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December 06, 2012

Former RNC Research Director: Will No One Rid Me of This Turbulent Tea Party?

There is a sort of language you use for in-group criticism and a rougher, ruder language you use for out-group criticism. Families fight, of course, and sometimes dreadfully, but among the criticisms are reinforcement of group solidarity.

In political parties, people can criticize the Establishment or people can criticize the Grassroots (or both), but if you're still affiliated with that group -- emotionally affiliated, feeling a feeling of kinship -- you use a different sort of language than you'd use to criticize the opposite party.

Although David Frum, for example, has many positions which are simply liberal and simply Democratic, the biggest tell that he's now actually a liberal Democrat (posing as a conservative for financial reasons) is the neverending hostile, demeaning, and trolling language he uses against the right. It's not the sort of language one uses to advance a policy; it's the sort of language one uses to pick a fight. And fighting with conservatives, many ex-Republicans are finding, is a lucrative gig.

It basically comes down to respect. Do you respect the people with whom you have disagreements? If you respect them, you may disagree with a particular position of idea, but you do not disapprove of them personally.

Once you cross that line -- showing disrespect for the right, and disapproval verging on loathing for the right -- I cannot credit you as being "a maverick within the conservative movement" or whatever other crap title you might want in your CNN chyron. Once you cross that line, you're not trying to persuade, you're merely trying to pummel. Once you cross that line, you're not a reformer or internal critic; you're simply on the other side.

Which brings me to an extremely hostile essay written by someone now looking to take the David Frum route of entrepreneurial punditry, a former RNC research director named David Welch. (Sidenote: What the hell is it with guys named David?)

Although there's a few points here I might agree with, partly to mostly, there is no mistaking this for anything but an angry screed, and a formal motion for divorce.

I support no-fault divorces. But what I can't support is what I'm guessing comes next, based on the lucrative career tracks of Andrew Sullivan and David Frum before him: His claim to not be divorced at all, but a loving and devoted spouse, who just happens to keep stabbing the conservative movement in the face and neck.

IT is a shame that William F. Buckley Jr. passed away in 2008. The conservative movement could use him - or someone like him - right now.

In the 1960s, Buckley, largely through his position at the helm of National Review, displayed political courage and sanity by taking on the John Birch Society, an influential anti-Communist group whose members saw conspiracies everywhere they looked.

Fast forward half a century. The modern-day Birchers are the Tea Party. By loudly espousing extreme rhetoric, yet holding untenable beliefs, they have run virtually unchallenged by the Republican leadership, aided by irresponsible radio talk-show hosts and right-wing pundits. While the Tea Party grew, respected moderate voices in the party were further pushed toward extinction. Republicans need a Buckley to bring us back.

Buckley often took issue with liberal-minded members of his party, like Nelson A. Rockefeller, and he gave some quarter to opponents of civil rights legislation. But he placed great faith in the Republican establishment and its brand of mainstream conservatism, which he called the "politics of reality."

But his biggest challenge came from the far right, primarily in the form of the John Birch Society.

And so on. While there is a remnant John Birch Society today, and you will occasionally read people (including in the comments area of this blog) claiming "it all went wrong when they booted out the JBS," we're talking, by my guess, one person in one hundred or one thousand. A potent strain of JBS thinking -- relentless conspiracy theorizing -- remains alive, as it has always been alive, on the left and on the right and in the uncategorizable politics of the idiosyncratically discontented fringe.

Let me just clear this up for the idiots: Conspiracy theorizing is a form of magical thinking (religious thinking applied to completely non-metaphysical objects), and as such is irrational, but it is not "conservative." It is a permanent strain of human thought because human beings always have and always will have a stubborn attraction to the irrational. Showtime, a major pay cable network owned by CBS, is currently featuring a ten part leftist conspiracy-theory take on American history. Those who wish to claim that the right is overly taken by the paranoid style of politics really need to address the fact that this style of thinking is so common, and so accepted, on the left, and indulged by the center-left, that billion-dollar companies will routinely air such errant lunacies and then have their arms stuffed full of Emmys and Peabody Awards granted by other members of the liberal-dominated industry.

The difference between left and right paranoid political thought is this: The left's paranoia has much better production values. But also, much greater penetration, including into the leadership/intellectual class. The leadership/intellectual class of the right almost universally reacts with hostility to any suggestion of conspiracy theorizing. The leadership/intellectual class of the left tends to either give it soft "Questions need to be asked" support, or else outright embraces it.

At any rate, while I can't stand all the damn conspiracy theories myself, I'm not looking to brand the right as irrational demon-haunted paranoiacs as this soon-to-be-a-featured-commentator-on-MSNBC David Welch is.

I can't argue with a few of his claims -- that we need to be much better about screening the flaky and the florid out of our political nominations.

But I do take issue with his insulting, hostile, F-you suggestion as to why we've had a bunch of bad candidates: That the right consists of little else but dumb, ignorant paranoid delusionals and the party is less in need of an overhaul than an IQ test and psych battery.

By the way, let's just take note of this:

The absence of a Buckley-esque gatekeeper today has allowed extreme, untested candidates to take center stage and then commit predictable gaffes and issue moon-bat pronouncements. Democrats have used those statements to tarnish the Republican Party as anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-immigrant extremists. Buckley's conservative pragmatism has been lost, along with the presidency and seats in Congress.

The Democrats and their allied Pet Media painted one very high-profile candidate as an anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-immigrant extremist, using his previous extremist remarks to destroy him.

That candidate was... Mitt Romney.

So... yeah. Let's not jerk ourselves off that if we just nominate, for example, a moderate, soft-spoken Northeasterner who is obviously an accepted member of the educated Boston-DC axis of academic, media, and corporate elite, and who is stewed in the mores of the Northeastern Ivy League/aristocratic dominant culture, then all of our troubles will be exorcised like bothersome ghosts.



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posted by Ace at 02:10 PM

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