What’s the matter with conservatives? Why can’t they relax and be happy? They have the White House, both houses of Congress, the majority of governorships and more money than God. They rule talk-radio and the TV political chat shows, and they get plenty of space in the papers; for all the talk about the liberal media, nine out of the fourteen most widely syndicated columnists are conservatives. Even the National Endowment for the Arts, that direct-mail bonanza of yore, is headed by a Republican now. Never mind whether conservatives deserve to run the country and dominate the discourse; the fact is, for the moment, they do.
What I want to know is, Why can’t they just admit it, throw a big party and dance on the table with lampshades on their heads? Why are they always claiming to be excluded and silenced because most English professors are Democrats? Why must they re-prosecute Alger Hiss whenever Susan Sarandon gives a speech or Al Franken goes after Bill O’Reilly? If I were a conservative, I would think of those liberal professors spending their lives grading papers on The Scarlet Letter and I would pour myself a martini. I would pay Susan Sarandon to say soulful and sincere things about peace, I would hire Al Franken and sneak him on O’Reilly’s show as a practical joke. And if some Democratic dinosaur lifted his head out of the Congressional tarpits to orate about the missing WMDs, or unemployment, or the two and a half million people who lost their health insurance this year, I’d nod my head sagely and let him rant on. Poor fellow. Saddam Hussein was his best friend, after Stalin died. No wonder he’s upset.
For some reason right-wingers do not take this calm and broadminded view. Maybe they didn’t get enough love in their childhoods, or maybe they’re in more trouble than we know. In any case, they’ve taken to lecturing the opposition on manners whenever it shows signs of life. Ted Kennedy says the Iraq war was “a fraud made up in Texas” and Bush complains that he’s “uncivil.” “Not civil,” Condoleezza Rice agrees, “not helpful.” Well, excuuuse me! In National Review, Byron York obsesses about anti-Bush websites and the “one long bellow of rage” that is…MoveOn.org? David Brooks, the New York Times‘s new conservative Op-Ed columnist, mourns the passing of the culture wars, which were about ideas, and wrings his hands over the “vitriol” of the new “presidency wars,” which are just about hating Bush as “illegitimate…ruthless, dishonest and corrupt.” Exhibit A: Jonathan Chait’s eloquent, shrewd and not at all vicious New Republic essay on why he hates President Bush (among other things, his triumph is an affront to meritocratic principles–well, it is!). Even Ann Coulter is worried that “the country is trapped in a political discourse that resembles professional wrestling.” Gee, is this the same Ann Coulter who wrote that Timothy McVeigh should have driven his truck into the New York Times headquarters, whose bestselling polemic Treason argues that liberals are Commie-loving traitors who hate America? The Prozac must be working.