Are Any of These Things Not Like the Others?


Opening to a Washington Post op-ed today by former Bush Jr. speechwriter Michael Gerson:

The left has a political interest in defining the broad backlash against expanded government as identical to the worst elements of the Tea Party movement—birthers and Birchers, militias and nativists, racists and conspiracy theorists, acolytes of Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo and Lyndon LaRouche.

Gerson expands:

[T]here are others, new to political engagement, who have found paranoia and anger intoxicating. They watch Glenn Beck rail against the omnipresent threat of Saul Alinsky, read Ayn Rand's elevation of egotism and contempt for the weak, listen to Ron Paul attacking the Federal Reserve cabal, and suddenly their resentments become ordered into a theory. Such theories, in politics, can act like a drug, causing addiction, euphoria and psychedelic departures from reality. […]

Eventually, these theories require repudiation or else they can taint a political movement—like a little red dye turns a container of water pink. This is precisely what William F. Buckley did in the 1950s and '60s, repudiating Rand and Robert Welch of the John Birch Society, thereby creating a legitimate conservatism that could elect candidates such as Ronald Reagan.

A similar effort will be required today of conservative political and intellectual leaders. It will not be easy.