There are few conservative thinkers for whom I have more affection than William F. Buckley, Jr., the father of the modern American Conservative Movement. And I couldn’t help but think of him as I watched MSNBC host Rachel Maddow‘s All-Republican-Bashing-All-The-Time program.
Among one of my favorite Buckley witticisms is this: “You know, Iâ€™ve spent my entire life time separating the Right from the kooks.” This was genuinely one of Buckley’sÂ foremost missions. In fashioning his Conservative Movement that would eventually come to dominate the Republican Party and take the presidency in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan, Buckley did what all movements must do to survive: exclude the crazies. He cast out the anti-Semites, theocrats, and conspiracy-obsessed nutjobs. Henceforth they would not be considered “Right” but “kook.”
And the reason this was necessary then was the same reason it’s necessary today: let the crazies in, and the opposition will use them to slander an entire movement. That’s what’s happening today with Maddow’s highlighting of the Birthers (those who claim President Obama is not eligible to be President because he allegedly wasn’t born here) as somehow representative of the conservative mainstream.
Maddow played the following video of Republican congressman Mike Castle of Delaware being confronted by a rabid Birther conspiracist:
She then whispered to the camera that Birthers are taking over the Republican Party and that no Democratic strategist could have planned it better.
This task of smearing the Right as a bunch of nuts is a routine tactic of the Left. But it’s a task we only aid them in when we don’t keep our own house in order. The Birther Movement might be made up of a lot of patriotic Americans who think they’re serving their country’s best interests. The reality, though, is that they represent the same paranoid, conspiracist, kook thinking that Buckley had to deal with in his day. And like the Left, while they think they’re actually saving the world, they’re doing the exact opposite. They’re just creating a perfect target for the Left to use to smear the Conservative Movement (the true defenders of freedom and the American Idea). We need to do the same thing as Buckley: cast the kooks out of the movement and not allow them to be used as pawns by the Left.