Conservatives Brook No Dissent While Ignorant Evangelicals Ruin Movement

Prominent conservativewriters like Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and Christopher Buckley have criticized John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee, catching the attention of Times reporter Patricia Cohen, who wrote "Unease in the Conservative Commentariat" for the front page of the Sunday Week in Review.

After detailing the doubts of those three writers (Cohen left off the Times' token "conservative" columnist, David Brooks, who recently called the Palin pick a "fatal cancer" on the party), Cohen provided this unflattering canned history of the conservative movement.

...contributors to National Review and other conservative publications have long been careful about reaching agreement on fundamental principles. Of course, total unanimity was an impossibility. But the strength of the movement, as it gained power, rested on discipline. Conservative writers and thinkers might disagree, but usually within limits - and they were careful to emphasize their points of agreement and also to modulate their differences. Hashing them out in public would only weaken the movement and give ammunition to the other side.

This mindset may be at least partly responsible for the more than 12,000 e-mail messages Ms. Parker said she received after her column appeared, many of them insulting and even threatening. Mr. Buckley also said he had heard from angry readers after he declared his apostasy in The Daily Beast, the Web site edited by Tina Brown, the former editor of The New Yorker and a certified member of the "liberal media elite."

But the conservative movement has hardly been a unified front; from Frank Meyer's fusionism to Russell Kirk's traditionalism, conservatives have made their arguments openly, and public skirmishes are legion. William F. Buckley himself said in 2004 that the Iraq War was a mistake. Political arguments are hashed out every day on National Review Online. Yet in Cohen's view, the right marches with military precision and anyone who dares get out of line is drummed out of the movement. As for threatening letters - loathsome as they are, they are not a hallmark of conservatives. National Review Online writers (and Obama opponents) like Jonah Goldberg receive threatening and anti-Semitic email from the left all the time.

Then there was Cohen's unfair crack at "evangelicals."

Today, President Bush's policies and the collapse of Wall Street have led longtime conservatives to conflicting conclusions about where the Republican Party should be headed. And the disillusioned commentary of credentialed conservatives like Mr. Will, Mr. Buckley and Mr. Krauthammer may be the sound of a movement splintering at its foundation - a movement whose intellectuals have long been uneasy with, for example, the rising power, in the Bush years, of evangelicals, with their categorical faith in creationism and distrust of scientific reason.

Cohen is being as simplistic as one of her "creationist" straw men. After all, the definition of an "evangelical" is not someone who thinks dinosaurs walked the earth alongside humans, but who believes in the communication and spreading of the Christian faith. Millions of people who consider themselves evangelical Christians also believe in evolution and trust in scientific progress.