Friedersdorf on The Fever

If you are in the mood for a good jeremiad, check out Conor Friedersdorf’s eloquent tirade at Atlantic today about the contemporary conservative movement’s abandonment of fact-based reasoning, and its tolerance of hucksters and charlatans. When you read this excerpt, keep in mind that Friedersdorf is a right-leaning pundit who is frequently critical of Obama, Democrats and the left:

At minimum, it’s possible to imagine a coalition where sound argument was valued enough to render the most vile ad hominem and the most hair-trigger heretic-shaming beyond the pale. Instead Rush Limbaugh and Erick Erickson remain among the right’s most influential voices. Fox News is movement conservatism’s go-to information source; its big boss, Roger Ailes, profited from airing lunatic conspiracy theories from Glenn Beck that no one can defend, but he hasn’t been discredited. And that’s just the realm of AM radio and cable television….

National Review‘s readers have been exposed to the argument that President Obama is allied with our Islamist enemy in a “Grand Jihad” against America; in Forbes, Dinesh D’Souza set forth the thesis that Obama’s every action is explained by a Kenyan anti-colonial ideology that overwhelms all else. I mention those magazines not because they’re worthless, but because both publish good stuff, and employ a lot of talented people who are more than smart enough to see through this nonsense….this madness gets published in venues where David Frum is deemed beyond the pale….

Breitbart.com has spent much of the Obama Administration giving its readers the impression that ACORN, the board of NPR, and the question of whether or not the NAACP is racist are urgent priorities for the right. In doing so, it elevated a young man with a hidden camera who tried to lure a female reporter on a boat, intending to seduce her on hidden video and then humiliate her with the footage. Despite that, the young man remains a hero to many movement conservatives.

You get the idea. Much of Friedersdorf’s anger involves the impact of low standards for conservative discourse on the intra-conservative debate. He’s as concerned about the self-deception (and for some, perpetual silence in the face of lies) of conservatives as much as the effort to deceive others.

Indeed, Friedersdorf’s whole departure point is the speedy abandonment of the kind of healthy, post-defeat debate conservatives needed after 2008. Instead, they rapidly came up with an explanation of their electoral problems that led to an even greater disdain for facts and reason than that which so notably characterized the Bush administration, and ruthlessly imposed it on each other and on the entire Republican Party.

If Republicans lose again on November 6, it will be fascinating to see if anything changes on the Right, or if instead, as so many conservatives have done after every losing GOP election since 1964, they blame the nominee for insufficient ideological rigor and ruthlessness. I’m guessing it will take at least one more sound beating before–to use the president’s hopeful phrase–the “fever breaks.” And if, as occurred in 2010, there’s an intervening conservative victory before the next presidential cycle, this could go on for a good long while.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.