“The Peter Beinart Conversation Is Over”

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 6 2012 @ 12:30pm

A sad postmortem to a what should have been – and still is – a wakeup call. But I'd hesitate before judging the long term impact of Peter's act of conscience. First: because an act of conscience in the writing of a book should not be judged by the book's success in changing the world immediately. The best books are often slammed when they arrive, only to achieve serious status in retrospect. To point to an obvious example, The Israel Lobby was subjected to the full AIPAC treatment, with every single possible weapon hurled at it to discredit the authors, smear their reputations, and prevent the arguments in the book being disseminated. At the time, the book was dead on arrival. Years later, it seems to have shifted the parameters of the Washington debate in decisive ways.

I truly had no expectation that my book on conservatism would have an iota of an impact on the current GOP. But I wrote it anyway, as a marker to myself of what I believed, as a way to clarify for myself – and anyone else interested – what conservatism is for me, and why, in my view, today's GOP has so brutally assaulted the tradition whose name they claim. I wish more books were written for these reasons, and their success judged not by their immediate sales and impact, but by their long-term salience. So as the president said to Peter, hang in. There are far worse things for a writer than being dismissed as a failure. Like being a huge, pandering success.