DEFINING RESPECTABLE CONSERVATIVES: THEY'RE JUST BUREAUCRATS | 1998-10-03
I have been asked to define respectable conservatism.
It is very important to understand that a more correct term would be "conservative respectable", because "conservative" is the modifier here. The first real aim of respectable conservatives is respectability inside the present liberal-conservative political system. If he must choose between conservatism and respectability, a respectable conservative never hesitates to choose respectability.
The commentators you see on television and read in the syndicated columns are selected by a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies always choose people who "fit in."
Liberals run the media bureaucracy, and they only want to talk to conservatives they feel comfortable with.
This is the problem with conspiracy theories. Routine bureaucracy ACTS like a conspiracy, but it is nothing of the sort. A conspiracy is run by the head. You can remove the head men of the media bureaucracy and the body will act exactly the same.
Also, do not think of the "bureaucracy" here in the terms one would usually picture it. I am not using it to refer to a single organization of bureaucrats run from top to bottom.
The "media bureaucracy" simply means those who produce our media commentary. They all answer to each other, argue with each other, and select each other, so they constitute what amounts to a single bureaucracy.
For example, William Buckley became a champion media bureaucrat, though he never worked directly under anyone else.
Buckley was selected for his role because he "fit" into the media bureaucracy. He became the perfect respectable conservative who would show just the right combination of criticism and respect for liberals.
The obvious question here is, who is NOT part of the media bureaucracy?
Well, to start with, Matt Drudge is not a media bureaucrat. He selected himself, and the media bureaucracy hates him bitterly for it. As long as he succeeds by going directly to the market the way he does, he will not be declared "respectable". Any right-winger who has not gotten this "respectable" title from liberals is blocked from the mainline media.
If you are not a right-wing Uncle Tom, you are not allowed to open your mouth. Meanwhile, the Uncle Toms themselves are going to make sure those who refuse to be Uncle Toms are kept in their place. As you would expect, nobody is more fanatical in shouting down "right wing extremists" than respectable conservatives themselves. You can count on Jack Kemp or Orrin Hatch or John Inglis to jump right in on the attack on anyone the media call "racist". The Bushes and the Doles are at the head of any liberal lynch mob.
Bless his soul, Jeffrey Hart reviewed my book A Plague On Both Your Houses in 1976 in National Review, under the title, "Read This One!" In this review, he freely admitted that even people like him had to make truly bad concessions to respectability in order to get their case to the public through the media.
But Jeffrey Hart never became a full-fledged respectable conservative. He is allowed media access, but he will never be "one of the boys" like Bob Novak or Pat Buchanan or William Buckley.
A conservative respectable will not hang onto real world truths that are uncomfortable for liberals, and they can be sidetracked very easily. You can count on Novak to be an economic theologue, and, in the end, you can count on Buchanan to end up as a harmless religious nut.
While rewriting this, I was watching MSNBC. A conservative laughed at a liberal who was giving the same old routine spin. The liberal was terribly upset. I have noticed this many times - when he is going through his routine silliness and a rightist LAUGHS, the liberal commentator gets terribly upset. Watch and you will notice this, too. In the end it will be LAUGHTER that will RID US OF LEFT. The left will only be destroyed when people start calling their nonsense nonsense, and denounce the morons who keep repeating this bilge as the morons they are. As long as there are conservative respectables who will look stern and serious as "progressives" recite their nonsense, the left is safe. As long as conservative respectables say what True Intellectuals and Honest Patriots leftists are, liberals will survive and dominate our national dialogue. Conservative respectables live to oblige this leftist need. What is important to a respectable conservative is to maintain his respectability.
Any point he was making takes a distant fourth. Clinton's recent use of frivolous court privileges is very much like the routine liberal use of frivolous labels to throw conservatives off. When the heat was on, he used what liberals always use, fast footwork to get attention off of the hot problem.
Few people have noticed the fact that it worked -- again. In January almost everybody, from Moynihan to Ginsberg, agreed that if Clinton had had sex with an intern in the White House, he should go. No more!
As always, not one conservative respectable confronted these people with their earlier statement about demanding Clinton's impeachment for using his office to have sex with an intern in the Oval Office.
Novak was busy trying to be trendy and Buchanan went back into his moralist groove. The basic point was utterly forgotten by the respectables.
That is, after all, what they are there for.
If a respectable conservative starts making a point that bothers liberals, the "progressives" simply throw frivolous labels at him like "racist" or anaziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews. By the time he has saved his respectability, he has completely forgotten the point he was making. It never really mattered to him anyway.
This is not a conspiracy to select kooks and lightweights. It is simply that, if you had someone there who would not let liberals get away with silly stuff, the debate would collapse.
A man who worked with me on the House Education and Labor Committee appeared once, just once, on a national television debate. The debate concerned increasing federal aid to education. My friend would not get off the point that, the more federal aid there is, the more student scores fall. The two liberals were furious. They accused him of saying that giving money could actually HARM education - which was exactly what he WAS saying - and they were shouting that this was impossible.
They said education money HAD to help. My friend was pointing out that Federal money goes with federal regulation, and federal bureaucrats are ruining education.
There was a respectable conservative on the program. He was supposed to be on the same side as my friend. But this conservative respectable knew better than to join in this exposition of liberal silliness. The liberals were furious about it, and he had to satisfy them first.
He did so, and took their side against my buddy.
My buddy was, not surprisingly, never invited for another national debate anywhere. You will see that conservative respectable on national television a lot.
The right will fail as long as it selects its spokesmen this way.