Recently I received an e-mail from Erik Telford of American’s for Prosperity (AFP) informing me that Michelle Malkin had agreed to speak at the upcoming RightOnline Conference. Of course, he was encouraging me to come hear her. This will be the second annual RightOnline Conference. It is an effort to bring together conservative internet bloggers and activists, and is intended to counter the NetRoots Nation Convention (formerly Yearly Kos) of lefty bloggers and internet activists.
What immediately struck me about the list of speakers is how predictable, uninspiring and conservative movementy (is that a word?) it is. Whatever one may think of the NetRoots, they were generally not Democrat party regulars or run-of-the-mill Establishment liberals. They, whether more or less rightly or wrongly, saw themselves as dissident liberals on the outside fighting the Democrat party machine. They were fighting to drag their party to the left. Hence their support for Howard Dean for President and later for head of the DNC, their opposition to Lieberman in the Democrat primary, their harsh treatment of Hillary at their convention, and their overwhelming support for Obama among other things.
I get very little sense of that spirit of dissent based on the speakers at this year’s RightOnline Conference. There is that spirit at many of the TEA Parties, something AFP also has some hand in, but what is dissenting about GOP water-carriers like Erick Erickson of RedState(dot)com, whose chief claim to fame (infamy) may be banning Ron Paul supporters from his website. I hate to repeat and give credibility to a frequent left-wing charge, but this looks to me more like Astroturf than grassroots.
I don’t have a particular ax to grind against AFP. My impression of AFP is that by focusing on fiscal, free-enterprise and spending issue, while they are not consistent constitutionalists or von Mises style Austrians, they actually tend to be somewhat more “pure” than many other movement conservative organs. From my limited experience with their Georgia branch during the Ron Paul campaign, they treated Paul supporters respectfully and unlike Erickson’s crowd didn’t run screeching for the tall grass at the mere mention of his name.
Unfortunately, this conference is simply not the conservative equivalent of YearlyKos. It is a gathering of what my friend Sean Scallon calls Conservative Inc. This is odd because if any convention of rightists should incorporate Ron Paulites, libertarians, paleolibertarians, Constitutionalists, anti-war conservatives, paleoconservatives, etc. (hereafter referred to collectively as the alternative right) it should be a convention of bloggers and internet activists. The Ron Paul supporters were particularly distinguished by their internet savvy.
The alternative right is disproportionately represented among thoughtful conservative bloggers and websites, and (how to say this without sounding like a pompous elitist?) they represent the preponderance of the, shall we say, “intellectual heft” of the critique of the current administration and the status quo. Let’s face it; it doesn’t take a lot of thought to regurgitate GOP talking points. I more than welcome the newfound voice of Conservative Inc. decrying Obama’s reckless spending and takeover of healthcare in their role as the loyal opposition, but they lost their credibility to lead an authentic opposition when they defended the previous administration that gave us the massively expensive Medicare drug bill, banker bailouts, and a host of other budget busters including an unnecessary war of aggression. (Yeah, yeah, I know most of the grassroots opposed the bailouts and maybe even the drug bill, but VERY few of them were willing to cast a retaliatory vote for Bob Barr or Chuck Baldwin against one of the leading bailout shills, John McCain, and Conservative Inc. was completely in the tank for McCain.)
The alternative-right has been way ahead of the curve in its criticisms of the Powers That Be, note all the mainstream conservatives now signing on to Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill. It is the source of most of the fresh and new ideas (actually they are a recovery of old ideas) and critical introspection and self-examination of where things went awry. Please note that I am not talking about centrist hand-wringing critics of the GOP and the conservative movement such as David Frum, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, Peggy Noonan, et al whose advice to the GOP is to move left. I am talking about critics from the right. The alt-right has earned the right to be represented and heard at a Conference ostensibly dedicated to internet activism and leading the opposition to Obama and his lefty internet supporters. But the alt-right is nowhere to be seen at the RightOnline Conference.
In order to rectify this grave omission, I would like to make a few suggestions. The conference isn’t until Aug 14 and 15 so there is still time to send out some more invites. Of course, Ron Paul, the only consistent upholder of the Constitution in DC, would make an excellent guest, as would any of the leadership of Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty. Campaign for Liberty is doing great work on the activism and candidate recruitment front and would surely have something to add.
FOX News’ Judge Napolitano could bring us up to speed on the courts and legal issues. Tom Woods could explain to us the folly of the bailout. Kevin Gutzman could give us a tutorial on the Constitution and the new movement back toward federalism and state sovereignty. Daniel McCarthy could represent The American Conservative magazine, one of the primary voices of the anti-war right, which has been way out in front on the disaster that is the Iraq War and our interventionist foreign policy in general. Daniel Larison could intelligently discuss the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics instead of the shrill “the Islamomeanies are out to get us unless we bomb them first” cries that suffice for intelligent foreign policy analysis at most Conservative Inc. get-togethers.
Potential alt-right candidates such as Peter Schiff in Connecticut, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Debra Medina in Texas, Ray McBerry in Georgia, and Marshall DeRosa in Florida could update us on their efforts to unseat liberal Democrats or Republican RINOs.
A paleo-sympathetic but still movement friendly voice like Jim Antle could offer some suggestions for finding common ground. Paul Gottfried of TakiMag, who is the premiere scholar of the conservative movement, could give us his insights into why the movement has been such an unmitigated failure at actually conserving anything.
I could go on, but I suspect you get the point. We definitely do not need any more Conservative Inc. confabs with a bunch of inside the movement box thinkers railing against Obama and the Democrats and offering up me to Democrat light counterproposals all the while patting themselves on the back for fearlessly fighting the good fight. Been there, done that, and it doesn’t work. The far left NetRoots need an equidistant from the center counterbalance, not more of the same ol’ same ol’ movement conservative phony opposition.