US economics professor Brad DeLong has pondered the meaning of "honest conservative" and has formulated the following categories to assess Republicans:
Class of 2000: People who in 2000 said, "George W. Bush is not qualified to be president, and we should be really worried about this."
Class of 2001: People who in 2001 said, "I supported Bush in 2000, but George W. Bush is not listening to his honest conservative policy advisers, and we should be really worried about this."
Class of 2002: People who in 2002 said, "I supported Bush in 2000 and 2001, but 9/11 has unhinged the administration; its detention and other policies are counterproductive; it needs to be opposed."
Class of 2003: People who in 2003 said, "I supported Bush over 2000-2002, but enough is enough. That's it. I supported the invasion of Iraq because I was certain there was evidence of an advanced nuclear weapons program--otherwise invading Iraq was just stupid. Well, there was no advanced nuclear weapons program. Invading Iraq was just stupid. Plus there's the Medicare drug benefit. These people need to be evicted from power."
Class of 2004: People who in 2004 said, "I've been a Bush supporter. I'm a Republican and a conservative, but I've had enough: I'm voting for Kerry."
Class of 2005: People who in 2005 said, "I voted for Bush in 2004. But I made a mistake. A big mistake."
Class of 2006: People who in 2006 said, "I know I supported Bush up to last year, but that shows I'm not the brightest light on the clued-in tree."
The class of 2007--people who are now opposed to Bush only because they think Bush will drag the Republicans down in 2008--doesn't count. Dead-enders who are still claiming that Bush is Teddy Roosevelt don't count. They aren't honest conservatives. They are only worth scorn, and fit objects for nothing but mockery. One just doesn't joust with them in honorable intellectual combat. It's not done.
I say divide "honest conservatives" into the classes of 2000 to 2006, rank them by seniority according to the date of their public honesty, and use that as a ranking for who to read, who to respect, and who to promote as worthy intellectual adversaries."