Apostate Conservatives

Another point about the decay of the conservative intelligentsia is just how far people go when they finally quit the movement. They don’t just fade into retirement or neutrality, they get angry. Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan adviser, says things like ““I think a good chunk of the Republican caucus is either stupid, crazy, ignorant or craven cowards, who are desperately afraid of the tea party people, and rightly so.” David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote a piece titled “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

Most recently, Michael Fumento wrote a take-no-prisoners piece in Salon about how “I worked for Reagan and wrote for National Review. But the new hysterical right cares nothing for truth or dignity:”

…now I find myself linked not only with the Unabomber, but also Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Or so says the Chicago-based think tank the Heartland Institute, for which I’ve done work. Heartland erected billboards depicting the above three declaring: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” Climate scientists now, evidently, share something in common with dictators and mass murderers. […]

This is nuts! Literally. As in “mass hysteria.” That’s a phenomenon I wrote about for a quarter-century, from the heterosexual AIDS “epidemic” to the swine flu “pandemic” that killed vastly fewer people than seasonal flu, to “runaway Toyotas.” Mass hysteria is when a large segment of society loses touch with reality, or goes bonkers, if you will, on a given issue…

I know these words coming from somebody identified with the right are heresy – as defined by this new right. An invite to a marshmallow roast with you as guest of honor. Or worse. It’s to be labeled with the ultimate epithet: RINO. Republican in name only. GOP Sen. Scott Brown bears that mark of Cain. Coming from super-liberal Massachusetts, he only has a 74 percent American Conservative Union rating. There you go, then!

The conservative movement is exceptionally good at propaganda—sloganeering, message discipline, unending repetition, and coordinated attack. But for anyone who likes to consider herself an intellectual, propaganda is inherently uncomfortable. A movement which is increasingly defined by propaganda and unmoored from reality will eventually drive the intellectuals out. And when they leave, the fresh air seems to taste pretty good.

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is Washington correspondent for The Week.