Be Careful What You Summon Up

 by Conor Freidersdorf

Elsewhere in my writing, I've been delving into the fascinating goings on at Ace of Spades HQ, where lead blogger Ace -- a frequent critic of "elites" and "elitists" -- finds himself pilloried by readers for dissenting from conventional wisdom within the movement, and responds with a surprising but welcome critique of heretic hunting on the right.

Having demonstrated that he understands the flaws in this approach to political discourse -- and having personally experienced its absurdity -- it'll be interesting to see if Ace himself continues to use it as a cudgel in his own writing. The same goes for other hard right pundits who've been criticized for their negative reactions to Sarah Palin's resignation, Erick Erickson and Ed Morrisey prominent among them. Is it wrong to wonder whether Mr. Erickson has gone native in his own leper colony? (World Net Daily has largely avoided this whole awkward kerfuffle by dedicating basically its whole site to Obama birth certificate conspiracy theories. Can a whole Web site win a Hewitt award?)

This culture of heretic hunting intensified dramatically during the build-up to Election 2008, a time when Republican and Democratic tickets were pitted against one another.

Now that the genie is out of the bottle, one wonders what havoc it'll reap in 2012, when a contested Republican primary seems destined to devolve into battles wherein some Republicans call other Republicans elitists, fake Americans, RINOs, and all the rest. In order to avoid being tarred by that charge, I wouldn't be surprised if those most vulnerable to it -- Mitt Romney at this point -- start to guard their flank by invoking 2012's rhetorical equivalent of "doubling Guantanamo," whatever that turns out to be.

Put another way, I fear that a segment of the Republican base is going to demand a GOP candidate who sounds so nutty and absurd that any chance they might have had for actually winning a general election in 2012 will be ruined. The right's alternative is to cut out the heretic hunting as quickly as possible. Of course, that is what an effete, inside-the-beltway, cocktail party lusting elitist like myself would think!