Political Animal


May 25, 2012 9:02 AM Apostate Conservatives

By Ryan Cooper

Another point about the decay of the conservative intelligentsia is just how far people go when they finally quit the movement. They don’t just fade into retirement or neutrality, they get angry. Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan adviser, says things like ““I think a good chunk of the Republican caucus is either stupid, crazy, ignorant or craven cowards, who are desperately afraid of the tea party people, and rightly so.” David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote a piece titled “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

Most recently, Michael Fumento wrote a take-no-prisoners piece in Salon about how “I worked for Reagan and wrote for National Review. But the new hysterical right cares nothing for truth or dignity:”

…now I find myself linked not only with the Unabomber, but also Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Or so says the Chicago-based think tank the Heartland Institute, for which I’ve done work. Heartland erected billboards depicting the above three declaring: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” Climate scientists now, evidently, share something in common with dictators and mass murderers. […]
This is nuts! Literally. As in “mass hysteria.” That’s a phenomenon I wrote about for a quarter-century, from the heterosexual AIDS “epidemic” to the swine flu “pandemic” that killed vastly fewer people than seasonal flu, to “runaway Toyotas.” Mass hysteria is when a large segment of society loses touch with reality, or goes bonkers, if you will, on a given issue…
I know these words coming from somebody identified with the right are heresy - as defined by this new right. An invite to a marshmallow roast with you as guest of honor. Or worse. It’s to be labeled with the ultimate epithet: RINO. Republican in name only. GOP Sen. Scott Brown bears that mark of Cain. Coming from super-liberal Massachusetts, he only has a 74 percent American Conservative Union rating. There you go, then!

The conservative movement is exceptionally good at propaganda—sloganeering, message discipline, unending repetition, and coordinated attack. But for anyone who likes to consider herself an intellectual, propaganda is inherently uncomfortable. A movement which is increasingly defined by propaganda and unmoored from reality will eventually drive the intellectuals out. And when they leave, the fresh air seems to taste pretty good.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper


  • Robert on May 25, 2012 10:43 AM:

    Perhaps so, but Fumento is hardly an intellectual.

  • stevio on May 25, 2012 10:45 AM:

    "The conservative movement is exceptionally good at propaganda—"

    This is very true but propaganda only works if it finds a manner in which to broadcast it.

    Fear&Loathing News outlets like FOX, CNN, etc. and "conservative" radio and bog outlets, Sunday morning clap-trappers like, John King, David "35 Piece Suit" Gregory, Wolf "soft ball questions" Blitzer are the real reason they can stay on message...

  • Bort on May 25, 2012 10:56 AM:

    Shorter Fumento: The rubes we've been lying to all these years have taken over the party. What's up with that???

  • mmm on May 25, 2012 10:56 AM:

    So what's next after they denounce Republicans... do they become Independents and formally change their affiliation? Would the membership rolls dramatically fall in the crazy party? Spouting off is one thing, action is another.

  • Ron Byers on May 25, 2012 11:03 AM:

    Good stuff so far, but you need to slow down a little and read your posts. Like me you need an editor. A missing word hear, a clunky sentence there, but overall good stuff Ryan. Keep up the good work.

    As to this post. I think the Conservative movement is vunerable, but we on the other side need to keep pushing. One of the real reasons we have not been as successful as we liked is our nasty tendency to take off year elections off. In my town the Republicans seem to push young candidates from HOA board member, up to planning commissioner, city counsel and up to state legislature. We used to have similar programs in the Democratic party, but somehow we lost our way. I have been invited to a fundraiser for Claire McCaskill next week. The hosts and names on the local committee are some of the best intentioned people I know but they are all pretty whiteheaded just like me. We need to promote young. Time to get back to the basics of party building.

    By the way, judging from my emails, people think I am bashing Democrats unnecessarily, but in reality, I see the Republican party for what it is better than most. We just can't do anything to change them. We have to organize to beat them, and that starts at the local and state level.

  • stormskies on May 25, 2012 11:11 AM:

    stevio nailed it............

    What would happen if none of the corporate media was complicit in the broadcasting of this propaganda ? But, of course, the corporate media is complicit: it is intentional.

    The corporations have 'hired' the souls that they have to create a 'medial elite' who then serve as the 'gatekeepers' to not only what 'news' is broadcast, but how that 'news' is presented. By creating the smokescreen of rationalization that they just 'present' what is being said by the Democrats and the Repiglicans they thus allow all the lies/propaganda of the Repiglicans to be stated, megaphoned, over and over.

    By repeating the lies over and over the corporate media then purposefully creates a reality where the lies, repeated enough, become 'reality'.

    Media elite like David "I am not a used corporate condom" Gregory know why General Electric pays him the millions that they do. This is why corrupted soul like his, and a vast majority of the corporate media elite, are actually responsible for what is happening in our country. To me they are in fact journalistic criminals who should be treated as such.

  • Bokonon on May 25, 2012 11:19 AM:

    Heh. Fumento says a "marshmallaw roast" awaits him for his apostasy from the movement. That's putting it mildly.

    I will bet that Fumento's original draft of this essay used the term "necktie party" or "witch burning" or "auto de fe" to describe what comes next, but he deliberately chose to avoid those terms ... because he still has one foot inside the conservative tent, and didn't want ... go there ... because of the inflammatory implications of those more loaded terms.

  • T-Rex on May 25, 2012 11:25 AM:

    There was, however, one very telling line in that piece by Fumento. He said that he became disenchanted with Reagan after Saint Ronaldus Magnus raised taxes in 1982. Says Fumento, "I thought that was the Democrats' job." And that's what Republicans mean by bipartisan cooperation. Of course you need taxes, any fool knows it, just make sure you can always blame the Dems for it.

  • Al on May 25, 2012 11:35 AM:

    The GOP is a big tent, but only people who have real American values find a home there. The "apostate conservatives" would be more at home in France.

  • Hedda Peraz on May 25, 2012 11:44 AM:

    The as yet unmentioned elephant in the room is Corporate Moneybags, Inc. They fund the think tanks, and they pay for the messages on your TeeVee.

    As soon as some corporate entity finds a way to make a buck out the belief in a flat earth, we will be bombarded with ads about the Liberals sailing us over the edge.

  • boatboy_srq on May 25, 2012 11:46 AM:

    Something to consider here: the conservatives who abandon the reactionary Conservatists don't stop being conservative. The reason they sound both moderate and intelligent isn't that they've suddenly found reason; it's that the party they're now criticizing abandoned reason and intelligence a long time ago, and we're not used to a rational conservative opposition anymore.

  • rrk1 on May 25, 2012 11:49 AM:

    As long as Democrats continue to think that being more truthful, and devising better wonkish policies will demolish the right-wing, those remaining in the rational world will lose. As we have been for decades.

    The Rethugs have lost most of their intellectuals because the level of lock-step ideology and purity they now require cannot keep any self-respecting, educated, person in their ranks. What comes next for them after all the brainpower jumps overboard is obviously violence. Brown shirts, death squads, wholesale intimidation of the populace. Anything to get their way. We underestimate the determination of the right to take over at our peril.

    Democrats, liberals, progressives, independents, moderates, can't get any traction, aside from being spineless and disorganized, because of the corporate MSM. It's that simple. Corporate control of information sources, and billionaires who want fascism are running the show: that's you GE and Rupert Murdoch.

    Crapcha is off the reservation again.

  • c u n d gulag on May 25, 2012 11:57 AM:

    The Republican Party started getting more and more crazy with Nixon, but it really picked-up steam when Reagan welcomed in religious zealots.

    He needed the votes that Fallwell's "Moral Majority" brought to the table, and R leadership also saw them as willing and hard working foot soldiers,

    And then, after welcoming them in, not only didn't they do anything to control them, but let them take more and more positions of leadership.

    The Manichean world view of these American Domionist (Born-again) Christians is one of extremes - of good v. evil, right v. wrong - it doesn't allow for any compromise. Its white v. black, with no shadings of gray.

    Things must be done God's and Jesus's way, which, in reality is THEIR way, since little in The Bible, or at least New Testament, supports their open racist, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia outlooks on life.

    And you see that in action in both houses of Congress, where the word "compromise" is becoming as bad a word as "Liberal."

    And don't kid yourselves, if Mitt is elected, and has both houses (and the already reactionary and nihilistic Supreme Court), religious insanity will become law - not Sharia Law, but Protestant Canon Law.
    And this SC will probably NOT support the separation of Church and State, but will carve out of whole cloth, decisions supporting it - in endless 5-4 votes. At least until Mitt, and successors, can replace SC Justices, and it becomes 6-3 votes, then 7-2, 8-1, and finally 9-0 (and that's if Congress doesn't impeach the remaining Progressive Justices, to hasten change).

    And this SC, and following ones, will allow for reversals to Civil Rights Acts laws, and limit voting until our "free elections" look like the ones under Totalitarian regimes like Stalin's and Saddam's, and become "show" instead of "free" elections.
    And in that scenario, Barack Obama will be the last Democratic President, because after President Romney, we'll have Presidents Walker, Ryan, and Rubio - with the possibility of a Conservative woman taking office to give their "Big Tent" charade some gender legitimacy.

    Yes, it CAN happen here.
    And it CAN happen using the existing governmental procedures, where both houses write the laws, the President signs them, and the SC validates then in decisions.
    And it CAN happen beginning in January of 2013. This is how (Godwin forgive me) Hitler took complete control over Germany. And, at heart, almost all Conservatives, are "good Germans," who "like following ze orders.

    And we will eventually become 'The United Dominionist Christian Corporate (read Fascistist, Oligarchical, and/or Plutocratic) States of America, where we'll have a "New Pledge of Allegiance:"

    'I pledge allegiance to the Flag and Cross
    of the United Dominionist Christian Corporate States of America,
    and to the Republicans for which it stands:
    one Nation indivisible,
    With Liberty and Justice for the faithful.'

    It CAN happen here, and it WILL happen here if good people sit on their asses this November, or use the vote as a protest vote, and go for a 3rd Party.

    Maybe, if more Old School Conservatives leave, and tell people why they're leaving, like some of the ones mentioned in this post, that can be avoided.

    But they'd better move FAST, and they'd better move LOUD - and then we have to hope that the MSM notices, and makes this an issue.

    The fate of this representative democracy is at stake.

    If we lose, "I'll see you in the Gulag."
    I'll save you the lower berth.

  • Area Man on May 25, 2012 11:57 AM:

    While I'm all happy for someone to denounce the insanity of the conservative movement, Fumento has a long history of hackery, fact-challenged screeds, and being a corporate shill. He's long been part of the problem. Maybe he's turned over a new leaf. Or maybe it's just self-promotion.

  • Anonymous on May 25, 2012 12:08 PM:

    as if on cue:

    May 25, 2012 09:00 AM

    Fox News Still Makes Viewers Dumber According to New National Survey

    By karoli

    It's confirmed on a national basis now. Fox News really does make you dumber, as if those of us who have had to watch it for even a few minutes haven't figured that out. Not only does it make viewers dumber, but they'd be more informed and better off if they watched no news at all.

    That's a stunning conclusion, because it proves they actually succeed at indoctrinating their audience with falsehoods. Via Huffington Post, news of an updated study to the one last year, this time on a national basis:

    Researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University updated a study they had conducted in late 2011. That study only sampled respondents from New Jersey, where the university is located. This time, the researchers conducted a nationwide poll.

    The poll asked questions about international news (Iran, Egypt, Syria and Greece were included) and domestic affairs (Republican primaries, Congress, unemployment and the Keystone XL pipeline.)

    The pollsters found that people were usually able to answer 1.8 out of 4 questions on foreign news, and 1.6 of 5 questions on domestic news, and that people who don't watch any news were able to get 1.22 of the questions on domestic policy right.

    As the study explained, though, people who watched only Fox News fared worse:

    The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly -- a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly; viewers of Sunday morning talk shows fare similarly well. And people watching only "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" could answer about 1.42 questions correctly.

    According to the study, Fox News is more likely to make conservatives dumber, proving that they reinforce factless assertions:

    The study showed that the effects of ideologically-pitched media, like Fox News, MSNBC and talk radio, depend on who is listening or watching. On the whole, MSNBC, for instance, had no impact on political knowledge one way or the other. However, liberals who watched MSNBC did better on the knowledge questions, answering correctly 1.89 of the domestic questions and 1.64 of the international questions correctly. Similarly, while moderates and liberals who watch Fox News do worse at answering the questions than others, conservatives who watch Fox do no worse than people who watch no news at all. Talk radio also had differential effects depending on the ideology of the listener, but they were much smaller. None of the other news media had effects that depended on ideology.

    The real bottom line? Watch Jon Stewart. Those viewers were better informed than any of the others except NPR listeners.

  • esaund on May 25, 2012 12:17 PM:

    Part of the reason that there are so few Republican apostates is that the Republican Party has a really robust patronage machine. Take one for the team now, and later down the line is a cushy appointment or corporate VP slot waiting for you, regardless of qualifications. (I saw this repeatedly in my own field of electricity regulation - too many know-nothing political appointees overseeing a complex industry.)

    Democrats have nothing comparable. In fact, this may go a long way in explaining question 1. Sticking with the Dems gets you, what, a volunteer position at a jobs program for inner city kids? But criticizing Dems gets you all kinds of invites on TV.

    The same logic applies to the media. Identifying with Democrats is just so declasse, so gauche, and it gets you kicked out of the tribe.

  • Steve P on May 25, 2012 12:20 PM:

    Fumento and Mr. Axis Of Evil Frum had their own stirrers in the pot of sh*t they're raging about. This is less a principled rage against extremists than it is Bob Ford watching Jesse James killing off his gang and realizing that he's next on the list.

  • R. Thomas on May 25, 2012 3:42 PM:

    The assessment here is very accurate. Indeed, the right has gone to such extremes based on visceral responses to so much that those who consider themselves to be conservative and intellectual can only abandon their party.

    Yet, there is a lesson to be learned here. As conservatives bolt from the extreme right, Democrats cannot allow themselves to wander to the extreme left. The excesses of both right and left continue to divide us. So-called Progressives in Nebraska are up in arms because Bob Kerrey argues that we must take a look at Social Security and Medicare in an effort to keep promises made to people under 40.

    He is correct, but to be a card-carrying progressive you can never say such.

  • Anonymous on May 25, 2012 8:44 PM:

    Fumento is just another asshole looking to make himself a sweet gig as a "centrist."

    Notice that within his little whine fest, he continues the canard that Sandra Fluke was before Congress arguing that the Government pay for her birth control.

    He's been off the wingnut welfare for a while apparently. The reason I heard was he was caught plagiarizing or something of that ilk. Although why that should slow him down is anybody's guess. Mike Barnicle, after all, is still pulling in a respectable paycheck.

  • Skip on May 25, 2012 11:28 PM:

    CUND, great post. Thank you.

  • manapp99 on May 26, 2012 2:03 PM:

    Judging from the comments here you can derive one thing for certain. The left wing propaganda machine is certainly effective. Funny reading an article full of left wing propaganda about right wing propaganda. LOL

  • Coward Robert Ford on May 29, 2012 4:17 AM:

    Leftwing writer agrees with something some disgruntled ex-conservative nobody ever heard of is saying. :)

    Frum, Bartlett, Fumento, never popular pundits with conservatives so it's funny how libs act like this is big news.