Media

10 Young Right-Wingers Being Prepped to Take Over the Conservative Movement

What happens when the Old Guard moves on? Who will replace them? We take a look at 10 promising candidates.

Given their constant claim to be the “party of ideas,” Republicans don't offer much beyond the hopelessly impractical. Among them: deregulate anything that isn’t tied down; deficits don’t matter, until a Democrat's in office and they suddenly do; low-income “lucky duckies” need to be taxed, the top 2 percent does not. What happens when the Old Guard of conservatism moves on? Who will replace them as dependable propagandists for the right's most monstrous ideas? Readers, what follows is a comprehensive roundup of the guys and gals who will for the next half-century wield an increasing level of influence within the conservative movement and/or the Grand Old Party (assuming the latter isn’t reduced to a regional coffee klatch after the imminent desertion of Hispanic voters). This is the lovechild of The Breakfast Club and the Laffer curve.

1. Michael Goldfarb The Weekly Standard

"The Mercenary"

Approximate Age: 29

Accomplishments: The line between political hack and hack journalist should be bright and impenetrable. Not so for Goldfarb, who temporarily abjured his wingnut welfare sinecure at the poor man’sNational Review to take a position as “deputy communications director” of McCain’s vegetative campaign. Don’t let the fancy title fool you. Goldfarb’s singular triumph was to maintain a smile as he got the shit kicked out of him by Rick Sanchez, who is kind of dumb, on CNN. His failures will be forgotten or forgiven; expect to see him shuttle between the Fourth Estate and campaigns in perpetuity.

Fun Fact: Worked on a project called “The Upside of Global Warming.”

Antecedent: William Kristol, who did double duty as Goldfarb’s boss at the Standard and foreign policy adviser for McCain. (Kristol’s worldview is basically ‘bomb ‘em all and let the contractors sort ‘em out,’ which probably explains McCain’s ability to distinguish between Iraq and Iran.) History will show that between Goldfarb and Kristol -- thanks for Sarah Palin, asshole -- the Weekly Standard helped deliver the presidency to the Kenyan.

2. Mary Katharine Ham, Fox News, The Weekly Standard

"The Babe"

Approximate Age: 30

Accomplishments: Ham’s first station of the conservative cross, a stint at the Heritage Foundation, is notable only for a series of columns in which she kvetched that her political beliefs made life a slog; she endured vicious jibes for her Bush-Cheney bumper sticker and was tossed from a taxi after the cabbie “f[ound] out I was conservative and supported the war effort.” It was, to be sure, tough times for a fundamentalist embryo on the conservative borg’s tenure track. Since then, the precocious Ham has twinkletoed the line at evangelical Christian media outlets and the House of Murdoch. In an unrelated note, a panel of judges declared her the “fourth-hottest conservative woman in new media.” 

Fun Fact: Ham to Larry King, one week before the Republicans lost the House and Senate in the 2006 midterms: “I think the get-out-the-vote is strong. The money is strong. I think we're going to do fine.”

Antecedent: Laura Ingraham, who has made serious bank putting a pretty face on conventional wisdom. You know, when she isn’t outing gay college students.

3. John Hawkins, RightWingNews.com

"The Stenographer"

Approximate Age: 39

Accomplishments: Hawkins is indispensable to the movement for putting a new spin on Reagan’s 11th Commandment -- Thou shalt not ask a difficult question of any fellow Republican. “In your opinion,” he asked Ann Coulter, “if someone like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush had been in the White House instead of Johnson, would we have won in Vietnam?” To Richard Perle: “Is there anything else you'd like to say or promote before we finish?” Newt Gingrich, John Yoo, Karl Rove, Michael Steele and Roy Blunt have all been similarly grilled.   

Fun Fact: Is friends with that Daily Show Muppet.

Antecedent: Hugh Hewitt, master of the soft-soap interview: “Well, Marco Rubio, except for the fact you went to the University of Florida, and you root for the Dolphins, which means you don’t know much about football, I’m from Ohio, other than that, what defines your political theory?”

4. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Christianity Today, GetReligion.com

"The Fundamentalist Scold"

Approximate Age: 36

Accomplishments: Hemingway has perfected the art of slathering scholarly gloss on social conservative bullshit. In this way, she can take classically retrograde, fundamentalist positions -- i.e. gays are uniquely promiscuous and stem cell research is B-A-D -- and pretend it’s not because Jesus Told Her So. When Hemingway crosses paths with an expert one sees the limitations of the racket. Here, for example, Hemingway tries, fails, to convince Sarah Posner that homophobic business owners will be economically imperiled by a gay marriage fiat.

Fun Fact: According to Ziegler’s Friendster profile (“I’m awesome and have trouble with commitment”) she is single. She married Mark Hemingway in 2006

Antecedent: Peggy Noonan? Ziegler, however, has yet to match Noonan’s column on the magical dolphins who “surrounded [Elian Gonzalez] like a contingent of angels.”

5. James Kirchick, The New Republic, Commentary

"The Contrarian"

Approximate Age: 27

Accomplishments: Under the strict tutelage of Martin Peretz, Kirchick has eagerly absorbed the knee-jerk contrarianism of The New Republic (i.e. Sonya Sotomayor = bad, buying off politicians = good). This ability may be what enables the fiercely intelligent, openly gay Kirchick to work for the brainchild of the reptilian Norman Podhoretz -- who believedthat “AIDS is almost entirely a disease caught by men who bugger or are buggered by dozens or even hundreds of other men every year." Though he often conflates criticism of Israel’s foreign policy with anti-Semitism for fun and profit, Kirchick can be an excellent reporter. His monster on the Ron Paul newsletters will be remembered long after his cri de coeur on dating liberals is forgotten.

Fun Fact: Once canvassed for Ralph Nader but turned on him during freshman year at Yale.

Antecedent: Kirchick should be so lucky to take after his mentor -- marry an heiress and cease to work for a living.

6. Erik 'E.D.' Kain, The Washington Examiner

"The Apostate"

Approximate Age: 29

Accomplishments: The only reason Kain is not widely loathed by his conservative brethren is that he is not, for the moment, widely known.He’s got a touch of the wingnut (“pro-life across the board”) but is anti-war, anti-torture and anti-death penalty. And if that isn’t enough, Kain wants to cut defense spending, which aligns him with, of all people, Alan Grayson. He has so far collected one antagonist of note: Robert Stacy McCain of “Emmett Till had it coming” fame.

Fun Fact: He’s so goddamn reasonable as to be unquotable.

Antecedent: Kain’s pulled a neat trick. He’s essentially David Frum: The Next Generation. But unlike Frum, Kain has nothing to apologize for.

7. Kathryn Jean Lopez,The National Review

"The Virgin"

Approximate Age: 34

Accomplishments: Lopez has worked for the National Review for a third of her life. Her reign as editor of its blog, The Corner, has been marked by very little actual editing (did you know Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife’s name was Loretta?), at least one sentence from May 25, 2004 that should be remembered -- “If the radio gig doesn’t work out[,] Al Franken can always run for Senate” -- and pom-poms whenever gays suffers a civil rights setback. The Corner perch has given Lopez entrée to theWall Street Journal,theWashington Times and the cable networks.

Fun Fact: From her Amazon wish list: The Nanny: Complete Season 4, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Season One and an Israeli paratrooper bag.

Antecedent: None. Lopez is a true original. Never in the history of American letters has an editor had so little grasp of basic sentence structure.

8. Sean Medlock, The Daily Caller

"The Comedian"

Approximate Age: 42

Accomplishments: Writing as “Jim Treacher,” Medlock was actually sort of funny. His Eminence Roy Edroso once said the boy was the best the right-wing had -- to be fair, that’s praise so faint as to be invisible. TreachLock currently writes for Tucker Carlson’s vanity project, The Daily Caller, which reduces him to bits about how Newsweek sucks. Still, Edroso’s judgment holds true.

Fun Fact: In February, Medlock was hit by a State Department SUV. He was served with a jaywalking ticket while he was in the ER.

Antecedent: Medlock is treading the path worn by late-period Dennis Miller and P. J. O'Rourke.

9. Joseph Rago, Wall Street Journal

"The Elite"

Age: 27

Accomplishments: Traditionally there are three daily U.S. newspapers at which journalists hope to die: the New York Times, theWashington Post and theWall Street Journal. That Rago, just out of puberty, has already been a Journal staffer for five years is absurd. He has mostly avoided the Kleigs, but surfaces occasionally -- to paint Massachusetts health care as a failure, or push WellPoint’s claim that reforms are a “wasted opportunity.” His low profile is understandable: Not long after he joined theJournal, Rago wrote a very true piece in which he observed that blogs “produce minimal reportage,” “ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps” and are “excruciatingly boring.” Minds were lost, much laughter was had.

Fun Fact: Recently fell in with Breitbart’s Big Government scam. The youngster may not be aware that Breitbart is a charlatan.

Antecedent: The late, much loved/loathed Robert Bartley stayed with the paper for most of his life, too, and he did okay for himself. When Michele Obama’s whitey tape surfaces, Rago will have his very own Whitewater.

10. Reihan Salam, National Review Online, The Daily Beast

"The Wonk"

Approximate Age: 30

Accomplishments: Salam is the lesser-known co-author of “The Party of Sam’s Club,” a 2005 Weekly Standard thumbsucker that made a splash by proposing a number of policy prescriptions that boil down to: Republicans, stop acting like cocks. Parts of it, particularly on health care reform, are excellent. There are moments of hindsight hilarity: “The current Republican majority isn't likely to be defeated, or disappear, in the next few election cycles.” It’s a solid effort, and Salam continues to push his party into a more cerebral direction, recently from the pages of theNational Review.

Fun Fact: He raps.

Antecedent: Salam adheres to a humane conservatism practiced by his old boss, David Brooks. Which isn’t to say that most of his or Brooks’ ideas are agreeable; but the fact that neither relies on the usual crutch of wedge issues is sort of admirable.

Elon Green is a writer living in Brooklyn.