I don’t make this comment lightly. While my politics generally fall to the “left” of at minimum 95 percent of the American population who think at all about politics (and probably 90 percent of the world’s), I don’t hold opposing political views against their advocates. In fact, I not only respect many to most conservatives – I respect conservatism itself. While I believe that reforms and necessary transformation of certain institutions and mores of society are most often too slow to ease the pain and suffering generated by inequities of our failings both at the individual and social level, I do believe that conservatism serves as an essential reminder that changes which move too far and too fast can generate unintended consequences – whether they throw an economy out of balance or result in tyrannies which kill millions in that name of all that is holy and just. I read conservative opinion and analysis. I appreciate the humor and occasional principled consistency I find at magazines like American Spectator, National Review, and Human Events. Yes, there’s plenty of hypocrisy, denial, cluelessness, and even vindictiveness and malice. But you can find that on the left as well. Sometimes I can take it in stride. And sometimes the hypocrisy and cowardice is just too much to let slide, especially when it is so widespread in the movement, or anti-movement, or whatever conservatives want to call themselves.
I’m referring to Conservative Political Action Conference and the complete silence with regard to Egypt (third or fourth “top 10 story” down). Yeah, they’re confused. They don’t know how it’s going to play out, so they don’t want to take a chance on undermining their basic principle (Islam is inherently violent and nothing good can come from mass demonstrations involving Muslims) and the potential political fallout if they come out on the wrong side of history. Credit Limbaugh, Coulter, and a few other cro-mags for coming down firmly on the bigoted side. Credit Krauthammer and even fewer others calling the first group on their crap, and taking flack for it. And most of the first group have become somewhat subdued since Mubarak actually stepped down.
So maybe I shouldn’t blame conservatism itself, but just the practitioners. Hate the sinner and love the sin, or something like that. The problem is that this is more than just hypocrisy generated by uncertainty and future political positioning necessities. It’s about more than hedging bets. Uncertainty requires nuance and humility, and the practitioners of conservatism who attend CPAC just don’t have that capacity. They thrive on a an angry simplicity which just doesn’t apply to the situation. Maybe if the conference had taken place 10 days ago we would have seen the definitive “we should be rooting for Mubarak” expression in prominence. Maybe 10 days from now, or two months from now, they could deliver speeches that the Christians and businessmen actually saved the day, or if things go bad, blame the left for falling naive one more time to the romance of revolution. But Mubarak inconveniently fell right in the middle of their conference – at a moment that nobody can say what is going to happen, and with evidence which might even justify a faith in the ghastly concept of Islamic moderation. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to express skepticism. The constituency wants bold, morally certain, proclamations. They want to know who to cheer and who to attack. They don’t want the old Catholic clerical fallback with tough theological questions – “God works in mysterious ways.” He doesn’t. He props up good and strikes down evil. Evil has to be identified.
This revolution, if it truly turns out to have been one, is bad news for extremist groups like Al Qaida or Hezbollah. And in the same vein it is terrifying to certain elements of western conservatism. The whole raison d’etre is called into question.
The silence is truly pathetic.