The Hypocrisy of a Conservative Elite's New York and D.C. Bashing

For Erick Erickson, people in the northeast should be dismissed -- except the ones who agree with him.
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Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The way movement conservatism's ideological enforcers go about discrediting dissidents really is something. The blatant inconsistencies and lack of self-awareness never cease to amaze me.

Erick Erickson begins his latest salvo by asserting that the recent chatter about conservative reform is problematic, because "the people talking about reform are in Washington and New York, the two places least likely to lead any version of conservative reform." Does he really think that? Fox News, one of his employers, is run out of New York, as is National Review, the most successful publication in the history of conservative reform (and City Journal, a more recent success). RedState, his online home, is owned by Eagle Publishing, headquartered at One Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D.C. Down the street is the Heritage Foundation, which "remains the indispensable organization within the conservative movement," according to Erickson.

It isn't that I put any particular faith in most of those organizations*. But Erickson does. So notice his little game. If Ross Douthat or Ramesh Ponnuru or his target today, Josh Barro, is cited as "a conservative reformer," he dusts off the trusty anti-northeast rhetoric and deploys it against them.

But when Erickson has allies in New York and Washington? Let's return to Erickson's thoughts on the Heritage Foundation as an example:

The Heritage Foundation set the stage for Ronald Reagan. Without Heritage, no doubt Reagan could have won. But Reagan's ideas and policies were incubated in the Heritage Foundation.

Heritage was the foundation of the Reagan Revolution.

There's more:

Unlike many leaders in the conservative movement, Ed Feulner has actually led all the way. He did not pass off his role to be just a figure head. He has been engaged. He kept and is keeping conservatism alive well past Reagan, through reading a lie off George H. W. Bush's lips, through Bill Clinton's triangulation, even to now during this superficial revival of American liberalism in politics and popular culture. Like a monk preserving knowledge in the dark ages in a monestary, Ed Feulner turned the Heritage Foundation into a monastery of conservatism making sure the timeless principles of Burke and Kirk and Hayek and Reagan found the intellectual footing to advance philosophy into policy and policy into politics.

More importantly, Ed Feulner did it right. He has not left without making sure his organization could stand without him. In doing so, he made probably the boldest move since his founding -- aligning an organization many, including myself, have criticized in the past decade as becoming too aligned with the GOP at the expense of conservatism itself and stumbling on health care policy, with the grassroots of the conservative movement. It is a near phoenix like move.

It appears that when Erickson is allied with you or your organization, residence in D.C. or New York is no obstacle to helping reform conservatism, even if you're much more a part of the D.C. establishment than young pundits whose northeastern location renders them ideologically unclean.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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