Last week John Cole conjectured that we may have reached "Peak Wingnut," a moment when the utter failure of self-identified "conservatives" by every rational objective metric might mean the end of their political efficacy. It was a logical theory, as far as it goes. After all, movement conservatism had its day, and what did it produce? A massively botched war, a ruined economy, and (probably) humiliating electoral defeat: you’d think a record this contemptible would lead to a bit of discrediting, or (egads) perhaps a reassessment of basic assumptions and principles.
Of course, as Cole soon saw, not bloody likely. There are all sorts of reasons why the wingnuts will always be with us — debilitating stupidity, unreconstructed bigotry, perverse resentment. But then, vulgar materialism has a lot to teach us about vulgar conservatism. There is a lot of money in saying asinine, horrible, flatly wrong, dishonest, divisive shit.
Look at it this way — what incentive does someone like Jonah Goldberg have to even begin to learn what professional historical scholarship or grownup political science might even look like? What possible reason could there be for shitheads like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and their innumerable and innumerate hordes of wannabe demagogues to even begin to appreciate the concept of responsible commentary? It’s a sweet gig — even being proved flatly wrong is another excuse to scream through your outsized megaphone about how marginalized you are by a meanie MSM while you keep raking in the endless fat paychecks. Just ask Christopher Buckley right now about the upside-down incentive structure of 21st-century conservatism. A debacle is no reason not to cash in. AIG, NRO: a meltdown is just a business expense.
This is why I had to laugh at this plaintive bleat from Ross Douthat:
Here’s the thing: The Republican Party will be a populist party going forward, or it won’t be a party at all. But the more populist it becomes – the more figures like Palin and Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty replace the blue-blazer Republicans of yore – the more it needs an elite capable of preventing it from spinning away into anti-intellectualism, hidebound dogmatism, and pure folly.
Forget it, Ross. It’s Wingnuttia.