March 02, 2009

CPAC Charade

Paul Gottfried has told me about a friend of his who admits that he no longer attends church regularly, but, in a gesture of recompense, has become quite active in his local chapter of the Republican Party. The story came to mind as I attended this past week?s Conservative Political Action Conference. But then as contemporary American conservatism goes, perhaps the better comparison is not with religion but Wrestlemania. As Jack Hunter and I often joke, CPAC, talk radio, and all the various arms of ?the movement? are all about the ?good guys? (?Did you hear Romney talk about the culture of life? Yay!?) and the ?bad guys? (?I just think Barack Obama is a big liberal. Boo!”). And more than a few mythological characters not unlike those masked men of the Worldwide Federation strode through the halls of the Omni Shoreman Hotel last week?Rush was there, Joe the Plumber mixed in with the crowd, ?Sarah,? as she?s known, had to cancel, but a miraculous surprise appearance was rumored. What ultimately separates CPAC and professional wrestling isn?t so much their ideologies?which sometimes seem quite similar?but the willingness of the participants to suspended disbelief. Every fan of professional wrestling is well aware that the whole things is a big charade?that the wrestlers don?t really get hurt when they?re body slammed, and that the Hulkster isn?t really seeking revenge on the Junkyard Dog for stealing his girl, and so on. But then the crowd plays along, cheering on their heroes and booing the villains much as one can be powerfully moved by viewing a great film or play as one for a time forgets that one?s watching actors on a stage or some flashes of light on a screen. Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to genuinely believe that the whole thing is real?that George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney are some of the few standing between them and the oncoming anti-American, morally relativist Jihad

And this year, the movement has produced a new living, breathing, flag-pin donning allegory for CPACers to get their picture taken with. His name is Jonathan Krohn, and he is The Future of Conservatism (in the sense that he says all the same crap as do the leaders of The Present State of Conservatism). Krohn was born in 1995; he lists Ronald Reagan and Jim DeMint as his greatest intellectual influences; and he looks eerily like David Frum?s Mini Me. I expect him to rise very high, very soon. Yes, Krohn hasn?t yet hit puberty, but then neither has the current editorial staff of National Review. And at his tender age, he?s already intuited the proper and utterly harmless way that movement activists criticize their GOP celebrities?talk about ?principles.? Using Krohn?s apt metaphor, the GOP is the crispy ?shell? that surrounds the gooey inner ?filling? of ?conservative principles.? Conservative activists should thus intone value-terms like ?Life,? ?Limited Government,? ?Respect for the Constitution,? ?the People?s Rights? as reliable applause lines at conservative events?and require that GOP politicians do the same. The task of making vacuous conservo-jargon compatible with actual GOP policies on say, war, limited government, and the Constitution, will generally take care of itself. Mega dittos, Jonathan. 


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