I have a provocative piece up at PJ Media about the establishment’s angst over the GOP field of presidential candidates.
[George] Will has fallen out of favor on the right wing because…well, just because. Because he’s from D.C.; because he criticizes Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and other GOP insurgents; because he refuses to acknowledge the inherent wisdom of the Tea Party in Republican politics; because he is a civilized, witty, urbane, educated, well-read, bow-tie-wearing public intellectual and Washington insider.
Any one of those crimes against the right wing would be enough to sentence Will to the outer darkness - a RINO hell where all compromisers, unbelievers, and Chicago Cubs fans eventually end up. And Tea Party Perdition is getting awfully crowded with Reagan-era conservatives like Will - the “extremists” of their day. It’s not that they’ve moderated their philosophy. It’s that these apostates don’t possess the uncompromising fervor of righteous certainty in their views and pedal-to-the-metal hate for their political opponents that grips a large segment of the right.
No matter. Will is dead wrong anyway. Of course there’s a GOP establishment and he’s Exhibit A. The existence of the Republican Party as a political entity demands there be some kind of establishment from which leaders are chosen, favors dispensed, and conduits created so that ideas can be channeled into the most productive venues and nurtured and incorporated. And the nature of political society demands that there be a conservative establishment also for much the same reasons. Whether one listens to or obeys establishment figures is another story, but whether you wish to marginalize them or ignore them, you can’t destroy them. Knock one off, another will take their place. The establishment is dead. Long live the establishment.
The establishment doesn’t refer to Obama as a “Communist” (although they may refer to his “socialist policies”), nor do they make reference to Obama as a “dictator.” What mostly defines an establishment member these days is the level of disdain exhibited toward Tea Partiers, the evangelical right, and the anti-science Luddites and anti-intellectual galoots who make up a sizable minority of the GOP base and who threaten to determine who will face Barack Obama in 2012.
The prospect of denim-wearing, dirty-fingernail, rank-and-file activists actually having an impact on the nominating process for the GOP presidential candidate has the establishment wringing their hands and scrambling to find another candidate more in line with their idea of governance. Take their money? Sure. Direct their energies into volunteer efforts for candidates? Absolutely.
But let them decide who should represent them as a candidate for president? Perish the thought.
If this sounds like a pox on both your houses - both radical right and establishment - you are correct. I despise them all. There is a small sliver of conservatism that lives in the GOP that is rational, principled, thoughtful, open minded, and intellectually coherent. You won’t find it in the tea party, the religious right, or the anti-science and anti-intellectual right wing fanatics that are as much of a threat to America as their counterparts on the left.
Weirdly, the two ideological extremes speak much the same language. What’s more, neither side acknowledges the similarities. Referring to the “Obama regime” is exactly how the left referred to the “Bush Regime” just a few years ago — with the right’s towering denunciations of liberals for doing so apparently forgotten. Similarly, cries of “fascist” directed against Bush are echoed by the right when talking about “Communist” Obama. Both sides complain their members of congress don’t “stand up” to the other party and “fight” for what they believe. In fact, both sides complain that the other side wins all the time. Both sides believe their members compromise too much and too readily. Both sides believe that in the recent debt ceiling deal, they got taken. Ominously, both sides have sworn not to let it happen again.
Both sides firmly believe that only politicians who follow what their idea of liberalism or conservatism is should hold office. Deviation of one iota from orthodoxy brands the unfortunate lawmaker as the enemy - a liberal or conservative. Thoughtfulness is seen as a sign of weakness. Open mindedness a sure sign of a lack of principle. Reasonableness, the kiss of political death.
I don’t know why what is so obvious - that excessively ideological partisans demonstrate little to choose between the two sides - is so obscure to the bases of both parties. Be that as it may, it is the right wing extremists who concern me; not as a party man since I am not a Republican in any organizational sense of the word, but as a conservative who is concerned about the bad name these extremists are giving to the political right.
I am getting hammered in the comments of my PJM piece for the usual stuff; I’m a RINO, I’m not a “true” conservative, I shouldn’t criticize Republicans, I’m only dissing the tea party so I can get a job in the MSM - the usual blithering idiots blathering about nonsense. Contrary to what they think, I have no desire to defend those in the GOP establishment whose fake conservatism - dusted off and held up before the voters every 2, 4, or 6 years - has assisted the left in bringing us to the brink of calamity. (My defense of Will is the result of that gentleman’s nearly 50 years of defending and promoting conservative principles begun long before conservatism gained any acceptance whatsoever and long before most of his rabid critics were born.)
But neither do I condemn the totality of the Tea Party. I have written numerous times of the good they have done in educating the public about constitutional precepts and first principles. It is a debate that hasn’t happened for more than 220 years when the Constitution was being ratified and it is long overdue.
It is extremism that I am against and there is a sizable portion of Tea Party activists who are radical right wingers and who have appropriated the “conservative” label to give a patina of legitimacy to their cause.
No, you say? I found it interesting in the comments that most assumed when I wrote about “anti-science Luddites” that I was referring to right wing opposition to climate change orthodoxy. Actually, that never crossed my mind since I’m an agnostic on the matter. (My only beef is the tiresome muddle of conspiracies that are promoted to explain climate change research.) Instead, I was thinking of a generalized disdain for science evidenced by a knee jerk opposition to anything proposed by the EPA, the NIH, and other scientific bodies. Rejecting evolutionary theory despite 99% of the rest of the industrialized world accepting it is the definition of “anti-science.” So, too, rejecting the notion of curtailing business activity to save endangered species, the reality of weakness in the ozone layer, the opposition to vaccinations - a whole smorgasbord of accepted science being rejected either on religious grounds, or belief in some conspiracy or another.
And as far as anti-intellectualism, rejecting a critique of conservatism based not on flawed argument or lack of substance, but rather the source of the criticism is both anti-intellectual and ignorant. Beyond that, there is a general disdain among right wingers for scholars based not on what they write but because it is assumed they are “liberal.” When critical thinking is subsumed because ideology so controls the thinking of an individual, there is a real danger that people will believe just about anything.
Like Catherine of Aragon, I shall now return to my exile and continue work on my tapestries.