Early in 1962, William F. Buckley, Jr., Barry Goldwater, and a handful of other influential people on the political right met at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, to discuss a growing problem: Robert Welch and his John Birch Society. Its influence was growing rapidly, and Welch was prone to saying insane things, such as Dwight Eisenhower was a knowing agent of the international communist conspiracy.
They were smart enough to recognize that Welch was so wildly out of touch with reality that his influence would be ruinous in the 1964 general election, but that he enjoyed immense popularity with the Republican base.
What to do?
They decided they would risk alienating the base, which actually had no place else to go, and cast Welch into Outer Darkness. Buckley would go first in the pages of National Review, and the rest would then declare their support for Buckley’s dismissal of Welch. Goldwater lost in ’64, but that shift away from lunacy and toward moderation laid the groundwork for decades of barely-interrupted Republican control of the Presidency (68-76, 80-92, 2000-2008).
In 2000, Karl Rove and George W. Bush decided to lower the drawbridge and invite the loonies in. We all know how that has worked-out: Ronald Reagan’s ‘Big Tent’ Republicanism has become the Kingdom of Nutjobs, the sort of people who would dismiss a distinguished senator of their own party, like Richard Lugar, without a word of thanks.
It is time, once again, for a prominent conservative to go first and say aloud what everybody knows: The Evangelical Right is intensely hostile to American ideals and an existential threat to the country; they are not part of the decent, educated world; they are the country’s dark, sick, irrational, paranoid underside — the people the Founding Fathers feared.
It doesn’t appear that the Republican establishment’s candidate, Jeb Bush, is the guy to do it, though. Nope, not Jebbie. After all, that might squirrel his commencement address at Liberty University where, he doubtless hopes, he will outshine Ted Cruz and pick-up some votes.
When are these guys going to understand that the only Republican who can win, or deserves to win, is the one who will clean house?