The Conservative Movement Elites Pine For Thermidor

How odd to see the Movement Establishment fragment so. Some dig in for their Stand against the tea bagger sans culottes. Just a year ago *they* were Jacobins. Now they are bewildered, revealed wearing Versailles finery, muttering about the divine right of Original Direct Mailers. Others want to throw down their handkerchiefs and join the ‘rabble’ (at the front, naturally).

CPAC 2010 — to switch revolutionary references — also reminds one of Stalin’s victory against his internal opposition 1924-1937. Recall he maneuvered first against Trotsky from the right and then against Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin from the left. How? Stalin was an organization man. He knew he had to destroy the Old Bolshevik Guard who controlled the Party. They remembered Lenin and more importantly knew the truth about Stalin and his marginal achievements before, during and after 1917. One of Stalin’s weapons? Open Party membership flood gates to the vast masses. He overwhelmed and diluted the Old Bolsheviks until they were nothing. And the new Party owed Stalin personally everything.

We know the analogy is a caricature. The Movement Establishment’s not there yet. And more importantly, there is no single malevolent will orchestrating events. The sua sponte dilution still wreaks havoc. Some ‘Left’ [sic] and progressive blogs noticed the unusually large youth contingent. It’s true. It’s also more than twenty somethings on a ‘most excellent’ road trip. This wave of new cohorts destabilized CPAC’s club psychology and sensibilities. We’ve attended CPAC on and off since Reagan’s early years. The Movement Establishment is rocked on its heels. Values wedge entrepreneurs suffered unheard of irrelevance and the indignity of an openly gay presence. The Movement Establishment’s gagged silence provoked bitter recriminations among many CPAC old timers. Only one obscure figure really ranted, and then unwisely before a Ron Paul audience. (Talk about not knowing his demographic).

Paul’s ‘f u’ straw poll win underscores the Movement Establishment’s dismay. CPAC hijacked from within. They may not quite feel Zinoviev and Kamenev’s bewilderment at their expulsion from the CPSU. After all, it’s still their institutions the party crashers want to join. But the uncertainty is real. Even as some like Newt try to ride the tiger for all it’s worth others want to put the rabble in their place.

Some conservatives we know point to the pre-CPAC ‘Mount Vernon’ kumbaya manifesto, seeking to paper over differences in the anti-Obama factions. The scrap of paper/html code refers in part to a more sane, rational conservatism. This, we are told, shows conservatives can be content to participate in liberal democratic pluralism. It’s doomed.

Upon reflection we think our earlier seemingly flippant comparison of the tea partiers to punk rock does apply. A Movement dedicated to nihilism and social destruction find themselves as out of touch, self-indulgent, insufficiently radical or nihilist. They are now, to quote Dr. Evil, ‘the Diet Coke of nihilsm.’ Spitting indeed. Amid all his incoherence, that was Beck’s clarion call. If the tea partiers are to be more than punk’s flash in the pan they will need that single will (or collectively single) to put their dilution to practical political effect.

Some famous Movement figures say to us quietly they wait for their own Thermidor. Even as they hedge bets and praise the new era. A time for ‘reaction’ to tamp down, er . . . Reaction. It’s a 360 degree firefight. All still despise the James Bakers, the GHWB’s ‘we have mortgages, not ideologies’ RINOs (and one supposes Carly’s FCINOs). If history is any guide, their Thermidor is still a ways off. Radicalism must overreach its climax. CPAC 2010 suggests we’re not even close. And who in the Movement Establishment has the spine to act in any event?

The Democrats deservedly face a political nightmare of their own making. Their problems are so much more pervasive and systemic than the Movement schism (so far). Americans are being treated to the spectacle of two disintegrating political forces grasping for power. But there is one difference. One of them is totally energized, consciously craving power for an admittedly incoherent, eliminationist, zero-sum Manichean agenda. The other? They’re playing badminton waiting for a third party referee.

‘How’s that bi-partisanshipy thing working out for ya, Mr. President?’