Despite being young, Conor Friedersdorf, to whom I referred a couple of years ago, is a throwback conservative: not doctrinaire, able to think, to criticize and praise both sides intelligently. He's a writer for The Atlantic, and his latest is worth reading. Saying what I've been saying, over and over, he takes today's Republican party to task for its aversion to fact, its preference for hate-filled rhetoric, its abandonment of the very idea of compromise. Its turning to Fox "news" as its source of information, to Rush Limbaugh as its spokesperson. Like me, but probably for different reasons, he'd like to see it change. Titled "Until Republicans Fix This Problem, They Can't Fix Any...," it says, in part:
... These were all questions of consequence.
But the American right was incapable of adjudicating them. It didn't matter that Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat wrote a very smart book setting forth one possible political program; that David Frum engaged in the same process; that Bruce Bartlett pressed fiscal conservatives to reexamine their failures; that Matt Welch, Nick Gillespie, and their Reason staffers weighed in with sharp libertarian critiques; that figures from Ron Paul to Daniel Larison offered devastating eviscerations of neoconservatism; that Tim Carney attacked the right's penchant for corporate cronyism; or even that the Tea Party grew into a populist force as the Obama Administration began.
Ideally, the right would find a way to incorporate nuggets from all these critiques. Sure, their advocates want to take the Republican Party in dramatically different directions. Winners and losers are inevitable.
But respect for empiricism and reasoned, intellectually honest debate could ensure that the best critiques would be aired; the best ideas attempted; and the very worst rejected, whatever their provenance. 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. ...
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. ...
A bit farther toward the fringes you've got the birthers.
The civil war the right needs is one waged against the hucksters... Victory would mean establishing norms that would've made Roger Ailes too ashamed to air all those months of Glenn Beck; that would've made the Claremont Institute mortified to give Rush Limbaugh a statesmanship award...; and that would make Mitt Romney embarrassed to stand in front of donors uttering untruths.
In the article there's much more. I can think of a few readers who'd benefit from giving it a look. That is, if they hadn't already been implanted with the Foxorovian thought-blocker. We'll always have fringe groups and unhinged thinking, along with lots of people unable or unwilling to call it into question. But an entire political party, a major political party, becoming its own fringe? Whodda thunk it?
[Everyone knows that image, right?]