My friend Michael Stafford, like me a former Republican who got disgusted with the Republican Party and was also involved with the Coffee Party, offered a hopeful picture of the state of our former party in The Conservative Spring at the Cagle Post. Andrew Sullivan over at the Daily Beast picked up on his article, but turned Michael's title into a question, quoting two passages invoking the similarity between the modern GOP and the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. First, here is the hopeful passage about the party's state.
Now, as the GOP regroups from its electoral debacle, public criticisms of conservative dogmas have expanded beyond a small circle of dissidents. Prominent conservatives are saying heretical things that would have gotten them tarred, feathered, and banished a few months ago.Of course, this could be the equivalent of a Prague Spring, or, to extend the metaphor to a Communist country, a Tiananamen Square.
The long night of strict doctrinal conformity- a period when dissidents were condemned for the slightest deviations in the equivalent of media show trials, purged, and then airbrushed out of old CPAC convention pictures- shows signs of ending.
The high priests of the conservative infotainment industry are both discredited and politically vulnerable. Their agenda has been exposed as a bankrupt fraud- a Potemkin village, a path to nowhere.
The window of opportunity for reform could shut quickly. The Conservative Spring might be followed, swiftly, by dour Brezhnevian repression, and another round of purity purges. Authoritarian elites, after all, have a nasty habit of regrouping and reasserting control. And it is unclear whether reform ideas can be effectively communicated to a base that believes in movement conservative inerrancy, is cut off from other information sources, disdains intellectuals, is dangerously misinformed, and is accustomed to the confrontational, schoolyard bully-style of talk radio.Sullivan stopped there, but he could have quoted one more Soviet reference.
Through the years, dissidents have paid a heavy price for daring to question conservative dogma. Some, like Bruce Bartlett and David Frum, have lost jobs and suffered other career consequences for speaking out. Others, including me, have been driven into political exile of one form or another.Sullivan may have not fired all the ammunition my friend Michael gave him, but he did use the opportunity to give his prescription for GOP reform.
We’ve endured scorn, petty harassment, ostracization, and worse because, in the words of Andrei Sakharov, we told uncomfortable truths about the huge amount of “substitution, deceit, and lack of correspondence with reality” in modern conservatism and refused to subordinate our integrity to demands for ideological conformity.
Until the GOP accepts its cultural and intellectual dead-end, it will not endure for long as a national party... I propose two places to start: a commitment to developing conservative ideas for environmental protection and a volte-face on gays. That was one way the Tories climbed back to electability in Britain. But David Cameron didn't have a fundamentalist religious movement and a far right media-industrial complex to overcome. And it took the Tories three consecutive losses to get real.Sullivan isn't that optimistic about the GOP's likelihood of turning around in the next four years. As for me, it's too late. I'm not going back.