying to shed some light on this subject I picked up Revolt from the Heartland: The Struggle For An Authentic Conservatism a friendly look at paleo-conservatism by Joseph Scotchie. I wanted to get a closer look on what exactly motivates and underlies this conservative counter-culture (or what they would claim is a return to conservative roots).
If I was still a grad student, I would love to really deconstruct and unpack this rather short book. Since I have a full time job, I will simply try to point out some pluses and note some incongruities.
In my opinion the fundamental problem with the work is that Scotchie seems unsure of his perspective. Is he a journalist, an apologist, or academic? As most writers know your perspective and your environment has a big influence on your style and your content. Writing a laymans introduction to ones on political beliefs and writing an unbiased assessment of those beliefs are two very different things. In other words, preaching to the choir and convincing the un-believer require different styles. Scotchie seems stuck in the awkward middle. At times he writes from the perspective of a historian, simply outlining the facts. At other times he is an advocate for the cause of paleo-conservatism. I don't think you can do both. For example, in an academic or an even handed journalistic take on the subject you would be sure to use sources beyond those sympathetic to your point; you would back up your history with a wide range of sources. Scotchie instead uses self-defined or at least sympathetic sources throughout the book. This is not a problem if you are engaging in polemics (and I don't mean that as an insult) but less so when you are trying to give an historical overview or persuade sceptics.