The Right Opinion

Richard Cohen Explains Conservatives

By Dennis Prager · Jan. 8, 2013

On the last day of 2012, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen inadvertently clarified two huge matters regarding the left.

The first was the ignorance about conservatives and conservatism that permeates the left. The second was the primary reason decent people identify with the left: the effective caricaturing and demonizing of the right. Were it not for caricature and demonization, most otherwise intelligent and decent people would not be on the left.

This is what Cohen wrote in his column, “Republicans Adrift:”

“It is conservatism that is both intellectually exhausted and nearly indefensible. It is the movement of the ideologically ossified, of gun zealots and homophobes, of the immigrant-phobic and the adamantly selfish. It insists that government must be small (an impossibility!), education must be local (a stupidity) and that debt, no matter what the reason, is immoral and reckless. The movement has lost its reliable monster. Godless communists have been replaced by the church ladies of Planned Parenthood. History giggles.”

This caricature of conservatism was penned not by some anonymous contributor to the comments section of, but by a longtime liberal columnist of the Washington Post.

Let's begin:

“Intellectually exhausted and nearly indefensible. It is the movement of the ideologically ossified … ”

All one has to do to show how ignorant this description of conservatism is to cite the names of the two conservative columnists at Cohen's paper, the Washington Post: George Will and Charles Krauthammer. Are these men “intellectually exhausted” and “ideologically ossified”? Are their views really “nearly indefensible”? I mean no insult when I say that the intellectual gap between the columns of those two conservatives' and the columns of their liberal colleagues is quite substantial.

Even outside the Washington Post, where are the liberal Charles Krauthammers and George Wills? Or the liberal intellectual equivalents of Daniel Henninger and his colleagues at the Wall Street Journal; or Jonah Goldberg and his colleagues at National Review? And what about Commentary and the Weekly Standard? Are they, too, “intellectually exhausted”? And name one black liberal thinker who inhabits the same intellectual universe as Tom Sowell, Walter Williams, Shelby Steele, Clarence Thomas or Larry Elder, just to name a few black intellectual giants of the right.

“… of gun zealots and homophobes, of the immigrant-phobic and the adamantly selfish.”

I have never attended an NRA meeting, let alone been a member, but I happen to think that it is a good thing when good people are armed. Am I “gun zealot”? And if there are “gun zealots,” are there not “anti-gun zealots”? Or is zealotry a conservative monopoly? That I suspect is exactly what Cohen believes – just as he undoubtedly believes that there are religious zealots but no secular zealots.

As for “immigrant phobic,” Cohen got carried away here, too. Virtually every prominent conservative voice wants an increase in immigration - of legal immigration, of people who can contribute to America's development. It is illegal immigration that conservatives oppose. Is that distinction too subtle for Cohen to appreciate?

“Adamantly selfish” may be Cohen's corker. Conservative Americans give more charity and volunteer more time than liberal Americans (controlling for income level). On what possible basis, then, does Cohen make the charge – as false as it is defamatory – that conservatives are “adamantly selfish?”

Conservatism “insists that government must be small (an impossibility!) …”

America has been great in large measure precisely because it has understood that the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. Moreover, the real “impossibility!” is not small government but the left's ever bigger government. It is neither economically nor morally sustainable, as we are seeing both in Europe and here in America.

“… and that debt, no matter what the reason, is immoral and reckless.”

This is just demagoguery. Conservatives have little problem with manageable debt: a level of debt that does not rob from future generations, and debt that does not jeopardize America's supremacy in the world. And “no matter what the reason” is almost a lie. It depends entirely on the reason. The last time we had the debt percentage of the GDP we have now was World War II – and conservatives believe that was a fine reason to get into debt, just as the Cold War was.

“The movement has lost its reliable monster … Godless communists.”

What an admission by a leading liberal – first, that communism was not a real evil, just a “reliable monster” for conservatives, on a par with “church ladies of Planned Parenthood.” Second, that “Godless” is a joke, not a real threat to the moral foundations of society – as if the death of Christianity in Europe didn't lead to Fascism, Nazism and Communism.

“History giggles.”

This is pure leftism. Since Karl Marx, the left has believed with religious certitude that its views are inevitable. “Scientific socialism” Marx called it. Everything opposing the left will end up in the dustbin of history, said Lenin.

We'll see if history giggles at Cohen or Krauthammer.



wjm in Colorado said:

Cohen only exposes his mindless insanity by spewing filth. What a moron, like most of his ilk, he is unable to factually support his positions. This Godless filth will rot in eternity, and this gun toting old man never feared any fairy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Robert in NEW Mexico said:

A conservative spin on Cohen's description of conservativism includes:

"ideologiclly ossified"- conservatives have a spine when it comes to principles.
Liberals are spineless.

"Intellectually exhausted"- conservatives are tired of trying teach what liberals are incapable of learning.

"adamantly selfish"- conservatives who work in their own self-interests benefit evryone arond them. Adamantly selfish liberals want to be spoon fed like a baby in a high chair.

"education must be local"- parents who are paying attention want a say in what schools teach their children.

"History giggles" because a large portion of the population is falling for the same old clap-trap about the benefits of socialism.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 10:41 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

Wow, I didn't know that Conservatism was on a par with Socialism, Marxism, and Communism. It never occured to me that Conservatives were so evil. How stupid of us to want to have a government that works for the good of the country as a whole and not the lazy and inept. We must be even more stupid to want to have some control over what our children are being taught. My God, I never knew that run-away debt was a good thing. I am so ashamed that I have been selfish enough to want to keep as much of my money as possible to feed and clothe my family. What a low-life individual I am because I believe it it the responsiblity for each person to take care of their own and be responsible for their actions. I guess I'll have to hang my head in shame and be sorry for all my sins against the liberal mindset.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11:29 AM

MikeEcho in Orting, WA said:

Conservatives think and are better able to harness their emotions. Liberals on the other hand are touchy-feely and follow their emotions. When a liberal follows his emotions his brain is not engaged. The press loves to goad Conservatives into saying dumb things without thinking. To win this battle Conservatives need to engage their brains, they do not have nature of lemmings.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

I guess this leftist-Cohen, is the reason why Dr Mark Levin calls that paper, the Washington compost!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado said:

Mr. Cohen is fairly reliable in persistently crafting these childish, ridiculous diatribes. Anyone, even progressives, can recognize that his columns have no real value. The Denver Post, reliably and persistently liberal, prints some of his nonsense, as well as that of Dana Milbank, Maureen Dowd and others. I pass on them every time; a waste of my time. I will read some liberal columnists, if they are reasonable and apply logic. If liberals are interested in truth they will not find it in Mr. Cohen's pathetic scribblings. He knows the truth but it doesn't forward his agenda. The editors of the Denver Post know the truth but choose not to print it. Their motto should be "All The News We Want You To Know."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 10:52 PM