Neocon Vampires Sink Their Fangs Into the Tea Parties
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Remember the neoconservatives? Maybe you don’t. Their death was announced on the cover of Time magazine long before George W. Bush left the White House. By now you might think that they’re, thankfully, only a footnote to the history of a frightening bygone era.
But no. Like vampires, the neocons never die. They constantly revive themselves, going where the vein is richest, eager to feed upon new blood. Now -- we should have seen it coming -- they are sinking their fangs into the Tea Party. That’s where the fresh political blood is, so that’s where the neocons are.
Their latest calling card is a headline in the Washington Post: “THE NEW CULTURE WAR,” with “CULTURE WAR” spelled out in blood red letters. The subhead: “On one side, the forces of free enterprise. On the other, an expanding and paternalistic government. It’s time to choose.”
It sounds like the Tea Party, alright; something you’d hear from Glenn Beck or Limbaugh. But in fact it was emblazoned across the top of the Post’s Sunday Outlook section, probably the most influential opinion page of all for the nation’s centrist inside-the-beltway political elite.
And the author is no Tea Party or FoxNews lunatic fringer. He is Arthur C. Brooks, president of the neoconservatives’ flagship institution, the widely-respected American Enterprise Institute. His WaPo article is a juicy free advertisement for his new book, The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future . And he’s got some fancy friends endorsing it.
“This is the playbook for the resurgence of the conservative movement,” says none other than Dick Cheney, on the book jacket. It’s “a must-read for conservatives who want our movement to dominate,” exclaims a blurb from Karl Rove.
Like any good bureaucrat, Brooks is out to revive his organization and make it dominate again. He knows that the neocons have faced death by irrelevance several times in the past. So he’s doing what Ann Rice’s vampires do: resurrecting his movement by dressing it up to suit the times, so neocons can pass as ordinary Tea Party folks, just a tad more clever, witty, and charming than the rest.
Brooks and his new wave of neocons are truly clever in one way. They understand the Tea Party especially well because the same anxiety lies at the heart of both movements. They both appeal to people who feel powerless, unable to shape their own lives, bewildered by a society that seems to be spinning out of anyone’s control, and certainly out of their control. The old familiar rules of the game just don’t seem to apply any more. And that’s scary -- especially to the older white men who form the core of support for both groups.
Lesser names on the back cover of Brooks’ book get at this deeper meaning. Neocon morality czar Bill Bennett blurbs that it’s about much more than the economy, stupid: “ The Battle uncovers liberalism's true grand agenda—to change America's culture and the American way.” Marvin Olasky, the creator of “compassionate conservatism” and one of Brooks’ mentors, gushes: “ The Battle shows how Washington power-grabbers use financial fears to tell the rest of us how we must live” and it “teaches us how to fight back.”
What American way? And fight back against whom? Newt Gingrich, who wrote the book’s preface, has the answers: Brooks is calling all who believe in “individual liberty, equality of opportunity, the right to pursue happiness, the work ethic” to fight against the “elitist redistributionist leftist … radicalism of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine. ”