MAKING THE TRANSITION TO ‘CRAZY-CONS’…. I suspect I’m not the only one who hopes desperately that there are still some conservatives who see what’s become of the right — the radicalism, the lack of intellectual seriousness, the immaturity — and shake their heads in disgust. Even if most of these conservatives keep quiet, out of a sense of loyalty and/or fear of reprisals, it would be reassuring to know the discomfort actually exists.

We occasionally receive such hints. Take this piece from David Klinghoffer, for example. Klinghoffer is not a moderate — he’s a former National Review editor, and currently a senior fellow at a conservative think tank. But surveying his conservative brethren, Klinghoffer sees “a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism.”

Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now. Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, whose news and opinion website,, is read by millions. In his most recent triumph, Breitbart got a U.S. Department of Agriculture official pushed out of her job after he released a deceptively edited video clip of her supposedly endorsing racism against white people.

What has become of conservatism? […]

Buckley’s National Review, where I was the literary editor through the 1990s, remains as vital and interesting as ever. But more characteristic of conservative leadership are figures on TV, radio and the Internet who make their money by stirring fears and resentments. With its descent to baiting blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, its accommodation of conspiracy theories and an increasing nastiness and vulgarity, the conservative movement has undergone a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism. Once the talk was of “neocons” versus “paleocons.” Now we observe the rule of the crazy-cons.

I can’t relate to the admiration of conservatism’s forebearers — Buckley, for example, was an ardent opponent of Martin Luther King and the civil-rights movement — but in the larger sense, Klinghoffer notes that the right at least used to care about ideas. There was a genuine desire to think about policy that has all but disappeared.

Stephen Bainbridge, a conservative professor, can relate to the frustration: “These days … the most prominent so-called conservatives are increasingly fit only to be cast for the next Dumb and Dumber sequel. They’re dumb and crazy.” (thanks to reader V.S. for the tip)

Whether the movement may someday rediscover its grown-ups is unclear, but the more those on the right decry the pathetic state of modern conservatism, the more likely we’ll see the “crazy-cons” lose some of their influence.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.