Revenge of the Conservanerds
There is a misconception that the mainstream media hates all conservatives. That’s just not true. The MSM loves some conservatives – the ones who combine a willingness to stick their conservative brothers and sisters in the back with a stereotypical, tweedy doofusism that ensures absolutely no one would ever want to be one of them. Their poster children are David Brooks and David Frum. Call them the Conservanerds.
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Conservanerds aren’t hard to identify. You can tell one by listening to him for about 15 seconds, by which time you will be overcome by a desire to either slap him or take his lunch money. You can find them dwelling at the fringes of liberal culture – they are allowed to attend the cocktail parties as the token conservative, tolerated by their masters in return for passive obedience and the occasional swipe at Sarah Palin and her intolerable uppityness.
If they were simply annoying, that would be one thing, but the problem is that the MSM loves to present them as the true face of conservatism, a face that is reasonable and harmless and that always – always – loses out to the liberals. Conservanerds play up to the awful stereotype of the bookish, passive-aggressive “traditional” conservative with a disdain for popular culture and, critically, for the other 95% of modern conservatives out there today.
Tea Party folks? Heaven forbid – those simply are not our kind of people. Those vulgar Tea Partyiers enjoy NASCAR and beer and guns and some actually believe in God. Many of them work with their hands, and most of them didn’t even go to Harvard!
Sure, there's class at play – it goes without saying the Conservanerds feel more at home with an Ivy League Hillary Clinton than a Middle-American Sarah Palin - but it's also MSM wish fulfillment. Liberals love the idea of conservatives who pose no threat at all, who are happy to take the scraps from the MSM's table just as long as they get invited to the dinner party.
This is not a new phenomenon. Starting with Goldwater and up through the Reagan years, a bunch of new folks flooded into the Conservative movement, folks that were less William F. Buckley and more John Wayne – or even Johnny Rotten. The old line conservatives, the tweed-wearing country club types, found it quite a culture shock. During college in the 80’s, half the staff assembling the California Review, UCSD’s right-wing paper, would be trying to appreciate to some Respighi concerto while the rest of us would be cranking the Ramones and swilling Coors.
It turned out that the party Republicans won.
The real conservative today is aggressive, outspoken and (worst of all for the Conservanerds) cares nothing for the approval of the elite. That makes us anathema. No wonder they are so eager to pounce - we've committed the sin of not caring what they think. Whether you're a tee-totaling Georgia Evangelical, a concerned mama grizzly from Kansas or a beer-swilling LA cavalryman with a four letter vocabulary and the Sex Pistols on his CD player, we're the new face of conservatism. And it's driving the Conservanerds bonkers.
David Frum’s whole recent career seems devoted to trying to reclaim the conservative legacy he somehow believes is his birthright, wrongly stripped from him by people who just refuse to be impresses that he is “the author of six books, including two New York Times bestsellers,” and that he got a J.D. from Obama’s alma mater. His tiresome FrumForum group blog is devoted to the kind of supine, “reasonable” conservatism that led to the reelection of George H.W. Bush and the triumphant Bob Dole presidency.
His latest grasp at relevance was the hilarious "No Labels" fiasco, a self-described “movement” consisting of liberals and a few repudiated conservatives devoted to fighting the idea of labels primarily by labeling those of us who are not afraid to say what we stand for as unpatriotic and generally awful. If his bio didn’t specifically note that he was married with kids between references to his "six books, including two New York Times bestsellers,” I would have taken a bet that he’d never kissed a girl.
When David Brooks took over as the NYT’s house conservative, it became pretty clear pretty fast that the Times had picked the right right-winger. Through culture and affinity, Brooks has much, much more in common with the lefty Manhattan masses that surround him than the conservatives out in that strange, faraway place some call “America.” It’s no surprise he’s an NPR commentator as well – it’s easy to imagine him breathing a sigh of relief that James O’Keefe didn’t videotape one of his lunches.
Brooks slid easily into the role of conservative critic, chiding the growing Tea Party movement for daring to actually try and win the fight for the soul of the country rather than quietly accepting defeat at the hands of their elite overlords. To the delight of his liberal masters, he famously diagnosed Sarah Palin as a “cancer to the Republican Party”; his bright idea was a McCain-Lieberman ticket. With friends like these, conservatives don’t need enemies.
But what really told the tale was his bizarre insight that the crease in BHO’s pants indicated that this guy needed to be in the White House:
“I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant, and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”
Wow. Leaving aside the baffling leg-related sycophancy the President seems to inspire in mainstream media types, it’s pretty clear that for Conservanerds, mere politics are trumped by faculty lounge-style affinity:
“I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but usually when I talk to senators, while they may know a policy area better than me, they generally don’t know political philosophy better than me. I got the sense he knew both better than me.”
Sounds like bragging to me, though it's about as impressive as "I'm the best Dungeons & Dragons player in the whole sophomore class!" Sadly for Brooks and his ilk, the mere politics he finds of such little import are pretty important to the rest of us who don’t spend afternoons sitting around discoursing upon Edmund Burke. Also sadly for him, the rest of us no longer care much about what’s inside the NYT.
So what is the answer for the Conservanerd curse? As much fun as it would be to give these geeks wedgies and dump them head first into garbage cans, the best response is harsh and sustained mockery. A guy like Frum, who is “the author of six books, including two New York Times bestsellers,” lives by his credentials. (Those credentials incidentally never seem to include military service, but that would require them to get dirty). The pompous, inflated sense of self-importance that leads them to think we give a damn about their opinions is their most rewarding vulnerability. So remember to remind them that they are no longer among the leaders of the conservative movement. They’re punchlines.
But we need to maintain a big tent, and we need to welcome nerdish conservatives inside – as long as they can keep from seeking attention by plunging their mechanical pencils into our collective back. George Will is certainly a nerd – you can tell by the glasses, the bow tie, and the lack of any Clash songs on his iPod. But he’s our nerd, usually. He can stay, but the day of Conservanerd domination has passed.