Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An indictment of the liberal/conservative movement

Michael Brendan Dougherty, an editor with The American Conservative -- perhaps the only remaining publication on the right that happens to be interesting -- has penned a deservedly scathing letter to the conservative movement. An excerpt:
You may not know this. But all the smartest people on the Right are basically ashamed to be associated with you. Your “success” in building a set of near-permanent institutions, think-tanks, and magazines to promote your ideals in an uncontaminated environment leaves us with two choices:
1) Sell out to the movement. That is, we may occupy ourselves by explaining that whatever the GOP is promoting—whether it be torture, pre-emptive war, Mutually Assured Destruction, or supply-side economics—is an enduring Western value. If John Boehner is doing it, we're supposed to figure out why Edmund Burke would support it.
2) Sell out the movement. That is, pitch our articles to liberal audiences. Trash the movement (like I’m doing), and trade our actual conservative convictions for the ephemeral respect of our peers.
If one of us tries to walk a fine line between these two, we’ll be accused of either disloyalty by the hacks or of hackery by the principled and aloof. One way merits a secure gig in the movement's intellectual ghetto. The other may win a few of us a higher status but a more insecure job at a respected outlet.
This situation makes actual arguments difficult, since everyone assumes we are simply enacting long-term branding strategies, rather than stating our views honestly. You’ve made it impossible for us to have a conversation.

Because you’ve made yourself a prostitute for the GOP, a cynical and corrupt organization since Reconstruction, all of your young geniuses are tainted. People don’t respect their ideas, because they can’t assume they are genuinely held, rather than cynical ploys to keep Joe Palinsupporter in line.

And so, young conservatives hate themselves. They live in fear that if they do state their actual views, they’ll be forbidden from any meaningful work in the future outside the movement.
Notable is that Dougherty, a committed right-winger, could have written much the same if he were seeking to author an indictment of liberalism in the age of Obama, what with the serious, respectable types like Kevin Drum bemoaning anyone to the left of Genghis Khan who dares question Democratic orthodoxy -- and war-making -- when it's Nancy Pelosi and the Blue Team in power. Meek criticism of tactics and strategy, perhaps, but a comprehensive indictment of the Democratic Party? Good luck making a living writing for Counterpunch, asshole.

Whether one identifies politically as left or right -- whatever those terms mean when the embrace of the corporate warfare state is a fully bipartisan endeavor -- "the movement" always takes precedence over the principles that at one time or another animated it, as the likes of David Sirota and Jane Hamsher are no doubt learning. Power corrupts, and party politics corrupt absolutely.

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