"I don't think I've changed," Johnson said. "I've always been pretty independent. This is something I've really tried to put out there on my blog. I don't consider myself right-wing." . . .Read the whole thing. No blogger wants to get in a pissing match with Charles Johnson. It strikes me that, like a lot of people who jumped onto the Global War On Terror (GWOT) bandwagon after 9/11, Johnson's commitment to conservatism was very limited.
"I don't think there is an anti-jihadist movement anymore," Johnson said. "It's all a bunch of kooks. I've watch some people who I thought were reputable, and who I trusted, hook up with racists and Nazis. I see a lot of them promoting stories and causes that I think are completely nuts."
He was opposed to Code Pink and Cindy Sheehan and International ANSWER, and he supported George W. Bush over John Kerry. Evidently, however, Johnson cared nothing at all about opposing the Left as a political movement in general. In fact, he appears profoundly sympathetic to the Left's domestic policy aims. In this, he is no different than, say, John McCain. Or Meghan McCain, for that matter.
Somewhere several weeks ago -- I don't feel like looking it up now -- I wrote that it is a bad long-term strategy to base a political movement primarily on foreign policy. Wars come and go, alliances shift, old enemies fade and new enemies emerge and, quite frankly, most Americans don't give a damn about foreign countries unless they're at war with us.
Yet it cannot be denied that in 2002 and '04, the Republicans won chiefly by presenting themselves as the party of get-tough foreign policy, committed to taking the fight to the Islamofascist foe. The post-9/11 appeal to patriotism always had a certain "Remember the Maine!" quality to it, and it was effective only so long as the Democrats were committed to playing the "me too" game.
After the 2004 election, however, the Democratic grassroots stopped listening to their "leadership" in Washington. Instead, left-wing bloggers, MoveOn.org, and the new Soros-funded operations (Center for American Progress, Media Matters, etc.) set about fomenting a "choice not an echo" response to the Mehlman/Rove strategy.
With their champion Howard Dean installed as chairman of the DNC, the Left demonized all Republicans, marginalized moderate Democrats, sought out plausible challengers in "purple" congressional districts, and built a machinery of opposition that was flexible, improvisational and well-funded.
Meanwhile, the Republicans were stuck with a top-down hierarchical political operation that left the conservative grassroots in the position of waiting for the RNC and Sean Hannity to tell them what the key issues were and what the message was. The GWOT, a winning campaign issue in 2002-04, turned into a liability in 2005-06. The Iraqi insurgents were de facto allies of the Democrats, and as the death toll in Iraq rose, so did the Democrats' political fortunes. And the only response that Rumsfelt & Co. offered was, "Stay the course!"
Perhaps we might have stayed the course, if Bush and the Republicans had ever bothered to develop a conservative domestic agenda. Instead, from its very inception, "compassionate conservatism" was a policy of negotiated surrender on the domestic front. Can someone -- anyone -- please tell me what was "conservative" about No Child Left Behind or Medicare Part D? And let's don't even talk about S. 2611, OK?
So when Charles Johnson says he doesn't consider himself "right wing," he's utterly sincere. He is what he always was, a pro-war liberal. Now that the Republicans are out of power and the "conservative" label has been permanently tainted by its association with the hapless Bush administration, Johnson cares nothing for the fate of the GOP or conservatism. Nor does he care anything for the reputations of erstwhile friends like Robert Spencer and Pam Geller, whom he now casually dismisses as racist Nazi kooks.
I'd like to explain to Charles Johnson why he's wrong, but if he won't listen to Robert Spencer, there's no reason to expect he'd listen to me. Johnson supported the GWOT, which ended the day Bush left the White House, and thus ended Johnson's only real interest in politics.
Johnson is not "political" in the sense of trying to calculate ways to build a broad, enduring coalition that amounts to at least 50-percent-plus-one. He cares nothing about, say, figuring out how to elect Lt. Col. Allen West in FL-22 or how to defeat Bud Cramer in AL-5. And since he's never looked at politics in that way, he doesn't grasp the connection between defeating the Left on foreign policy and defeating the Left on domestic issues like "card check" and health care.
You know who does see those connections? The Left. And they've won, because Bush and the Republicans never really understood the real enemy they were fighting. Charles Johnson is just collateral damage in this conflict, incidental to the Left's triumph.
UPDATE: Donald Douglas has kept closer tabs on the LGF situation, and Gates of Vienna is even more directly involved. Both of them see the conflict as being "about Charles," who is accused of banning any commenter who disagrees with him. Meh. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't want my bandwidth gobbled up by people who disagreed with me, either. So that's not really much of an accusation, in and of itself.
UPDATE II: Linked at Conservative Grapevine. Meanwhile, Charles Johnson tells his side of the story with a post that describes leaders of the Vlaams Belang -- the Flemish nationalist party of Belgium -- as having "met with numerous extreme right wing personalities (including Pat Buchanan)." Well, if meeting with Pat Buchanan puts one beyond the pale, there goes Ronald Reagan, for whom Buchanan was White House Communications Director 1985-87.
UPDATE III: Pam Geller protests against being accused by LGF of promoting neo-Nazism for having posted video of demonstrations organized in the British National Party. This points toward a basic problem at the heart of the dispute: European politics is not like American politics.
European politics is parliamentary and, given the socialist bent of Europe, the mainstream "conservative" parties aren't really very conservative at all. The staid, respectable British Tories are never going to make an issue of mass immigration and the attendant ascendance of Islamic extremism. Ergo, in Britain, the "extremist" BNP owns that issue, much the way that Le Pen's National Front owns it in France and Vlaams Belang owns it in Belgium.
What this situation highlights, really, is the danger to America if the Republican Party refuses to side with its conservative grassroots on the immigration issue. John McCain and other moderate Republicans want the GOP to follow European conservative parties down the path to political irrelevance by distancing themselves from "populist" issues like immigration and abortion.
The problem with that approach is that, if you marginalize dissent -- and look at what happened to Carrie Prejean, if you want to see how marginalization happens -- then you abandon those issues to the real fringe kooks. The genius of the American two-party system has been its ability to channel popular unrest into mainstream politics, so that issues that might otherwise give rise to violent extremism are instead addressed via the ballot box and legislation.
And this is why I have such contempt for Republican elitists like David Brooks, who are always striving to push the GOP toward middle-of-the-road "respectability" and urging Republicans to disdain "populism." That elitist approach will always weaken the GOP, and allow grassroots resentments to fester into genuinely dangerous extremism.