Monday, May 18, 2009

The Slur That Now Leads the Republicans

David Frum appears to be losing his bid to reclaim his beloved Republican Party for intelligent people or at least keep it from sinking to the very bottom of the Slimbaugh cesspool.

A half-century ago, many conservatives followed another leader who accused the president of the day of treason. The leader was Robert Welch and the president was Dwight Eisenhower, whom Welch termed a "conscious and dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy." We all remember that Bill Buckley defied and opposed Welch. Today we admire Bill for doing it. We forget that Bill's actions nearly wrecked National Review, as Welch's followers canceled their subscriptions and accused Buckley himself of adhering to the conspiracy. That seems funny in retrospect, but it was not funny at the time.

The writers at NR have not forgotten this history. And yet that has not prevented us all from reliving it. I fear that the costs of indulging paranoid talk in the conservative world will be far greater than ever they were in the 1960s. Back then, sensible Republicans could ignore Robert Welch. But Limbaugh is omnipresent - and now our former vice president has told us he is to be preferred as a party leader to Colin Powell. Powell - the man who could have had our party presidential nomination for the asking in 1996! The man that Cheney's administration sent to Congress and the United Nations to make the case against Iraq in 2003, because that administration knew that Powell commanded more respect and deference than any other administration member, not excepting the president himself.

The blogger Matt Yglesias made a telling point the other day. The assertion that Limbaugh leads the conservative movement began as a slur, an attack point. It is the weakness of our Republican elected leaders - and the indulgence of those who should be our conservative intellectual leaders - that has elevated the slur into plausible reality.

It's too bad the Republicans chose to make the hicks, bigots, fundies and rednecks their path to power. Now they're stuck with them and, worse, it's not just the camel's nose under the tent anymore. It's the whole damned camel. Hey guys, learn to live with it and, when you get a moment, grab a shovel and clean up that mess in the corner.

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