The political free-for-all that is the three ring circus of blog ace Robert Stacy McCain has from time to time had entertaining back and forths with one of the right's promising young writers, Conor Friedersdorf. Conor has raised the ire of many on the right with his forthright criticism of a number of conservative pundits and talk show personalities, the most recent of which was Mark Steyn, discussed in some detail at The Other McCain.
Dissent and differences of opinion can be good to argue and ultimately strengthen your position and your ability to defend that position. This kind of open debate occurs far more on the right than on the left, and the difference in experience shows in how arguments between the two camps play out.
What I find troubling in Conor Friedersdorf is that he has taken the past two years and attempted to advance the notion that the Right is undermined by its most vocal and forceful proponents. Who in the political sphere pushes conservatism? There may be a number of republican politicians with sound conservative credentials, but none have captured the imagination of the party or are the parties natural standard bearer. One may yet present, but the problem of a politician taking stands is you become a target, as Representative Joe Barton found out. Sarah Palin would be the exception as someone willing to take a stand, be outspoken and espouse the conservative position, and she is doing so across the nation.
The vast bulk of the conservative argument, however, is advanced by talk show personalities, who disseminate the conservative view of the world and its response to the days events. Conor would have those people change their message or be pushed to the margins. It is a position that does find him favor among the left… a conservative willing to impugn its most effective communicators. John McCain got a lot of play in the DC crowd for much the same thing, but inside the halls of power.
Since there is no voice in politics galvanizing the right, the standard bearers for conservatism are largely the conservatives in the media, chief among which would be the radio media as represented by Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Mark Levin, and perhaps Sean Hannity. For Conor to then target these individuals, be critical of them and undermine their message moves the party backward. Conor, I believe, argues that the party has been hi-jacked by these individuals, whose hyperbole ultimately make conservatism appear less reasonable and less palatable to the population as a whole.
I think he is wrong, but the guy can write.