Bruce Bartlett describes his experiences trying to break into the epistemic closure bubble of the amazingly delusional Thing That Used to be Conservatism. It’s oddly reminiscent of accounts of deprogrammers working to bring people out of the grip of a cult. The Thing that Used to be Conservatism, both in his account and in my own limited experience with some of its avatars in the media, comes off looking more and more like the Church of Scientology, manipulating a media empire to Pravdafy Party Favorites and disappear Enemies of the Regime (I too am familiar with the phenomenon of having good work carefully ignored by certain organs due to my ideological unfitness on subjects having nothing to do with the book under consideration for review). The conviction grows that there was something about the utterly disastrous tenure of George W. Bush that was like a comet of doom that struck the party and infected it with a wasting illness with which it still struggles, as though it were under an enchantment. The amount of impenitent, feckless, irresponsible, eyes-shut-tight folly that still grips this ill-starred political movement is astounding to behold.
As he notes, however, reality tends to be an efficient teacher. What people will not learn from those they have walled themselves off from, will be taught in the School of Loss, till the Party of Personal Responsibility learns to take some, you know, personal responsibility for its incredible folly. Happily, places like The American Conservative and Front Porch Republic are acting a hatcheries and incubators for a sane conservatism. That’s a healthy thing. What will be far healthier still will be a Christian and Catholic laity in this country that is decoupled altogether from commitments to the Loony Right or the Looney Left, a Church that weighs reality in light of the Faith, not the Faith in light of ideological commitments to Left or Right.