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'Too Dumb To Fail': a review of Matt Lewis’s latest

Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots)Billy Graham often remarked that he was not for the left wing or the right wing but the whole bird. The pastor to the presidents sought to stay above the fray and offer spiritual guidance to the leaders of the free world. While most welcomed his guidance, some used him for the optics. During the latter part of Graham's ministry, a burgeoning voting bloc known as evangelicals transitioned on the political spectrum. This born again group of people have always been a force to be reckoned with, but increasingly they were directing some of their collective power to the voting box—primarily towards conservative Republican candidates.

The point of this review is not to further associate or insinuate that all Christians are conservatives. Nor is it to lambast the current predicament of conservativism within the American context. Rather it is to offer a summarizing, thoughtful review of Matt Lewis's latest book.
 
In Too Dumb To Fail, author Matt Lewis argues that the current conservative crisis is intellectual in nature, or rather the lack there of. By dumbing down conservatism, the GOP has shied away from serious intellectual arguments in order to placate the lowest common denominator.

This denominator consists of anger at the left. Instead of being for something, they are against most everything. This is not only a tactic that Christians have been accused of relative to the culture, it is also a tactic that Lewis argues is attracting Christians to the conservative political movement.

This has only been exasperated with the rise of what he calls the "Con$ervative Movement." Instead of seeking to fight for what are now considered liberal institutions (universities, newspapers, televsion), they have relegated themselves to conservative ghettos. They have created an alternative conservative universe, where well-meaning conservatives will enter into a type of echo chamber.

This movement stokes the anger against the liberal left and seeks to solicit support from other like-minded individuals to join the conservative cause. Instead of interacting with progressive ideas, such ideas are demonized coupled with the people who hold them. In "a sort of red meat-hurling style," this movement harms rather than helps the true conservative cause, argues Lewis.

"Hijacked by the divisive and the dumb, it now finds itself hostage to emotions and irrational thinking. It became more personal and less principled—more flippant and less thoughtful. It became mean. It became lazy. It became its own worst enemy."

Lewis pulls no punches and calls out such heavyweights as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Glen Beck for being part of the "conservative entertainment complex" he laments that the conservative moment has been taken captive by:

"…empty-headed talking point reciters, rookie politicians who've never managed anything in their lives, media clowns such as Donald Trump, dim bulbs in tight pants or short skirts, professionally outraged shout-fest talking heads and total political neophytes."

And the primary audience for this "red meat" offered by these "clowns" is evangelicals. Lacking intellectual curiosity and rigor, Lewis claims evangelicals have flocked and supported in droves. Unfortunately, Lewis is not the only one to identify this characteristic among evangelicals. In his seminal work The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, historian Mark Noll writes that the scandal lies in that fact that there is not much of one.  

How can this be? Christians have been called to love the Lord with all their mind (Matthew 22:37). We are those who are to seek after wisdom like it is gold and silver (Proverbs 2:4) because we have been given the mind of Christ, who is wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30, 2:6). We are to renew our minds in order to approve what is good (Romans 12:2), and thus be agents of God to do good (Matthew 5:13­–16, 2 Corinthians 5:19–20).

What are we to do? Through action and inaction, we depart from a red meat diet in order to dine on a well-balanced meal. We can lend our voices against rudimentary, antagonistic arguments and personal attacks, and silently wait until something more substantive comes along. Whether it is a conservative ideal or a progressive principle, evangelicals are not subjected to one party. Our allegiance lies not with a party but a person—Jesus.

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