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The Left on the Right

5

The LA Times unpacks the right's self-destruction (below). My take on the right is here: The right: Marching to Oblivion

"Guarding the right's flank" Nicole Hemmer, March 13, 2013

The American Conservative Union is drawing the wrong lines at CPAC

To understand what is wrong with today's political right, look no
further than the American Conservative Union. The ACU made headlines
last month when it snubbed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. A source told National Review that Christie hadn't been invited to the ACU's annual Conservative Political Action Conference
, which begins Thursday, because of his "limited future" in the Republican Party.

To put that in perspective: The ACU found ample room at CPAC for Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

Nor did it stop at Christie. For the second year in a row, the ACU
gave the cold shoulder to GOProud, a conservative gay rights group that
had participated in previous years. It also excluded Pamela Geller, a
past CPAC attendee and vocal critic of Islam.

In preparation for this
year's conference, the ACU drew arbitrary dividing lines all over the
conservative map. If the group has its way, the realm of "true
conservatism" will be a minuscule state with irregular boundaries,
constant border skirmishes and ever-diminishing hopes of producing a
national leader.

As columnist Jonah Goldberg put it: "It's not CPAC's fault that the
borders of conservatism are shrinking, but it would be nice if at this
moment it acted less like a border guard keeping all but the exquisitely
credentialed out and more like a tourist board, explaining why it's
such a great place to visit — and live."

The irony is that half a century ago, the ACU was formed to do just
that. In the wake of Barry Goldwater's defeat in the 1964 presidential
election, conservative leaders founded the organization to make
right-wing politics more palatable and popular. They were, after all,
looking to win national elections. If today's conservatives would like
to do the same, they will have to look past the ACU's current border
wars to its more pragmatic history.

When the ACU was established a month after Goldwater's crushing loss,
it was designed to be both border guard and tourist board. The right
had seen the 1964 election as "a choice, not an echo," a contest between
conservatism and liberalism. After Goldwater's landslide defeat, it
seemed the American people had overwhelmingly rejected conservatism.

Except conservatives didn't interpret the election results that way.
They counted the 27 million votes for Goldwater as the conservative
core, a measure of their ability "to penetrate the deceits and
distortions" of the other side. But to win elections, as one ACU
pamphlet put it, "We have to aim our arrows at the uncommitted."

Yet spreading the conservative message to the uncommitted wasn't
enough. The problem wasn't that Americans hadn't heard about
conservatism; the problem was what they had heard. And what they heard
convinced many voters that conservatism was part crackpot conspiracy
theory, part mental illness.

In 1964, Goldwater supporters were labeled "nuts and kooks." The
candidate himself had his mental health repeatedly questioned. Fact
magazine ran a story headlined "The Unconscious of a Conservative" with a
cover that blared "1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater Is Psychologically
Unfit To Be President!" Pro-Goldwater campaign buttons declared, "In
your heart you know he's right!" Anti-Goldwater buttons responded, "In
your guts you know he's nuts!"

With that in mind, the ACU couldn't start as a tourist board. Asylums
aren't well-regarded vacation spots. So it had to be a border guard
first, rooting out the right's worst offenders. The founders of the ACU —
including William F. Buckley
Jr., John Ashbrook and Robert Bauman — pegged the John Birch Society as
the Goldwater albatross. The JBS co-founder's statement that President Eisenhower
was a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy" tainted
everything the society touched. The ACU determined no one with ties to
the society could serve on the ACU's board.

It was not the first time conservatives had drawn borders to protect
both their respectability and their potential for growth. In the late
1950s, Buckley declared that no one who appeared on the masthead of the
American Mercury could write for National Review. The Mercury had taken
an anti-Semitic turn in 1955, and Buckley understood that any links
between the two publications would indelibly tarnish National Review and
the conservative movement. "Conservatism," Buckley later wrote, "must
be wiped clean of the parasitic cant that defaces it, and repels so many
of those who approach it inquiringly."

But today's ACU, like much of today's right, is more likely to draw
borders that repel. When the ACU resumed its fight with GOProud last
month, the big tent shrank. MSNBC hosts Chris Hayes
and S.E. Cupp, a liberal and a conservative, respectively, refused to
participate in CPAC 2013 unless GOProud was invited. National Review
denounced the decision to exclude Christie from CPAC, arguing that it
"fuels a narrative of marginalization on the right." And pundits
Michelle Malkin and Mark Levin criticized the ACU for turning away
Geller.

Read the rest here.

 

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