This article appeared on another site not long ago, but I’m not sure many people read it and because it is one of the best articles I’ve ever written, I am compelled to repost it as an object lesson. Call it anything you will…anything that accurately sums up the internecine feeding frenzy taking place in the nation these days. Lately the benevolent visage of Ronald Reagan can be seen morphing into the sinister countenance of Hannibal Lecter as certain conservatives indulge in the ultimate taboo: political cannibalism.
I suppose when the screaming fades away and spatters of metaphorical blood are cleansed from the floor and the walls, we’ll place the last roll of film in the can and call it Silence of the Conservatives.
Presently, the damsel in distress is not Clarice Starling and the predator is anything but a demented psychiatrist. Rather, the protagonists are Tea Parties and less-than-perfectly orthodox conservatives, both of which are under attack from antagonists dedicated to a psychological humbug that makes the good a mortal enemy of whatever is deemed perfect.
I call the first group of antagonists in this drama Conservo-Gnostics. They are present day political descendants of an ancient religious sect who believed that the only true guide to eternal salvation existed in a body of arcane and esoteric knowledge they alone possessed and they alone could decipher and interpret.
Conservo-Gnostics maintain that they alone are the Key Masters of Conservative Orthodoxy and only those who hew with razor-edge precision to the official canon of Conservative scripture and praxis – be they politicians, journalistic pundits, Tea Party groups or radio talkers – may be deemed Conservative while those who, for whatever reason (support for the Iraq War, opposition to ending Medicare overnight, historical inaccuracies, inapt analogies, faulty grammar, etc.), fall short of the hallowed benchmark are branded as neocons, liberals, Troskyites or Bolsheviks and subsequently banished from the Burkean Shangri-La.
The second group involves conservative bloggers keen on ferreting out RINO witchcraft among those Tea Party organizations that dare approach the likes of the establishment GOP figures as anything other than the embodiment of Pure Evil. They scour the internet landscape from the comfort of their armchairs and – absent any actual journalistic research involving direct contact with primary sources – hand down weighty condemnations replete with terms like “sell outs.” In honor of John Hathorne, the infamous witch hunter in The Crucible, I call them Armchair Hathornes. The diligent observer with a goodly supply of TUMS can find a resolute band of these modern day witch-hunters here.
Conservo-Gnostics are found primarily among the media punditry and throughout the blogosphere, where their turgid anathemas of heterodoxy and apostasy more often than not fly smack into the face of empirical reality. One such Conservo-Gnostic makes his home at the Newark Star-Ledger, of all places.
Nowhere is the disconnect I described more readily apparent than in the case of conservative radio talkers, who the Conservo-Gnostics condemn and dismiss as pretenders, boobs, idiots, Bolsheviks, and worse while conservative journals and magazines such as National Review On-Line and the Weekly Standard are likewise dismissed as little more than political roach motels filled with neocons and crypto-liberals. The Conservo-Gnostics demand we ignore the fact that Rush Limbaugh – the progenitor of conservative talk radio – ushered in the rise of the Alternate Broadcast Media and brought the evangel of Reagan Conservatism in terms they could readily understand to millions of Americans starved for such enlightenment, thereby encouraging and emboldening two generations of listeners to become part of the solution to the problem of Big Government.
They insist that Mark Levin – arguably one of the most erudite of today’s conservative radio talkers – is, in reality, a loudmouth Bolshevik buffoon who simply fakes the conservatism he preaches in order to sell the poorly researched books he writes to the rubes, saps and loons who take him seriously.
By “rubes, saps and loons,” of course, the Conservo-Gnostics are referring to hoi polloi…you and me…the vast, unwashed, unlearned and uninitiated proletariat who comprise a substantial majority in the Tea Party movement together those Americans who support the Tea Party agenda of smaller government and lower taxes. We are the “idiots” who enthusiastically support the likes of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann – both of whom are likewise dismissed by the Conservo-Gnostics as empty skirts.
In many cases, both the Conservo-Gnostics and Armchair Hathornes aren’t associated with ANY Tea Party organizations and can’t be bothered to leave the comfort of their domiciles in order to attend any Tea Party meetings or events. It comes as no surprise that they are often clueless with regard to the inner dynamics of individual Tea Party groups – particularly those organized on the state and local levels. Closer scrutiny of their posted articles reveals a disturbing paucity of information from primary sources and in many cases, no attempt is made to directly contact the organization before publishing an attack piece.
For the most part, rank-and-file Tea Party members were completely outside of the political loop before 2009 and only recently have begun to familiarize themselves with the political process and the intricate details of operating an activist organization as they struggle to balance the demands of their jobs and families with the call to defend liberty. Needless to say, in the scant two years they have been in existence, there will be occasions when individuals and entire organizations fumble the ball.
On the other hand, were it not for the combined effort of the Tea Party movement nationwide, the establishment GOP would never have shellacked the Democrats last November. I repeat: Were it not for the grassroots effort of the Tea Party movement, the Republican Party would be all but dead today and the forces of statist liberalism would be securing their place of domination in the federal government.
This one salient fact puts everything in perspective: love them or hate them, revere them or revile them, Limbaugh, Levin and even Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are the media vanguard of popular Movement Conservatism today. Thanks to their efforts, more Americans than ever are studying our history, learning all about the Constitution and getting involved in the political process. To date, I have yet to see any Conservo-Gnostic or Armchair Hathorne accomplish a hundredth part of what the radio talkers and the Tea Party groups have accomplished in forwarding the cause of Reagan conservatism, regardless of how imperfectly that cause is represented.
What I can see is vicious sniping and backbiting on the part of Conservo-Gnostics and Armchair Hathornes, who completely ignore any good the objects of their vented spleens have accomplished or continue to accomplish simply because their Manichean perception of conservatism leaves room only for a level of perfection that cannot ever be achieved in a world populated with imperfect people.
At a time when patriotic Americans of good will are struggling to survive in an economy on the verge of collapse and rescue a republic teetering on the edge of an abyss, the last thing we need are conservative cannibals in our midst. I implore those who harbor such inclinations to suppress their inner Hannibal Lecter and unleash their inner Ronald Reagan.
They and Movement Conservatism will be the better for it, particularly since liver is very high in cholesterol.