In the era of personal destruction, conservatives are at greatest risk of finding themselves victims of a digital lynching. The media permits liberals to excuse their bad behavior as the result of institutional racism, the Bush administration, or poverty. The media, however, knows conservatives believe individuals remain morally responsible for their own actions. The media has taken this conservative belief and made it a license to go after conservatives for all their sins, both real and imagined.
The left has likewise decided that if a conservative adheres to any standard of morality he or she must be held liable in all points of moral behavior. Any breach of this perfection is the only sin the media recognizes — hypocrisy. On the other hand, leftist breaches of morality are treated with kid gloves (see the John Edwards story, or how the media made Bill Clinton a martyr during the Lewinsky affair).
Making things even worse for the right, conservative-leaning pundits are quick to join media lynch mobs. Some do this for an “attaboy” from their liberal counterparts or as part of inside-the-Beltway payback. Others act because they fear damage to the GOP brand, or that the breach in conduct will incite the angry mobs of the religious right.
The problem is that these media-appointed conservative mouthpieces don’t understand how Americans in flyover country think. In 2008, when news leaked out that Bristol Palin was pregnant out of wedlock, the punditocracy imagined a feverish religious right mob that would, at the very least, insist Bristol wear a scarlet “A” and might even turn on Sarah Palin. Instead, Palin remained popular with Christian conservatives, who, like most Americans, didn’t degrade Sarah Palin or her daughter over the pregnancy.
How did the pundits get it wrong? They didn’t understand the values of the people they were talking about. While conservative Christians believe in morality and accountability, at the core of Christianity is a belief in redemption and forgiveness, as illustrated through the work of groups like Prison Fellowship. For the rest of America, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy is an event nearly every family has dealt with. Neither America nor the religious conservative movement were about to throw stones.
Rather than relying on tired stereotypes of the American people as an unsophisticated mob, conservatives would do well to apply a common sense test to allegations. When confronted with a personal mistake by a political leader, we should ask two questions: “Does this mistake reflect who they are right now?” and “Have they learned from their mistake?” If the answers are satisfactory, conservative pundits should ignore the scandalmongers.
If conservatives can get out of the habit of shooting our own, we may yet avoid the day of the dullard sociopath.