David Frum

09.18.12

Right Wing to Brooks: Toe the Line!

Erick Erickson has compiled a list of conservatives who rallied to Romney's defense after yesterday's 47% revelations. While The Weekly Standard's John McCormack has pointed out that many on this list are not defending Romney, there is a tribal characteristic to the entire affair.

Much of the hard line reaction, tellingly, is against conservatives who dare criticize Romney's unfortunate remarks. Today's lightning rod? David Brooks.

This makes Rod Dreher's exasperated article from this morning all the more pertinent. Make sure to read the impetus for his argument, a post on The Corner calling Brooks a "house con," which Dreher describes as "repurposing the term “house n–ger.”

Leaving aside that last year, National Review‘s own Ramesh Ponnuru explained why the “47 percent” meme on the Right is inaccurate and foolish politics to boot, Walsh’s snide remark about Brooks is a reminder of what I have come to hate about popular conservatism. Brooks has been writing about Romney with a general sense of sympathy, but this time he lays into Romney on perfectly defensible grounds. Brooks’s sin, though, was in failing to toe the tribal line.

Maybe Brooks is wrong in his column about Romney — I think he’s absolutely right, by the way — but for Walsh, the ideas don’t have to be engaged. This is a loyalty test, and Brooks, by not falling in line to defend the Republican nominee, deserves to be dismissed as a fraud and a lickspittle.

Should Romney lose, is there any doubt that many in Conservative Tribe will convince themselves that he went down because he failed to be sufficiently conservative — that is, because he wasn’t loyal enough to the tribe and its religion (which is to say, its ideology)? Because it cannot be the case that there is anything wrong with the ideology. As someone at The New Republic (Chait?) wrote a few years back, for the tribe, conservatism (as they conceive it) cannot fail; it can only be failed, by “house cons” and other wimps, backstabbers, quislings, and suchlike.