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‘House Cons’

At The Corner, Michael Walsh dismisses David Brooks’s criticism of the Romney campaign:

Already, both lefties and house cons like the New York Times’s David Brooks have their knickers in a twist.

And then Walsh goes on to flat-out ignore everything Brooks said. It is enough to call him a “house con” — repurposing the term “house n–ger,” used by slaves to deride other slaves allowed by the master to work inside the house. In other words, Walsh is calling Brooks an Uncle Tom.

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.

This mental habit is one of my least favorite things about American conservatism, in part because it makes learning from defeat impossible. But it is one of the most durable. Even if Romney implodes in November, it will survive, and even get stronger.

Meanwhile, this morning I’m thinking about the time this summer I went with my father to the VA clinic, and saw young men who fought in George W. Bush’s war receiving their government-subsidized medical care. And I’m thinking about what Romney means for foreign policy and war, and about Romney’s 47 percent of moochers, wondering how the GOP nominee would explain himself to those wounded vets.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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