Sideshow Bob Ran as a Republican

Piggybacking on what Rev. Laarman had to say this morning, it’s commonly acknowledged among serious students of the modern conservative movement that one of the reasons it has been such a success is that it has managed to establish a feedback loop of sorts.

Every iteration of the movement has moved itself to the right: if Republicans do well at the polls, it’s because American voters want conservative ideas. If Republicans don’t do well—or if there’s some other failure in the movement—it’s because conservative principles weren’t truly applied. So every contingency militates a righter-than-thou stand, which results in people taking Orly Taitz seriously.

There’s at least a couple of lessons in there for liberals. First, pushing things to the left in the same way that movement conservatives pushed them to the right is all well and good, but where does it end? Twenty years from now, will we be saying “Who could have guessed Alec Baldwin would become president?”

But second, as Peter correctly points out, the ever-increasing radicalization of the Religious Right makes them unsuitable partners in compromise.

I mean, you can’t even mock these people anymore: they’re fully self-parodying. They’re so far gone that they can’t even accept the authority of scripture as a brake on their ideology. To paraphrase Peter Benchley, the conservative political system is in such bad shape that it can hardly be called a system. In fact, it’s not even political: it’s more of a carnival.

The common ground response to this critique is often that a new center has to be created by reaching out to persuadable, moderate conservatives. We’re not trying to compromise with the Religious Right, we’re trying to get independent voters!

But this is only so much magical thinking, the veneration of a middle that may not actually exist. And inasmuch as the “common ground” project seems to be premised on making concessions to conservative ideas, the distance between the middle-right and its extremist cousins isn’t all that relevant. Peter’s, um, right: as long as the right flank is unstable, trying to find common ground isn’t going to be a winning strategy, because the middle is just going to keep shifting out from under us. Much better for us liberals to stake our own positions and invite conservatives to get back to us when they’re ready to leave the circus.

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