I have fought every impulse in my being to weigh in on the Cordoba House debate, and to pontificate, lecture, and moralize from atop my libertarian mountain. Now that I'm actually writing about it I find myself stricken nearly dumb by the irony of what I'm about to suggest on a blog entitled THE NEXT RIGHT. But it has become clear that The Current Right has completely forgotten about The Last Right, and this could prove to be the foil for The Next Right -- at least that's my worry. I do not intend to debate the morality or legality of the construction of Cordoba House in either this post or in the comments - so if you're looking for an ideological fight, you've come to the wrong place. The Right has a new messaging problem, and if anyone intends to supplant the Democratic Party in any meaningful, long-term way, it will require pretty swift action.
Why, then, is former Speaker Newt Gingrich -- a sort of de facto leader of today's Republican Party, an icon of the 1994 Republican Revolution, and potential 2012 presidential hopeful -- foisting a divisive cultural narrative (WaPo) onto an election cycle already dominated by anti-Big Government and anti-spending narratives that, heretofore, have been working (Pew Research via NPR)?
One political question about the Ground Zero Islamic complex/mosque/theater-space/swimming pool: Why are Republicans trumpeting this? And why, a week or two ago, did they start talking about the 14th amendment? Republicans are going to win a lot of seats this year. And they're going to do it on the backs of the economy. Getting into social issues -- particularly social issues that might anger minorities -- is a dangerous play. It loses them long-term votes that they just don't need to lose. It paints their party as intolerant and opportunistic. And it's unnecessary: It's not like they're hurting for things to talk about.
All this posturing is getting tiresome. The "mosque" controversy isn't about property rights or religious freedom. It's a bogus issue seized by the GOP establishment to distract the rank-and-file from the party's reluctance to shrink government.
This idiotic foofaraw could be a distraction only if the GOP rank-and-file actually cared more about the size of government than the cultural politics of American identity. But they don’t. It’s not even close. American conservatism is a movement consumed by protecting and asserting a certain fabricated conception of the traditional American way of life against imaginary enemies. Support for small government is no more than a bullet point on the Right’s “What We Believe” cheat sheet, mouthed at opportune moments. I approve of what Gene’s trying to do here rhetorically, but the fact is that complaining about Muslims and keeping holy the memory of 9/11 and Ground Zero — the legitimizing altar of aggressive American imperialism — is a direct manifestation of contemporary conservatism’s essence.
Personally, I don't really care who is to blame for the propagation of this narrative -- whether Gingrich is demagoguing, or the conservative, evangelical base needs some pandering. The bottom line is that playing with this narrative is like playing with fire, and could be as dangerous to the Right long-term as a Gingrich marriage proposal. In many ways the conservative base is like the fuel in a gas can, fuel that powers the political machine that winds up carrying water in elections -- but for God's sake, don't hand the Left a big, fat box of strike-anywhere matches. 2010 and 2012 can -- and should -- be a slam dunk for right-of-center candidates. Let's not botch it.