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THE ARMIES OF THE RIGHT

11:00 PM, Nov 15, 1998 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
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More important, the reformed conservatives have their own leaders -- their celebrities and stars. For incandescence and self-validation left-wing protesters can usually count on movie actors like Glenn Close and Martin Sheen and some combination of Baldwin siblings. But right-wingers must bask in the glow of rather lesser luminaries. Behind the stage was a VIP tent, safely roped off from the admiring hordes, who clustered together and craned their necks and clutched pen and paper in hopes of getting a glimpse of, or maybe an autograph from -- well, let's see -- there was Gary Aldrich, a retired FBI agent, and Lucianne Goldberg, who was Maurice Stans's literary representative, and Alan Keyes, the former vice president (so his resume claims) of the Ronald Reagan Alumni Association, at least four self-identified radio talk-show hosts, and a woman named Ann Coulter, who has made multiple appearances on CNBC and who spent much of the afternoon wearing sunglasses and ignoring the solicitations of a handful of gangly young men with acne. She wore tight pants.


All the celebrities spoke, of course, and the remarks of each were greeted with the same thunderous enthusiasm, notwithstanding that they were often mutually contradictory. On this matter of the American people, for example: Many celeb-speakers agreed with Jim Robinson that the "liberal media is a liar. There's no way 70 percent of the American people want this man to remain in office," which is how he knew that "we are the American people." Others took a darker view. L. D. Brown, an ex-Arkansas state trooper who no longer likes his former boss, said he was thinking of moving to England: "I'm so disgusted with the American people." Keyes pointedly questioned the "moral character of the American people." And Larry Klayman, the hyperlitigious "public interest" lawyer who launched the lawsuit in the FBI-files case, was even gloomier.


"The polls are correct," Mr. Wet Blanket told the crowd. "We are only 30 percent. Seventy percent of the American people fail to appreciate" the country's founding principles. "The rest of the American people are lost," Klayman went on, "worshipping the Golden Calf." But there's hope! Like Moses, he said, he would volunteer to "bring down the Ten Commandments and teach them right from wrong." He stood on the stage tight-lipped and immobile, as the waves of applause and adulation washed over him.


There are other, less pressing matters of dispute -- Brown, for example, announced that Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster had had an affair, which must be problematic for the Hillary-is-a-lesbian theorists. But these are easily ironed out in deference to a shared, consuming conviction. And here too our contemporary right-wingers have learned from their left-wing precursors: They are united, motivated, and gassed up generally by a delicious, delirious contempt. For all that, though, our conservative and liberal activists are not yet completely interchangeable. "Remember," one woman shouted from the stage as the rally ended, "be sure to pick up your trash. We're conservatives and we clean up after ourselves." And sure enough, an hour later the place was spotless, as though they had never been there.




Andrew Ferguson is a senior editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.