Republicans purging their intellectuals is a cause for concern for all of us not just the Right.
If something like was happening on the left, if Democratic leaders were stoking public fears and engaged in extreme rhetoric, giving a wink-wink treatment to all sorts of radicals, and if children of Republican senators and representatives were threatened with physical harm, if thinkers and intellectuals were banished for veering off groupthink, I’d turn in my liberal card and would never want to be associated with this kind of left again. I’d be embarrassed to say in public setting that I’m a Democrat or a lefty.
I wonder if deep down honest Republicans feel the same at this very moment or do they truly believe in what is being said on their behalf on Fox or on talk radio? I wonder when they are alone at home with their own thoughts on the current events, in a moment of quiet contemplation when there’s no opponent to argue with, do they honestly think that what is becoming of their party is right? Are they not concerned with what is happening to conservative intellectuals who are quickly becoming endangered species? Michael Smerconish, a right-wing talk show host publicly left Republican Party a few weeks ago. Now David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter with impeccable conservative credentials is being asked to leave American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank for an egregious thought crime – for calling HCR passage a GOP Waterloo in his recent column.
What is astounding here is not the fact that he’s been let go for disagreement per se, it is that this disagreement is not about political idea (he’s still a bona fide conservative), but about stating the obvious fact that is unpleasant. It’s like executing the messenger who brought unfortunate but true news. Soviets were masters at this. David Frum merely stated that the king has no clothes. Here’s what another purged conservative Bruce Bartlett wrote about the event:
As some readers of this blog may know, I was fired by a right wing think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush’s policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D. In the years since, I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC.
Now the same thing has happened to David Frum, who has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute. I don’t know all the details, but I presume that his Waterloo post on Sunday condemning Republicans for failing to work with Democrats on healthcare reform was the final straw.
Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.
It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already.
Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go. The donor community is only interested in financing organizations that parrot the party line, such as the one recently established by McCain economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin.
I will have more to say on this topic later. But I wanted to say that this is a black day for what passes for a conservative movement, scholarship, and the once-respected AEI.
It is hard for me to fathom that a thoughtful person can call him/herself a Republican nowadays without being embarrassed. What remains is just a name, a mere shell of a former grand party open to different ideas and capable of honest congenial debate, not incoherent screams about socialism.
Purging of intellectuals, hostility toward different point of view, propensity for violence and inclination to ‘take the matter into their own hands’ when the outcome of elections or legislative process is not to their liking are all features of totalitarianism – the system that teabaggers are so afraid of. Yet it is them who are turning into Commies and Obama has nothing to do with this – they are doing it to themselves.
There’s nothing for me to celebrate here – the disintegration of an opposition party is a dangerous development for democracy. And the voices of reason are being drowned out among the hysterics or banished from the party altogether. And there’s no clear leader who can put a stop to this. A cause for concern indeed.