James Feehery at the Daily Caller: “Conservatives should be defending, not deriding, the democratic process. They should be insisting on civility in democratic discourse. They should practice basic politeness, and they should show respect for those who hold office.”
[Removes gold snuff-box from pocket of white-silk waistcoat, takes a pinch, sneezes violently (causing powdered bag wig to fall on the floor; picks up and restores same to its original position), grasps lapels of bottle-green swallowtail coat and eyes Mr. Feehery benevolently]
My dear fellow! I pray that I do not give you offense - for I would not, for all this vile world, do harm to your amour propre - but a lifelong devotion to truth and reason compels me to correct certain errors in your recent essay. You are not – I plead with you, sir! – to take this as a hot-tempered animadversion upon your cognitive ability, but rather as a gentle admonition designed to spare you the rough usage of your fellows, more boisterous than myself, who would not quibble to make sport of those callow observations with which, in the zeal of your youthful inexperience, you have blotted your copybook. Therefore, confident in the sincerity of your claim to a veneration for reasonableness and fair play, I tell you, sir – and I mean this in the kindliest possible sense – that you are talking through the back of your neck.
You have unhappily tripped up upon your very entrance into the arena of public discourse by saluting that blackguard, David Brooks - a self-styled “conservative” whose principles have proven to be infinitely malleable, and whose worldview is a veritable windsock of elitist cant. Would that I could say that this were a mere digression from my criticism – my constructive criticism, Mr. Feehery! – but, alas! with this commendation you have dug the channel through which your thoughts must inevitably flow to their stagnant conclusion.
How else to explain this astounding statement: “True conservatives value one thing over any thing else: societal stability.” This dictum would come as something of a surprise to our founders – particularly to men such as Washington and Madison and Hamilton – and to Edmund Burke, as well (a supporter of the American colonists, revered by many as the Father of Conservatism, and toward whom you and Brooks have made numerous philosophical genuflections). It strikes me that if “societal stability” were the golden fleece of every true conservative’s desire, then our glorious fathers could have done no better than to have accepted the Stamp Tax with cheerful resignation and spared themselves the turmoil of a revolution. Thus conservatives of our day, if your opinion be true, should be animated, above all else, by a desire for harmony and peace – for which there is no course of action more promising of success than to lay aside our opposition to the socialist dreams of the current president and Congress, and to discard our traditions of liberty like so many outmoded clothes.
Yet I will do you the justice of considering the possibility that there is a nuance to your argument that is not self-evident; it is perhaps not so much the fact of opposition to the present government that has driven you to rally to the threadbare standard of David Brooks, but the tone. You write, “If conservatives decide to adopt the same tactics of the left, if they decide to be every bit as uncivil as the craziest radical, if they choose to be every bit as rude as the rudest hippy, if they choose to use language meant to abuse and destroy their opposition, who really wins and who really loses?” I am fairly well-attuned to the publication of newsworthy items, sir, but perhaps in the course of a busy day I overlooked some few things of import. Might I inquire as to the date and location of the last bomb planted by a Tea-Partier? When was the most recent violent confrontation with the constabulary, and which institutions of higher learning have been besieged? And, prithee, what manifesto of the Tea-Party has called for the overthrow of our form of government, rather than for a restoration of our traditional understanding of the limits of government?
You close by calling for civility and politeness, to which I respond with a question: when was the last time you broke bread with a crocodile? In the face of frenzied attacks against the foundations of our liberty, not simply by the placard-bearing class, but by elected officials, including the president and congressional leaders, and by their Mamluks in the press, do you really anticipate that mere urbanity – perhaps occasionally rising to the level of sniffish disdain under severe provocation – will stay the hounds of the state? Will you deter a burglar from his unlawful acquisitiveness by inviting him to limit his theft to some mutually agreeable fraction of your possessions, supporting your request with nothing more than a suave and inoffensive manner?
There, now, sir, I have certainly enjoyed our chat – our polite and civilized chat. Do I sway you, sir? Have I disabused you of your naïve and prejudiced notions? No?
Well, then, you insufferable popinjay, you carbuncle on the neck of reason, you bar-sinister conservative; be advised that the defense of liberty is not a game of low-stakes whist among gentlemen whose honor can be taken for granted, whose good faith is a byword. It is often a rough-and-tumble affair, and not infrequently a thing that has involved the shedding of blood and the death of heroes, so spare me your asinine drawing-room analogies and your Sunday-school posturing. Kindly stand not upon the order of your going, Mr. Feehery; I am sure you can find your own way to the door. Good day, sir!