Rightbloggers’ “Conservatism 2.0” Closely Resembles Earlier Versions


Last week top rightbloggers Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin held a video conversation about “Conservatism 2.0.” Their 1990s-Fast Company cognomen refers to a future direction for the Right, but from their discussion their new direction is rather like their old one.

For example, in their consideration of the “conservative-libertarian” coalition that will return them to victory, they discussed the recent behavior of Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, who had yelled “Tyrant!” at Attorney General Michael Mukasey during an event, at which Mukasey subsequently collapsed. Malkin was disappointed in Sanders, whom she knew as a good libertarian who’d been “hounded unfairly for what the left considered judicial misconduct” (that is, speaking at an anti-abortion rally).

But now that he’d yelled at a prominent Republican, Malkin and Reynolds agreed, Sanders merited the C word — for his “Clintonesque rationalizations” and a “weasely Clintonian quality.” Malkin denounced libertarians “who have complete allergies to every last anti-terrorism measure that the Bush Administration has taken.” To preserve the movement’s “big tent,” Malkin said, there “has to be some reconciling” — which, clearly, will have to be done entirely by the libertarians.

They also discussed the “tolerance bullying” of gays angry about Proposition 8, who’d pressured a film festival director out of his job. While allowing that “people have a right to speak out,” Reynolds said that he was “absolutely certain that had Proposition 8 supporters done this… we’d be hearing cries of McCarthyism.” Then he mentioned the efforts of radio host Glenn Sacks and others to get some public transit ads about domestic abuse pulled. (Sacks was offended by the ads’ suggestion that many boys grow up to beat women.) The Sacks squad “made a very big point about being polite about it,” said Reynolds.

This politeness is evident in Sacks’ own account, in which he said that “several financial contributors” to The Family Place, the service provider that placed the offending ads, “withdrew or reduced the financial gifts they planned for the end-of-the-year giving season” as a result of Sacks’ efforts. But Sacks added, “I don’t say this with pleasure — I would have preferred that The Family Place do the right thing from the beginning rather than lose the funding they did.” So Conservatism 2.0, it would appear, will distinguish itself from its gay enemies by getting their targets bankrupted rather than fired, and by acting sorry about it afterwards.

Another two-oh tactic will be familiar to readers of last week’s column, where we saw conservatives celebrating Obama’s mainstream appointments as signs of victory. Reynolds and Malkin chortled that these appointments proved that Obama would be “continuing much of the Bush legacy.”

They were widely seconded. Gateway Pundit, which had previously denounced Obama’s “Far Left radical belief system,” announced that “Obama = Bush’s 3rd Term.” At National Review Victor Davis Hanson laughed off alternative explanations and decided, two months before Obama’s inauguration, that the President-Elect had pulled off “one of most profound bait-and-switch campaigns in our political history,” and that “Obama’s victory… more so even than perhaps a John McCain’s, may do more for Bush’s reputation that anyone ever imagined.”

TigerHawk went even further, suggesting that Obama didn’t really want the as-yet undecided Senate races to be won by Democrats. “Would Barack Obama prefer that Norm Coleman and Saxby Chambliss keep their seats, or that the Democrats win and take away the filibuster excuse?” he asked. “I suspect that deep down, off-the-record, and entirely on the hush and hush, President Barack Obama would rather that the Democrats have 58 or 59 seats in the Senate than 60.” We heard much from rightbloggers during the campaign about Obama being a traitor, but we didn’t realize this is what they meant.

Other rightbloggers had fun, or something like it, with other appointments. Jules Crittenden was amused by the presence on Obama’s transition team of policy analyst Samantha Power, who in March called Hillary Clinton (now Secretary of State presumptive) a “monster” and was forced to absent herself from the campaign. This is good for a chuckle, no doubt, but Crittenden’s glee was downright paroxysmal. He called Power’s ouster “one of the earlier examples of Obamian gutlessness” which had “shoved” Power into a “closet,” and marveled that Power’s “eyeballs apparently have not been gouged out.” But he also thought that “anyone who is concerned about the position of the United States” should be troubled that Power is back in the game, because she is “a major Kumbayah chorus leader with incredibly bad ideas” who “now has a chance to influence policy re Iran and its Bush-imagined nuke program.”

Crittenden was sufficiently bedazzled by Power to include a perfectly nice picture of her, and then to observe, “Nice wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights portrait above lifted from Harvard. Not sure what’s up with the strange frosty effect. It came that way. I think it might be pixie dust, picked up on Samantha’s last trip to Fairyland.” When his masturbation was interrupted by a critic, Crittenden denounced him as “drunk and ignorant.”

It would appear the Conservatism 2.0 plan is not so rigorous that it does not allow great latitude for freestyle ravings. This was also evident in Lisa Schiffren’s bizarre meditation on Michelle Obama, in which she asserted that the incoming First Lady “is pretty easy to dislike” and, of Laura Bush, “the nation wish[es] she had taken a larger role than she did,” with polling data regrettably unsupplied.

Others demanded that, despite unprecedented public interest, Obama scale back his inauguration, on the grounds that this had been asked of Bush in 2004. (Of course rightbloggers rebuffed this request at the time, but it’s always worth a shot.)

Still others continued to churn out good, old-fashioned accusations of treason — against liberals (“liberals have sided with people who behead POWs and people who torture Americans”) and even against John McCain (for not campaigning hard enough) — of the sort that has been their mainstay since the blogosphere’s earliest days.

So, despite their occasional announcements of sweeping reform, expect no big changes from the rightbloggers. They seem to know, deep down, that their contributions do not affect actual electoral politics nearly as much as they affect the character of online discourse, and they remain as committed as ever to lowering it.