Peter Richardson observes that, "With slight variations, three pundits--Matthew Continetti, Ross Douthat and David Brooks--described their plight as a crisis of conservative intellectuals." The problem, writes Richardson, is "a question of motive:"
By presenting themselves as intellectuals even as they confessed their intellectual sins, these writers wanted to have it both ways. Their appeal was this: Please continue to regard us as intellectuals, even though we scrambled your understanding of the nation's most urgent priorities--not here and there, from time to time, but systematically and for decades. In this concerted effort, we followed William F. Buckley and others, who were obviously intellectuals and not merely "conservative opinion-meisters" (the phrase was Brooks') or partisan hacks.
I reject that appeal. Intellectual respectability can't be inherited; it can only be earned by telling the truth and exposing lies, especially when the stakes are high. In all three cases, we should credit the admissions but reject the stealthy self-promotion. Given the writers' indirect support for Trump and its likely consequences, one cheer for them is generous. When it comes to Trump's victory, however, there's plenty of blame to go around. The only question for these writers (and everyone else) is: What will you do to fix it?
It looks like a crisis of ass-covering, and very little else.