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Time to Start Naming Names

To survey the state of the American right—its friends, its enemies, its controversies—is to be nearly convinced we are living in Nietzsche’s nightmare world of “eternal recurrence.”  The current battle for the soul of the “Stupid Party” is an eerie reenactment of the battle that engulfed the GOP in 1963-64, with a different Romney as the chief antagonist of the party’s insurgent right wing.  Back then, it was a Romney named George, denouncing Barry Goldwater and leading the fight at the ’64 convention in favor of a resolution condemning “right-wing extremism.”  The resolution was shouted down by delegates who had had quite enough of the media’s crazed hate campaign.  Taking their cues from incipient neocons like Seymour Martin Lipset and Richard Hofstadter, the media smeared the rising conservative movement as an eruption of racism and neofascism fueled by “status resentment.”

Goldwater wowed his young conservative activist base—of which I was one—with his electrifying inversion of the “extremist” canard into a badge of honor: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!  And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

The crowd went wild—and so did I, a teenaged conservative...

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