After the Hangover: Conservatives on the Road to Recovery?

Republicans eagerly anticipate this fall’s congressional elections as, in the words of a character from The Lord of the Rings: “It is long since we had any hope.” How well the GOP does is unknown but taking back the House is certainly a possibility.


Enter R. Emmett Tyrrell, the editor-in-chief of the American Spectator, and the author of his newly released book, After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery. Tyrrell wrote ten books before this one and published last year a compendium of his monthly columns named after its title (“The Continuing Crisis”).

As his narrative in After the Hangover clarifies, he was present during the rise of conservatism and remains present during phony and fabricated news of its demise. Tyrrell coined the term “Kultursmog” to describe the nefarious way in which the counter-culturalists of the 1960s now direct our society.

Via political correctness, conformity, and a refusal to tolerate or acknowledge intellectual diversity, coat and tie radicals seek to reconstitute the citizenry in the hopes that we will eventually mirror their dysfunction. Tyrrell has been the left’s enduring and devout enemy for four decades which is high praise in itself.

BC: Mr. Tyrrell, congratulations on your new book. For those unfamiliar, what is its central theme?

R. Emmett Tyrrell: The central theme is that conservatism has steadily grown while Liberalism, which is not very liberal, hence the capitalization, has steadily declined. The Liberals’ decline is from their overactive political libido. They always overreach, but they do dominate the political culture with what I call Kultursmog. The smog only encourages even greater excess, which is the Taranto Principle as formulated by the inimitable James Taranto. In the meantime conservatism grows and now with its growing counter-culture — Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, talk radio, the Internet — it will grow faster.


BC: Blueprints for future conservative victory are all the rage at the moment. What does After the Hangover uniquely offer its reader?

R. Emmett Tyrrell: Well, I am not sure it offers anything new. The blueprint is pretty well established as are our principles. I point out that the conservatives’ road to recovery will come through an archipelago of think tanks that we conservatives have been maintaining since Hayek and other founders of the modern conservative movement laid down our principles. Next came our policies. Mine as interred in Hangover are derived from those think tanks. My main contemporary policy sources are the supply-siders, Congressman Paul Ryan, and Steve Forbes. One of the things I wanted to say in the book is that policy wonks usually practice a conceit that they are original thinkers. Most are not, but I was too polite to say it.

BC: In my opinion, the most interesting concept here is the one you just raised regarding political libido. If Democrats lust power, control, and victory then what — if anything — motivates Republicans?

R. Emmett Tyrrell: Well, at some point in Hangover I mention that conservatism is by definition “a temperament to delight in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” — that being happiness as understood by Locke, namely the ownership and exchange of property. As for the Liberals they start with an anxiety about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A temperament is different than an anxiety, which explains the overactive political libido of the Liberal. It is like that of a nymphomaniac, at times that of a sex offender. Ponder the more moderate way Ronald Reagan advanced his position on abortion compared with Barack Obama’s suicidal pursuit of health care reform. It led to violence.


BC: Yes, and just as was the Holy 40th, conservatives are cautious and prudent when in power, but how can we overcome this basic deficiency virtue and manage to take our country back?

R. Emmett Tyrrell: All we need to do is to allow history to continue its course. That conservative counter-culture I mentioned is being created and it will help us govern in the years ahead as govern we shall.

BC: There’s a wonderful quote from Eric Hoffer that you reference throughout which essentially is that great causes descend into a racket. Is that what happened with the Republicans during the bleak era known as the Grand Old Spending Party? Is that what is happening now to the Democrats?

R. Emmett Tyrrell: Yes conservatism became a racket, which not only explains the spending but also the congressmen and political apparatchiks in the hoosegow. The problems facing Democrats are far beyond the stage of racket. Their biggest problem is their overactive political libido.

BC: You’re very optimistic in After the Hangover regarding conservatism’s future and correctly identify that Americans are far more likely to be conservative than leftist. How then can we fix the prevailing disconnect between a largely conservative electorate and the Republican Party?

R. Emmett Tyrrell: The disconnect is being fixed. The rising conservative counter-culture that I talk about in the book is banishing the Kultursmog. Thanks to our counter-culture in the media we can depict issues as we perceive them not as the Liberals perceive them, and we can defend ourselves against the Liberals’ slurs. The tea partiers are working with the conservative movement in ensuring that this party moves to the right on all the proper freedom issues.


BC: Your book addresses conservative turncoats and the crablike method they employ to prevent the success of their peers. Who are “the Davidians” and the “Reformed Conservatives” that plague our ranks?

R. Emmett Tyrrell: The parasitic Reformed Conservatives are the likes of David Brooks and David Frum(p), two operators who are forever on the make, shaping their message to appeal to the Kultursmog and ensuring an elevated place in the smog. There are others: Scarborough, Christopher Buckley. What they all share is an ambition for celebrity in the Kultursmog, but the smog in no longer as influential as it was. They are purely motivated by ambition and self-advancement. As for Frum(p)’s looks, he cannot be held accountable for his physical appearance. His character is a different matter.

BC: Regarding Sam Tanenhaus’s monstrous The Death of Conservatism. This was one of many leftist works that prematurely celebrated our demise. Were these efforts a form of black operations? In other words, did they actually believe what they wrote or did they seek to create a new reality with their words?

R. Emmett Tyrrell: Black operation? No, a major point of my books is that the Liberals live in a fantasy. Life for them has not changed much since 1968. Back then a better case could be made for conservatism’s fragility.

BC: In Chapter 6 you cite a passage by Friedrich von Hayek regarding the leftist expropriation of the term “liberal.” Many of us refuse to mislabel our opponents with such a benign word, but how then should we term our adversaries?


R. Emmett Tyrrell: Our adversaries are statists. I use a capital “L” throughout to distinguish these poseurs from the real liberals of whom Hayek was one.

BC: Thank you very much for your time, Sir.


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