Why Can't Conservatives Get Their Act Together?

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Conservative Republicans seem nearly unanimous in the view that Mitt Romney's nomination is a prospect that should be greeted with revulsion. Yet they've been unable to agree on a Romney alternative. Why? In this week's edition of The Week in Blog, liberal Bill Scher posed the question to conservative Matt Lewis, and the response led me to think the problem may be deeper than I'd realized, and may help explain a lot of other organizational problems in the world as well. Here's the clip, followed by my thoughts on it:

If indeed the problem is as broad as Matt says--a general societal resistance to leadership--what is the underlying cause? I'm partial to technological explanations, so my thoughts turned toward the digital. Some people think that the very social media that facilitate seemingly spontaneous organization (witness the Occupy Movement and the Tahrir Square protests) make the resulting "organizations" less susceptible to leadership (witness the Occupy Movement and the Tahrir Square protests). Since those same kinds of technologies pervade society at large--and have done so increasingly since the mid-1990s, when email and web surfing showed up--they may have played a role in the drift Matt is talking about. People are getting more and more of their cues "horizontally"--from peers on Facebook, etc.--and so have less of a need to look straight upward for guidance. That's not to say there's no hierarchy; some people have more Facebook clout than others. But it may be a different, less monolithic kind of hierarchy, more reflective of cleavages at the grass roots level.

This is a pretty half-baked thought, but it raises some interesting questions. (Does the very online technology that helped catapult Obama from relative obscurity into the White House help explain some of the problems he's had keeping his base in line?) Maybe I'll have more to say about this later. Or maybe people, including commenters on this site, will convince me that it's not worth pursuing.

Meanwhile, you can view the entire conversation between Matt and Bill (including a not-totally-crazy Santorum-gets-the-nomination scenario) right here.


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Robert Wright is the author of The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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