What does a conservative writer read?
While the half-dozen names (plus one) on this admittedly partial list may not be among the ones every reader pays attention to, they are on my regular reading schedule.
If you don’t like the names I’ve listed, fine. Tastes differ (that’s what makes them tastes). But if you find one or two new ones whom you like, you have expanded your horizons a bit and gained a useful source.
Two caveats: First, this list is not comprehensive. It names a few of those sources who inspire and inform me most regularly, and by no means exhausts my reading of public issues.
Second, it does not include liberal writers, whose output, perforce, I also consume on a regular basis, for two reasons.
The first is that we live in a media culture controlled and populated by liberal sources. One cannot read widely and escape it. Indeed, in order to find conservative writers, one has to do a bit of searching — which is one of the reasons I want to help others in that quest.
The second reason is that an informed person always has to be as much aware of what those who disagree with him are saying as he is of the views of those on his side of the issues. (Of course, no honest conservative fully agrees with everyone “on the right,” anyway, as ours is not a lockstep movement.)
So, to begin:
MARK STEYN: A Canadian who lives next door in New Hampshire, this self-described “undocumented alien” is the chronicler of our ongoing cultural decline, noted for his wryly cynical wit. If it’s a full accounting of our fin de siecle dystopian decadence you’re after, Steyn has not only observed the beast in its native habitat, he has shot it, stuffed it and mounted its head over his mantel. He can be found on the last page of National Review On Dead Tree, as well as the magazine’s online site, and his syndicated column is widely available on the Internet, usually in the version printed in the Orange Country Register. His books, chiefly “After America” and “America Alone,” are certified antidotes for optimism. Islamists and their sympathizers hate him for telling the truth about them, and his successful legal battles against them in Canadian courts are a modern lesson in free-speech jurisprudence. He and National Review are now taking on a suit filed against them by climate change scientists, giving all of us someone to root for.
THOMAS SOWELL: Intellectual heft coupled with a universally observant eye are the hallmarks of this black writer and columnist, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Sowell dissects the liberal mindset with a scalpel. Of all his works, “The Vision of the Anointed” is perhaps the best place to start, as in its pages he dissects the internal worldview of the left, showing how they exalt themselves over the rest of humanity as the ones whose ideas best suit them to rule everyone else. Sowell also sees through the mouthings of the race panderers as few others do. Needless to say, he was not invited to speak at the recent Lincoln Memorial anniversary gathering of Martin Luther King’s speech.
MICHAEL BARONE: The compiler of the “Almanac of American Politics” is a social scientist who understands the nuts and bolts of political demographics in and out. Often featured on Fox News’ election coverage, he writes a regular column that ranges widely over public policy issues, and unlike some others, he doesn’t ignore the social issues, either, at least as they affect elections. Like so many other conservative writers, he used to be liberal, but was “mugged by reality” in his native Detroit and now applies his substantial learning and experience to the issues of the day.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: If anyone could turn the word “curmudgeonly” into a term of warm affection, it is this psychiatrist-turned-
JONAH GOLDBERG: I not only read his books and columns, I subscribe to this NRO editor’s weekly newsletter, if only because of recurring comments made by “The Couch” (sic) and the links he provides to wacky Internet sites. His work of social analysis, “Liberal Fascism,” with its bright red cover enlivened with a yellow Hitleresque smiley face, nailed down the left-wing sources of not only socialism and communism, but German and Italian fascist ideology as well. I met him at a speech at Bowdoin a few years ago and his ironic sense of humor played well with a college audience, and tickles me, too. He has a keen eye for the contradictions of leftist poltroonery and delights to compare and contrast them in his columns and other writings.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: This California college professor and raisin farmer is, as his online biography notes, an “American military historian, columnist, former classics professor and scholar of ancient warfare.” His expertise includes modern warfare, too, and his “The Western Way of War” lays out the ascendance of modern civilization following a path of military supremacy over all competing cultures in both technology and expertise. A registered Democrat, he once said his party “reminds me of the Republicans circa 1965 or so – impotent, shrill, no ideas, conspiratorial, reactive, out-of-touch with most Americans, isolationist, and full of embarrassing spokesmen.” You can think of him as “Mark Steyn without the snark,” a scholar of deep thought and wide learning who has looked into the abyss of modern culture and found it looking back with malign intent. If you want to know how much we have sacrificed on the pagan altars of egalitarianism, moral relativity and “multicultural diversity” — and to be reminded of the only way in which we can restore those losses, and the price we will have to pay if we want to do that — Hanson is the go-to guy.
JOHN FRARY: I know, the Sage of Farmington’s Maine venture into the ranks of regular newspaper columnizing got him fired because an editor wanted him to change something the editor didn’t like and the author did. John stood up for principle (“It’s my opinion, not yours, dammit!”) which produced its usual result in such power disparities, but his wit and wisdom still show up on As Maine Goes and this site on a regular basis. I admired John long before I met him (I first knew his recently deceased brother, an Episcopal priest of the admirable sort) because I read one of his columns a couple of decades ago in a small magazine of hard-right politics. The column, written while John was still active in the professorate, chronicled the hilarious history of a fictional African nation whose currency was 7.62mm rounds used by AK-47s. As I recall, the country was never colonized, and the only European army that invaded it shot all its officers and escaped over the border to the nearby nation of Hicsuntleonis (let Latin scholars decipher that). John, who tilted against the windmill of the overwhelming Maine political power that is Mighty Mike Michaud, is the one person I know personally who could make a living writing a nationally syndicated column. He cracks me up. (But his website, the Frary Home Companion, keeps crashing my computer.)
AS A FOOTNOTE, let me mention the websites I read daily for information. The two best sites that cover what I have called “news of interest to conservatives” that seldom makes any big paper or any network but Fox are lucianne.com and instapundit.com. (Yes, Drudge is good for a general survey of what’s happening, and his famous juxtapositions of stories put leftists on the spot on almost a daily basis.) For “climate change” coverage, nothing excels Benny Peiser’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, though ICECAP, Real Science, Climate Depot and Watts Up With That, plus many others you can find through those sites, are worth a look once a week or so. Focus on the Family continues to be one of the best sites for social issue coverage, along with Maggie Gallagher’s National Organization for Marriage.
AND FOR THOSE WHO NOTED there were no women on this list, I do also read and admire Mona Charon, Phyllis Schlafly (the woman who single-handedly stopped the Equal Rights Amendment), Katherine Jean Lopez (my favorite pro-lifer) and sometimes the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, who can still turn a phrase and touch the spirit, though less often when she was writing speeches for Ronaldus Maximus. (“The Boys of Pointe du Hoc” still breaks my heart.) Laura Ingraham remains a favorite talk show host, too.
They prove that the “War on Women,” like so many other liberal campaigns, is a case of Democratic psychological projection (after all, they harbor a plethora of harassers and exploiters — and worse — such as Bill Clinton, Bob Filner, Anthony Weiner, Elliot Spitzer and John and Teddy Kennedy). The GOP tends to expel its bad apples, even though the occasional Mark Sanford slips through the sieve. But the Democrats happily call their sleazy pols “elder statesmen,” give them prime slots at conventions and continue to vote for them or make them TV stars, even after their perfidy is widely known (cough Al Sharpton cough).
M.D. Harmon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org