When Irving Kristol Rejected Populism

Ah, those were the days. Damon Linker reminds us of the golden age of neoconservatism, before it became corrupted by power:

Given how often Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other right-wing populist rabble-rousers make coarser versions of the same argument today, it's important to note that Kristol and his colleagues initially refused to propose a political response to the rise of new class. Adopting Trilling's ambivalent stance toward the adversary culture of the intellectuals, Kristol explicitly rejected a "populist perspective" that portrayed new class elites as "usurp[ing] control of our media" and using "their strategic positions to launch an assault on our traditions and institutions." Such a simple-minded view was, for Kristol, "misleading and ultimately self-defeating." The rise of the new class and the adversary culture could not simply be willed or wished away, since they had emerged out of and had their roots in the extraordinarily complicated dynamics of modern, urban civilization itself. The appropriate response to recent troubling trends was thus careful study and reflection on the complexities of contemporary American life--not futile and destructive calls to stamp them out through political action.

But Kristol's moderation and detachment would soon come to an end.