The problem with conservatism is that it is a school of political activity based almost completely on nonconfrontation. It is quietist, scholarly, and unassuming, acting very much in the mode of the upper-class William F. Buckley and the reclusive Russell Kirk. This is not altogether a bad thing. Conservatives have always argued -- with some justice -- that a major goal of the movement is to maintain standards, to avoid descending to the level of the opposition. But like anything else, it becomes a bad thing when it is taken too far, when conservatives allow themselves -- as they so often do -- to be bullied out of the arena and on to the sidelines and irrelevance. (Buckley, to his credit, and as Gore Vidal well knows, never allowed it to go quite this far.) This is so common that it shocks both sides when it occurs otherwise. Recall the "blue-blazer riot" at the 2000 Florida election recount, with all the staid, Brooks-wearing paleos banging on the windows and shouting, "I say there," at the vote-counters. Nobody ever saw that before. The problem is, we haven't seen it since, either.
This is not meant as an attack on the bow-tie brigade. We need those types. We need the WASP ethos and the civilized behavior that it promotes. But we also need the hard boys in their black t-shirts and shades who can jump into the trenches and give as good as they get -- the kind of cadre that conservatism has for many years lacked.