Andrew Sullivan, rightly blasting Bill Bennett’s attack on gay rights, concludes with a telling indictment:
It’s not an argument. It’s the rhetorical embellishment of a privilege. Conservatism has always been prone to such a trap.
Perhaps Sullivan, one of the strongest proponents of driving a wedge between civil rights and economic justice as ideologies and as movements, should take his own words to heart.
Rush Limbaugh’s alleged drug addiction represents a public embarassment for the organized right. As well it should. The story here isn’t that national leaders sometimes call for morals that they themselves are unable to live up to. The real story is that Limbaugh’s addiction to large quantities of expensive painkillers will be – and already is being – played not only in the media but on the organized right as a personal indiscretion Rush needs time to reconcile with and move past, and not as, say, an evil crimminal felony. The latter term would be reserved with non-violent first time marijuana possession by lower-class teens. David Brock and Michael Lind, both ex-conservatives whose books I read this summer, both argue in different ways that the social conservative agenda is, for the Republican elite, a tool to rally the base and divide the working class in the wake of the Cold War so as to advance economic conservatism. Brock describes his disgust at discovering that his homosexuality was an acceptable foible as long as he was a rising star on the right and a cause for moral condemnation once he left it. Lind suggests that the social agenda of the right is counter to the personal values of most of its elite but provides a cover for its economic libertarian agenda. Arguments like these gain more credence with each public spectacle of a fallen angel of the right, be it Rush’s drug addiction or Bill Bennet’s gambling addiction. Few right hypocrisies can match that of Bob Barr, who defended his daughter’s choice to get an abortion on the grounds that it was “a private decision.” Conservatives who want to demonstrate their integrity could go a long way right now by calling for Rush Limbaugh to be sent to a prison cell – across from the one Ken Lay should be sitting in.