While nothing’s certain yet, it sure looks like the Republican party is going to suffer some losses in November. As a Democrat and as an American, this makes me happy. They’ve had their six years to run this country and all they’ve done is plunder, deceive and screw up. For them, defeat will be well-deserved. It’s too early to say for sure, but one could argue that widespread rejection of Republican candidates signifies the public’s (late) repudiation of movement conservatism.
The way I see it, a strain of conservatism, in the old-school sense, is woven into the American character. This plays out in most people’s reasonable disdain for government intrusion into private matters, their valorization of individuality, and their skepticism towards collective action. This is all fine and good, especially when balanced by a progressive, society-oriented counterforce. Movement conservatism, however, is a different beast entirely. This is where you get all your “why don’t we get rid of all these taxes?” crypto-libertarians, your “the U.S. can bomb anyone it wants because it’s special” warmongers, your “Democrats are making nookie with Osama Bin Laden” thinktank cretins, and your “angry Jesus can’t wait until you’re in hell” Bible-thumpers. These people may represent a small, extremist sliver of belief, but they’ve been awfully influential of late.
This is too bad, because if they didn’t wield so much power, they’d be absolutely fucking hilarious. These are the people who believe that the government that governs best governs solely on behalf of their interests. They’re the ones who feel that compromise is for clowns and the best way to win an argument is to call your opponents traitors. Few in number, perhaps, but louder than anyone else, they roam the airwaves and the internet in search of new enemies to scream at, new rugged right-wing idols to venerate, and new issues to drag into the sewer. A wacky bunch, to be sure, and one that’s overdue for diminishment back to fringe cult status.
One election won’t accomplish this, of course, but it’s a start. And, at the very least, their fevered blame-fixing will be a goldmine of unintentional comedy. You see, what distinguishes the movement conservative from your run-of-the-mill everyday conservative is that the latter considers his or her political philosophy as just that—a system of beliefs that sometimes corresponds, sometimes conflicts, and sometimes compromises with the greater world. Movement conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be fanatical. They don’t have opinions, they have dogma. They don’t have facts and perspective, they have blind faith and suspicion. They don’t have passion, they’ve got rage and fear. Conservatism, to these people, is a formula that never fails, a sacred scripture handed down from Goldwater to Reagan to Bush before he started being such a fuck-up. It is the fountainhead of all civic good—adhering to its precepts doesn’t just make you wise, it makes you virtuous, courageous, and—most importantly—the biggest victim history has ever seen.
This is why, when a movement conservative loses, it’s never due to their ideology’s lack of appeal and it’s lack of appealing spokespeople. No, it’s always a betrayal, a conspiracy, a spot of dirty pool played by adversaries without conscience or decency. Conservatism, to these people, is perfect. It never fails. Each setback is simply an opportunity to redouble the invective and the scorn hurled at the other side, simply more proof of their all-powerful evil ways.
In anticipation of this crazy-talk lighting up the internet in a few weeks, allow me to make some predictions as to who the main conservative-betraying culprits will be, in descending order from most likely to least.1) The Media
In the right-winger’s head, the relationship between conservatism and the mass media is one of the greatest "high school dork versus bully" dramas the world has ever seen. Conservatives are cast as the loyal, earnest, straight-A student who, if he has a fault at all, it’s that he’s just too noble to sink to the same level as his appalling tormentor. Meanwhile, the cruel media endlessly picks on our poor conservative, mercilessly ridiculing it’s policy prescriptions and it’s best candidates. Again and again, conservatism is pantsed by the media. Again and again, it’s head gets stuffed into the toilet bowl of rhetoric and it’s science products get dirty words magic markered on them.
Eventually, however, it starts to look like—despite all this brutal attacks on its self-esteem—conservatism might get to go to prom with the prettiest girl in school (otherwise known as the American public). But, uh-oh!, just as conservatism is going up to her, all confidence and deep-seated valor, to ask for the favor of her company, in slinks the media, drunk on cynicism and Ivy League elitism, and announces to the whole room that conservatism eats his own booger and sometimes leaks a little poo into his underwear.
When something like this happens, you’ve gotta expect a little righteous anger from the wounded party. The whole analogy falls to shit, however, when you realize just how comfortably ensconced in the mass media many movement conservatives are. No matter, though: it’s always a kick watching televised millionaires like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter inveigh against elitists. 2) The Democratic Party
Actually, the media and the Democrats are pretty interchangeable in the movement conservative’s mind. They’re both reliable founts of evil, what with their eternal refusal to validate every single right-wing notion that some crank comes up with. In a lot of the more paranoid stuff, however, the Democrats come off as not mere duplicitous scalawags, but as master deceivers. This is a party, drunk on gay sex and Stalin’s blood, that doesn’t think twice about smearing the innocent or contriving grand lies to win power. So wicked are they that they would orchestrate this whole Mark Foley mess just to thwart the will of the people.
But anyone who’s ever spent any time at an official Democratic Party function knows that the idea of these people orchestrating anything smoothly is absurd on it’s face. One of my favorite aspects of right-wing rhetoric about the Democrats is their inflated idea of our power and skill. If they only knew that we can’t even agree on how to canvass a neighborhood, perhaps they would be disappointed.3) Illegal Immigrants
It’s pretty obvious that the Democrats, in collaboration with the media, are plotting to bring at least seventy million illegal immigrants into this country for two nefarious, linked purposes: to destroy our nation and to vote en masse
for Hilary Clinton. We do this out of a curious mixture of liberal guilt and craven malice, and because we really like chorizo burritos.
Seriously, though, illegal immigrants are a catch-all scapegoat for those whose ideology demands such things. Our health care system is faltering? Blame it on illegal immigrants! Our crime rates are increasing? It must be those illegal immigrants! Children don’t speak English as well as they used to? You ought to hear the way those illegal immigrants speak, pal! Aunt Bea’s gardenias didn’t come in as well this year? Has she considered that illegal immigrants might have cut through her garden on their way to the voting booth?
It’s silly, of course, but xenophobia is always a reliable drum for demagogues to whack at when election time comes around.4) The American People Themselves
If conservative defeats are large or frequent enough, some of them will probably vent their animus on the voters for being too goddamn stupid to understand why need to bomb six separate countries while simultaneously slashing capital gains taxes and signing our nation’s sex education over to Jesus freaks. We’re a timid people, after all, and perhaps our relative peace and prosperity has made us too decadent to fight World War Three funded solely by Wal-Mart cashiers’ FICA deductions. At their most generous, they might admit that, deep down, we’re probably not as bad as the terrorists, but we’ve allowed ourselves to become hopelessly corrupted by the dastardly media and it’s inherent bias against capitalism, Christianity and unleashing righteous genocide.