THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 8, 2009
Conor Friedersdorf again makes the point that, although conservatives outside of Washington are largely correct that their inside-the-Beltway brethren can be divided into hackish, careerist sellouts and people who write and say what they actually believe, their conception of which is which is almost exactly reversed--that is, the moderate heretics and iconoclasts tend to fall into the latter category, and the down-the-line partisan warriors into the former. He first argued this back in July, comparing Ross Douthat and Human Events, to the decided detriment of the latter. This time out, he notes that, pace Robert Stacy McCain, conservatives trying to quell the birther lunacy are actually treating the grassroots with respect and those trying to inflame it, with cynicsm bordering on contempt:
The right’s fringe problem at this moment in time is one that elites have created as much as any crazy fringe righty. Outfits like Fox News, people like Glenn Beck, talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh — these outfits deliberately play on the worst impulses of the conservative base, stoking their paranoia and misleading them about reality, all for the sake of bigger audiences and greater revenues. That ought to outrage anyone who actually respects the grassroots, and has their best interests at heart.
This is, of course, pretty much exactly what one would expect, economic incentives being what they are: I'm certain David Brooks makes an entirely healthy living, but also certain it pales next to the lucre of a Limbaugh, Beck, or Hannity.
Bruce Bartlett also writes about the conservative-careerism problem, though from a somewhat different vantage:
When I talk to old timers from the Reagan years, many express the same concerns I have. But they all work for Republican-oriented think tanks like AEI and Hoover and don’t wish to be fired like I was from NCPA . Or they just don’t want to be bothered or lose friends.
These are complicated times to be an honest conservative.