THERE IS A LEFT-WING conspiracy at loose in the world, dedicated to undoing conservative governance, only the people who see it aren't sure what it is. John McCain is in it, of course, in fact he is the cause of it, as making him president is the ultimate goal. He is blamed for running, (and perhaps, for breathing), but beyond him the face of the threat is less clear. In fact, the faces are those of other conservative stalwarts, who were their heroes and brethren until--until, say, just after the Florida primary, when McCain emerged as a serious threat. These include Mike Huckabee, the once well-thought of former Arkansas governor (and hero of the social conservative part of the movement), who unaccountably refuses to withdraw from the race on their orders; Tom Coburn and Sam Brownback, perhaps the most conservative members of the United States Senate; Jack Kemp, the supply-side Reagan enthusiast; Phil Gramm, the most conservative Republican to run in the 1996 contest; and Ted Olson, the hero of the Federalist Society, who argued and won the case of Bush vs. Gore. (They may also include the late President Reagan's widow, who, according to the Drudge Report, hearts John McCain.)
Mysteriously, these past heroes of the Heritage Foundation, CPAC gatherings, movement conservatives, and, of course, talk radio, have become the prime targets of--movement conservatives and talk radio, who in their boundless and unbridled fury seem now to have sensed in them aspects of deception and wussiness they never detected before. They are discovered in retrospect to have committed grave sins of co-and-omission that were not before evident. They are on the payroll of Moveon.org, if not of George Soros. They will never be trusted again.
Actually, they have not done a thing beyond endorsing a four-term Republican senator with a lifetime 82 percent ACU rating, but this isn't the point. The point is that the ideological right is filled with a vast, free-floating fury that can't find a target upon which to dump all this ire. At least, not one that either makes logical sense, or provides a psychologically satisfying object on which to unload all this feeling. Is it McCain himself, who refused to stay dead when they thought he was done with? Is it Mike Huckabee, who stopped Romney in Iowa, and so, as they think, drains votes from their hero? Is it Rudy Giuliani, who refused to stay in and drain votes from McCain, but had the bad taste to drop out after Florida? Is it Mitt himself, who is a bit of stiff, and whose frontrunner strategy bombed early on in the contest? Is it Fred!, who refused to catch fire? Is it George Allen, who had the bad sense in 2006 to utter the damned word 'macaca,' and thus lose his once safe seat in the Senate, with which he would have been the front-runner? Is it Jeb Bush, who didn't a) endorse Mitt, or b) change his name to Jeb Jones, in which case HE would have been the front runner and stopped John McCain?
All this emotion, and no easy target, unless it's a 'what,' not a 'who.' Is it the calendar, that depraved little rascal, that gave McCain the gift early on of his favorite state of New Hampshire, and then tossed him Florida before the glow of his win in South Carolina wore off? (But this is the year of no-mentum.) Is it the press, which loves liberals, setting up their favorite apostate Republican, to push their agenda? (But polls show--and Democrats say--that he would be the strongest candidate against the real liberals--Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton--when the big race comes up in the fall.) This doesn't make sense, so it must be . . . the voters, the Republican voters, the ones on their side, they ones they court and appeal to, the ones of whom they spoke so glowingly in 2002 and 2004, some of whom were voting in the glory years of l980-l988. But blaming the voters is really too painful to mention, so it must the 'establishment' that betrayed them, the 'country club Republicans' as opposed to the genuine voice of the people, the people who always detested the great Ronald Reagan, and backed Gerald Ford--William Scranton--Nelson Rockefeller!--back in the day. And who are these nefarious 'establishment' figures who are fooling the voters by backing this sinister liberal?
Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, Phil Gramm, Ted Olson, Jack Kemp, and perhaps Richard Land, the evangelical stalwart, who turned thumbs down earlier upon Giuliani.
And so it goes on.
And so Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, Phil Gramm, Jack Kemp, Ted Olson, Richard Land, and perhaps Nancy Reagan are now the worst foes of the modern conservative movement. With enemies such as these, who needs friends?
Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.