- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2017

Bret Stephens, of New York Times fame, took pen to paper to shred the notion that Fox News’ Sean Hannity deserved the William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence — but along the way, managed to ‘diss the entire class of conservatives who’ve emerged in recent years, post-Sarah Palin, and brand them as idiotic.

This is what’s wrong with the Republican Party.

This is also why conservatives can’t stomach the mainstream media these days. Even when so-called conservatives breach their walls, and are included among their staff — Stephens is a neocon — they’re John McCain-type conservatives, the kind who don’t mind shooting their own.

But everybody’s entitled to an opinion, yes?

Yes, even Stephens, who wrote, in part: “[S]ometimes symbolism is more potent than fact. If we have reached the point where rank-and-file conservatives see nothing amiss with giving Hannity an award named for Buckley, then surely there’s a Milton Friedman Prize awaiting Steve Bannon for his insights on free trade. And maybe Sean Spicer can receive the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent for his role in exposing ‘fake news.’ The floor’s the limit. Or, in Hannity’s case, the crawl space beneath it.”

His beef?

Once upon a time, conservatives used to be brainiacs, like Buckley. Now? They’re dopes, like Palin.

“In hindsight,” Stephens went on, “2008, the year of Sarah Palin, was also the year when literary conservatism went into eclipse. Suddenly, you didn’t need to devote a month to researching and writing a 7,000-word critique of Obama administration’s policy on, say, Syria to be taken seriously as a conservative foreign-policy expert. You just needed to mouth off about it for five minutes on ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’ For books there were always ghostwriters; publicity on Fox ensured they would always top The Times’s best-seller lists. Influence ceased to be measured by respectability — op-eds published in The Wall Street Journal; keynotes delivered to the American Enterprise Institute — and came to be measured by ratings.”

In other words, the scholarly standards of his own life, his own career, were no longer being used as the standards for all conservatives.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise that a post-literate conservative world should have been so quick to embrace a semi-literate presidential candidate,” Stephens wrote. “Thus, when Hannity peddles conspiracy theories … that’s an echo of John Birch. When fellow Fox host Tucker Carlson — who once aspired to be the next Buckley and now aims to be the next Ann Coulter — tries to reinvent himself as the tribune of the working class, he’s speaking for the modern-day George Wallace.”

And here’s the real offensive stroke.

Referring to a cycle of natural progression described by Warren Buffett — first the innovators, then the imitators, and finally, the idiots — Stephens says conservatism has sunk to the third tier.

“And so we reach the Idiot stage of the conservative cycle,” he wrote, referring to Hannity’s award as “a fresh reminder of who now holds the commanding heights of conservative life.” As if demise is imminent, and certain.

And with that, Stephens aptly outlined the whole problem with the Republican Party — the whole reason President Donald Trump won the White House in the first place. The American people in general, the conservatives in America in particular, have been tired of the elitism, the establishment-minded, the party-first, people-second mentality that’s engulfed Capitol Hill for years.

Long-time Republicans, high on good breeding, may know how to hold a teacup. But as far as connecting with heartland America — honoring the concept of limited government, never mind self-governance, that made this country the great nation of achievers, of producers, of innovators? They’ve proven themselves clueless.

It’s not that conservatives around the nation abandoned reason. It’s that Republicans in office, the ones who were supposed to protect the conservative principles and safeguard constitutional ways, grew soft and fat in their cozy congressional offices. They cut too many deals with Democrats; sold out too many principles for reelection.

Enter constituent anger. Righteous constituent anger, to be honest.

When Palin and others of her tea party-type ilk arrived on the scene, their rhetoric was fresh air for the cut-through-the-crap crowd. Suddenly, conservatism was rising from its slumber. Trump rode that wave, speaking common sense on what entrenched Republicans had fudged for years — immigration, border control, the need to keep out terrorists and felons, like the one who gunned down Kate Steinle in San Francisco.

Stephens apparently can’t see this because he pines for the days when the few could govern the many — when the select elite with the proper schooling, the proper backgrounds, the proper experiences and, more importantly, the proper contacts could make the All Important Decisions for the masses. So he chalks up changes in the political winds to the dumbing down of the party. And in that, he’s like a Democrat — a Democrat who fails to look inward for the reasons for failure.

Democrats believe government is the solution for everything. Stephens, and Republicans of his bygone days, believe they’re the solution for everything.

America, however, is based on the idea that government is only there to protect the rights already granted the individual by God. And on that vein, it’s the common individual, not the select few, who holds the key to America’s greatness. It’s the common man and woman, with a common understanding of conservative, patriotic principles and Judeo-Christian values, who are making conservatism great again — not the handful who happen to be born into families with the proper credentials deemed worthy of ruling.

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