Conservatives Opposing Conservative Extremism

Considering how extreme and out of touch with reality portions of the conservative movement have become, it is always good to see conservatives who oppose these trends. There were two such examples today from Jon Henke and Bruce Bartlett.

Jon Henke quotes from The Boston Herald:

[T]he Web site says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents. Jerome Corsi, the author of “The Obama Nation,” an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress “appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany.”

The article goes on to explain what was really proposed:

In truth, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., has proposed a bill that would order the Homeland Security Department to prepare national emergency centers — to provide temporary housing and medical facilities in national emergencies such as hurricanes. The bill also would allow the centers to be used to train first responders, and for “other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”

Henke responds by saying conservatives should disassociate themselves from WorldNetDaily:

In the 1960’s, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being “so far removed from common sense” and later said “We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.”

The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet.  The Right has mostly ignored these embarrassing people and organizations, but some people and organizations inexplicably choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration.  For instance, I have been told that F.I.R.E (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) – an otherwise respectable group that does important work – uses the WND email list.  They should stop.

No respectable organization should support the kind of fringe idiocy that WND peddles.  Those who do are not respectable.

I think it’s time to find out what conservative/libertarian organizations support WND through advertising, list rental or other commercial collaboration (email me if you know of any), and boycott any of those organizations that will not renounce any further support for WorldNetDaily.

Sounds like a good idea but it isn’t so simple to separate the kooks from the conservative establishment. Steve Benen points out one problem:

There is, however, a small catch. Henke argues that those who advertise on WorldNetDaily shouldn’t be considered “respectable,” and deserve to be boycotted. That’s an entirely defensible position, but the Republican National Committee is one of the entities that does business with WorldNetDaily. Indeed, they partnered on a mailing as recently as last week.

Many conservatives have already drifted away from the conservative movement and the Republican Party, such as former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett. Today he responded to a question as to why he has become so anti-Republican:

I think the party got seriously on the wrong track during the George W. Bush years, as I explained in my Impostor book. In my opinion, it no longer bears any resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan. I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent. Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is “what can we do to screw the Democrats today.” How else can you explain things like that insane op-ed Michael Steele had in the Washington Post on Monday?

I am not alone. 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. As a free agent I am able to say what they can’t or won’t say publicly.

I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and independents. The party’s adults formed the Democratic Leadership Council to push the party back to the center and it was very successful. But there is no group like that for Republicans. That has left lunatics like Glenn Beck as the party’s de facto leaders. As long as that remains the case, I want nothing to do with the GOP.

I will know that the party is on the path to recovery when someone in a position of influence reaches out to former Republicans like me. We are the most likely group among independents to vote Republican. But I see no effort to do so. All I see is pandering to the party’s crazies like the birthers . In the short run that may be enough to pick up a few congressional seats next year, but I see no way a Republican can retake the White House for the foreseeable future. Both CBO and OMB are predicting better than 4% real growth in 2011 and 2012. If those numbers are even remotely correct Obama will have it in the bag. Also, Republicans have to find a way to win some minority votes because it is not viable as a whites-only party in presidential elections. That’s why I wrote my Wrong on Race book, which no one read.

Update: Besides writing the right wing nonsense quoted above, Jerome Corsi was a co-author of Unfit for Command which spread the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars against John Kerry during the 2004 election. Just as honorable conservatives should denounce the current insane writings of Corsi, honorable conservatives should have denounced his 2004 attacks on a war hero.

Of course few did. As much as some conservatives would like to dissociate themselves from this type of thought, this type of baseless attack now forms the heart of the conservative movement. Take away their hatred, paranoia,  and shared delusions and there is not much left of the current conservative movement. People like Henke and Bartlett have an uphill battle if they want to return the conservative movement to being a reality-based philosophy.

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  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I find it ironic that Reaganites, from an outsiders perspective, would condemn the recent Bush administration. From my perspective, from the left, the George W. Bush administration was the Reagan administration write large. It was fueled by the same obsession to ramp up tensions against an evil enemy (substitute ‘terror’ for ‘communism’), it featured the same misapplication of poorly understood economic principles (corporate welfare, attempts to privatize the social safety net), and it followed the same Reagan creed of ‘spend more, not smarter’ on defense (going so far as to include the same obsession with making George Lucas movies reality) as just a few examples.
    I suppose, to them, the Cold War justifies everything.
    However, I’m perfectly happy to join Henke in a boycott of the Republican Party. Except I’ve been boycotting them since 1998, when I changed my registration… so maybe Henke would be joining me.

  2. 2
    s. kerkhoff says:

    Fear not, Mr Bartlett!
    The moderate wing of the GOP does have an internet home. Ironically it’s called The Republican Leadership Council & has the exact same purpose as the Dem counterpart of years past. That is to get the party  back on track & attract moderate/middle-of-the-road types. It’s headed by saner types such as Christine Todd Whitman. The site is breath of fresh air  for those who are weary of the relentless lunacy of today’s GOP and it encourages sensible debate & civil discourse.

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