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Neocon Vampires Sink Their Fangs Into the Tea Parties

Like vampires, the neocons never die. They constantly revive themselves, going where the vein is richest, eager to feed upon new blood.

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Now economic disaster has pushed terrorism from the center of public concern. When pollsters ask, “What is the biggest problem facing the nation?” they often don’t even offer “terrorism” as an option. In a nation plagued by unemployment and foreclosure anxiety, what’s a neocon to do?

Join the Tea Party, it seems. Make “big government,” not hippies or “commies” or “terrorists,” the new symbol of frighteningly rapid change that breaks down the familiar structures and boundaries.

Of course that means inventing fictitious caricatures of “big government,” as Arthur Brooks does in his “culture war” article (which presumably sums up his book). He charges that “our leaders in Washington” are pushing us toward “European-style statism. … If these forces continue to prevail, America will cease to be a free enterprise nation.” And they may well prevail, he warns, since “the forces of big government are entrenched and enjoy the full arsenal of the administration's money and influence” -- even though fully 70% of Americans stand against them and want to save traditional American values.

Values -- not incomes and bank accounts -- are the crucial issue, Brooks insists in good neocon fashion. It’s all about “the morality of our worldview.” We are in danger of losing our “unalienable [sic] right” to the pursuit of happiness.

Knowing that you’ll have decent food, housing, and medical care for you and your kids, no matter what -- that’s not real happiness, the neocon insists. Only the rugged individualism of unfettered capitalism brings true happiness, because “only free enterprise brings earned success … where people enjoy the rewards and face the consequences of their decisions … based on their work and merit.”

Yes, it’s the same old recycled conservative pap. But the neocons’ bureaucrat-in-chief sees it as the way to resurrect his moribund movement, because it has become Tea Party pap too. “We must articulate moral principles that set forth our fundamental values, and we must be prepared to defend them,” Brooks writes. “This defense is already underway … The ‘tea party’ demonstrations and the town hall protests … reveal much about the culture war that is underway.”

To seal the alliance, Brooks throws in another favorite Tea Party fiction: “We believe in principle over political power.” The radical “statists” running the government “talk only of tactics, parties and power,” using “dirty tricks and lots of campaign money” to win at all costs. Apparently Tea Party organizers would never dream of any such thing, at least in the fictional neocon world of Arthur Brooks.

But beneath all the invention, Brooks has revealed that one vital truth. Neoconservatives are natural partners of the Tea Party, because both are still fighting the same imaginary enemy: the hippies, counterculture, and New Left of the late ‘60s. For them, America has never left that era. It’s still a war between the familiar, seemingly secure pre-‘60s way of life and the radicals who would plunge us into “anarchy,” erasing that imagined security forever.

To continue that war, they need a convenient symbol of the enemy. Any force that seems too big for the ordinary person to understand, much less control, will do. “Big government” works just fine, thank you.

But the neocons are more than just vampires, sucking new life from the Tea Party’s blood. Neocons have plenty to offer the Tea Party too -- like a well-honed, well-entrenched, and well-funded network of institutions that can crank out slick words 24/7 to give the Tea Party intellectual respectability.

The neocons also have their rich history of militaristic rhetoric, warning us about foreign enemies like “commies” and “terrorists.” It’s no coincidence that Arthur Brooks handed the American Enterprise Institute’s annual Irving Kristol Award for 2010 to General David Petraeus. Brooks took the occasion to boast (with some truth) of the AEI’s major role in creating the plan for “the Surge” in Iraq. “The sacrifice of our men and women in Iraq was not in vain, and that country today is on a path to freedom,” Brooks said in classic neocon language.

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