Even the Conservative American Enterprise Institute...

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 1 2012 12:45 PM

Even the Conservative American Enterprise Institute...

My new piece is a rant with a purpose. Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann wrote a perfectly good, explanatory op-ed -- adapted from a less punchy book -- and the Washington Post gave it the hed "Let's Just Admit it, the Republicans are the Problem." The piece has been shared on Facebook more than 100,000 times, making it a head-spinning viral success story. And a lot of the juice came from the associations of the authors. Mann, from liberal Brookings. Ornstein, from neocon AEI. Ebony and ivory, going together like perfect harmony.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

The point I was trying to make was that "heresy" gets more attention than whether the argument you're making is factually sound. Lots of people have banged the Ornstein/Mann drum -- why only check in when it sounds like someone from inside the movement has gone Rambo?

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Reader Jon e-mailed me to take some issue with the piece.

I think your latest piece is somewhat beside the point. It is undoubtedly true that Ornstein's association with both AEI and this WP piece is a big part of the reason the latter blew up the way it did, but I think your argument in the heresy piece is a pretty glaring case of the tail wagging the dog. It might even prove Ornstein and Mann's point about journalists having a tendency to give "balanced treatment to an unbalanced phenomenon" thereby distorting reality.
The way I see it, your argument goes like this: a guy who considers himself to be a conservative watches his party move to the right and increasingly deny reality from 1980 to 2012, concluding that the people that have taken over the party are not conservatives in the way he sees it. The new guys reply, "no, YOU'RE the one who's not a conservative." You conclude, simply because the people Ornstein thinks are heretics say that Ornstein is the actual heretic, that the new guys are right. 
There's no question that editors and production managers understand that this dynamic sells papers, but I don't see what that has to do with whether Ornstein says is right or not. It certainly says nothing about which group - Ornstein's or Gingrich's - is really the heretical one.  I hate that we have started down the road where the minute someone starts disagreeing with 2012 conservatives, that person is no longer a conservative.

Over to you guys.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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