The Corner

Notes from Underground

I spent the summer out of the country and have returned to serve a prolonged sentence in the writer’s cave on various film and literary projects, so I’ve missed some of the day-to-day battles over vilenesses various. Most of which, when you stop to think about it, have to do with the counter-factual (“if this were Bush . . .”) and the impotent rage one feels when backing, year after year, election after election, a party of losers that simply refuses to understand the nature of its foe and is unwilling to take the necessary steps to combat it. This, I think, accounts for the slide into internecine warfare and an unwillingness to take action in the face of clear and present threat to our constitutional system of government as originally envisioned by the Founders and, until recently, honored by custom and tradition. 

It’s strange that the conservative movement, from which one expects pugnacity rather than passivity, should have become so marginalized. Part of its inability to move the needle of public opinion is illusory: The media (read: the New York Times) is the arbiter of political trends, and what they say goes. From Times Square to the networks to the cable nets (the formerly influential newsweeklies, including my own beloved Time magazine, either no longer exist or no longer matter) to the wire services and out into the hinterlands, an image of America goes forth from this time and place, one fashioned in the image and likeness of the media folks themselves. Never in the course of American history have so many been influenced by so few, and with so little justification. 

Another part of it has to do with the nature of the game. Conservatives have come to believe that they must always be on defense, and have adopted the sports cliché that they can’t stop the Left, but only hope to contain it. The idea of going on offense — sending out continuous raiding parties to harass the opposition on its home turf, disrupt its ideological supply lines, and activate double agents within its ranks never seems to occur to the Midwestern nice guys (Priebus, Boehner) who currently run the party. Once every two or four years, they dutifully gear up for the morally unpleasant task of running a “campaign,” obligingly following the advice of their krack kadres of kampaign konsultants (bookies who don’t really care who wins as long as they are guaranteed their vigorish) and pouring millions of dollars down the electoral drain. Democrats, meanwhile, view elections as the whole point of the exercise, without which they can’t achieve their objective, which is power. And they have fun doing it; as the evil Colonel Tavington sneers to Mel Gibson’s Benjamin Martin in The Patriot: “You know, it’s an ugly business doing one’s duty . . . but just occasionally it’s a real pleasure.”

As some idiot wrote in Rules for Radical Conservatives

So there you are, lying flat on your back on the canvas and wondering whether the referee got the number of that truck.  For decades, we’ve pummeled you and pounded you, if not quite into submission than pretty close to it.  We’ve robbed you of your tongue, of your fighting spirit; we’ve hamstrung you with lawyers and political correctness.  We’ve made you doubt the worth of everything you once held dear – now there was a practical application of “Critical Theory” if there ever was one! – including your culture, your history and, well, you.  We’ve practically criminalized everything about you, including your thoughts, and it’s just a matter of time before we get those too . . .

You stand there and let us whale away on you, imputing every sort of ignobility to you, your culture, your belief system, your faith tradition, and your families unto the generations.  By our lights, since we despise you so roundly and so thoroughly, any weapon to hand is useful, and so we club you to death with your own good manners, telling you all the while that to fight back would be wrong, would be deconstructionist, would be advocating at least symbolic violence and hate-mongering, would be trying to force your opinion on us. 

And so you take it, when what you should do is punch us right in the face.

Symbolically, I hasten to add, although that’s certainly not how the Left plays the game. But at long as conservatives continue to impute good motives to the current crop of hard leftists now occupying Washington — and who will become increasingly open and honest about their real motives, now that they have nothing to fear from the electorate at the presidential level — and recoil in fear from charges of “meanness,” we’ll continue to see such spectacles as this:

Dismayed Establishment Republicans, frustrated again by an increasingly influential community of conservative insurgents, reasserted themselves in the wake of the shutdown and demonstrated a new resolve to fight back — something they were once reluctant to do.

“There were people who were basically afraid of ‘em, frankly,” McConnell told the Washington Examiner. “It’s time for people to stand up to this sort of thing.”

McConnell worries that the Senate Conservatives Fund and other insurgent groups are pursuing a confrontational, uncompromising strategy that makes it impossible for conservatives to govern.

And there you have it. McConnell and the other Washington Generals think that the point of playing politics is to win the right to “govern,” whereas the Democrats know it’s to win the force with which to rule. But real conservatives understand the battle is much larger than McConnell’s hidebound, limited world-view. The first job is the restoration of constitutional principles — and if that’s not accomplished, then nothing else really matters. Take the Generals, please:

This is a team that has lost every single game it’s played since 1971. Every. One. Night after painful night, they are dunked on, have basketballs dribbled off their heads and have their shorts pulled down to their ankles. And the worst part about it is they play the same team every night! You’d think eventually they’d wisen up to the Globetrotters tricks and offensive sets, but it never seems to happen. They bring in the wrong players, their current coach has never won a single game, and they are doused with seltzer water almost every single night. They are an embarrassment to sport, and one has to think that, after 40 straight years of losing, they need to bring in someone with some fresh ideas and a lot of money to turn this thing around. 

Nah. They’ll just keep Boehner and McConnell and the krack konsultant kadres at the helm and hope for the best. 

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.

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