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March of Crimes; I Knew It; Vote


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Jonah Goldberg

MARCH OF CRIMES
P. J. O’Rourke introduces his book, Parliament of Whores, with a story about how he and Andrew Ferguson (now of The Weekly Standard) were driving down Pennsylvania Avenue. They saw some typical “noisy pinko demonstration.” Here is the passage:

“How come,” I asked Andy, “whenever something upsets the Left, you see immediate marches and parades and rallies with signs already printed and rhyming slogans already composed, whereas whenever something upsets the Right, you see two members of the Young Americans for Freedom waving a six-inch flag?”

“We have jobs,” said Andy.

This has normally been the rule of thumb for politics in America. Though it wasn’t solely because the crunchy crowd was without anything better to do during the day. Conservatism is, as denoted by its name, conservative. It is, in Lincoln’s phrase an adherence to the old and tried versus the new and untried. Conservatism is a doctrine and sentiment that has historically been opposed to political enthusiasm and unwarranted change. “When change is unnecessary it is necessary not to change,” has long been the Right’s motto. As Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, observed, enthusiasm often leads to people getting their heads cut off. “Good order is the foundation of all good things,” he wrote in Reflections on the Revolution in France.

Thus, it was so shocking this weekend to see thousands of ostensible right-wingers rallying in the shadow of the Washington Monument last Saturday. The crowd, probably around 4,000-strong, came from all over the country to vent their outrage more than anything else. Matt Drudge called it the first successful Internet-driven rally. It couldn’t be the first rally outright because the previous week a scraggly bunch of 1960s retreads held a pathetic anti-Starr rally which too had been spurred by an Internet appeal. That group, covered on C-SPAN looked more like a small crowd waiting to scalp tickets at a Melissa Etheridge concert.

Saturday’s “March of Crimes” was organized by Jim Robinson and others associated with Free Republic — the cyber samizdat of the 21st century. With only three weeks notice, people from all over the country decided to make a pilgrimage to Washington to display their belief that President Clinton is slowly turning society’s moral thermostat down. Drudge may be right that this is the first successful cyber rally. But the real news to me is that the Right has for the first time in modern memory trounced the Left at its own game. Even the Washington Post had to concede that the rally destroyed the staged pro-Clinton demonstration outside the White House. That rabble was carted in by groups loyal to the Democratic Party.

The attendees of the “freeper” event were from across the socioeconomic spectrum. Many of them were clearly of modest means. Packing their own food and car-pooling to save money, they came to Washington short on cash but long on love for the truth and anger at the violence being done to America’s ideals. A nicer bunch of people I’ve never met. Whether one could legitimately call them all “conservative” I don’t know. Many were simply news junkies who got caught up on the side of truth. Others felt like they were the last remaining humans amongst the pod people in this Invasion of the Truth Snatchers. And still others just wanted to meet the people they’d gotten to know only on-line. Nevertheless, they came by caravan from across the country, many of them at the last minute. One man, who found out about the rally only the night before, greeted his wife as she came home from work and said, “get in the car.” They then drove from South Carolina. Another lady literally induced her pregnancy early so she and her newly enlarged family of five could make the trip from Arizona — in a station wagon.

The media says these people are full of hate and short on humor. I found the case to be exactly the opposite. It is a shame that so many missed the story, for it was a significant moment in the history of patriotism. Love of country is not the sole privilege of the Right. But if there has been a difference between the two sides in the past, it has been this: Conservatives first and foremost love this country for what it is and has been. Liberals love it for what it could be. This rally revealed that the real argument today is over what America should be.

I KNEW IT
The cheese-eating surrender-monkeys (as they are known on The Simpsons) — a/k/a. the French — lead the international coalition in mocking America about how we are treating the Clinton scandal. Their most prominent intellectuals and politicians sign “open letters” and other proclamations bemoaning this American inquisition. Well prior to this scandal, the French had developed a fondness for lecturing us about human rights and how to run a nation. Yesterday’s Washington Post reports that a new study by Harvard and the University of Chicago suggests that the nation with three hundred kinds of cheese and almost as many failed Republics should look closer to home. Researchers compiled rafts of data on over 150 countries, including economics, political, criminal justice, levels of corruption, and religious indicators. They found that the most powerful correlation between good governments wasn’t religious or racial, moral or meteorological, though there are some interesting findings to be found. No, the best way to determine whether or not a country is corrupt and badly run is to determine whether or not it is based on the French system. None of the top ten governments in the world were based on the French system. All but two of the bottom ten countries were of Frog descent.

VOTE
I subscribe to the brand of conservatism described above which says that enthusiasm is bad. Prior to this scandal, my personal motto was that I don’t care enough to hate. But if the Clintonistas are determined to make this election a referendum on his behavior (including lies, obstruction, etc.) then that is how it will be portrayed. Therefore I must denounce voter apathy — something I normally embrace as a sign that everything’s going fine. If you think the Clinton scandal should not be swept under the rug, even if you don’t like your Republican candidate, vote. Hold your nose and vote (Republican).

C. S. Lewis wrote that “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” If you vote for impeachment, you’ll at least be putting up a signpost.

I now return to my normally scheduled cynical disenchantment . . .



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