In consuming a lot of conservative media, mostly for the purpose of mocking it, I've noticed some outliers and an unmistakable recent trend.
Little Green Footballs, founded and primarily authored by Charles Johnson, is routinely lumped in with the hysterical wing of the right along with the likes of Malkin, Free Republic, Instarube, and so on. The funny thing is that I find LGF entirely reasonable, well-written, and intelligent – as long as they're not talking about Israel. On the Arab-Israeli conflict or "Islamic extremism" they are borderline fascists. Other than that issue, Mr. Johnson is alarmingly…normal. Sadly, No aptly describes Johnson as a solid fellow driven immediately and overwhelmingly insane by 9/11. But honestly, bring up any other topic and he does a startling impression of a sane, normal person with decent writing skills.
A few other folks like self-identified traditional conservative Andrew Sullivan or mushy centrist (media speak for conservative) Marc Ambinder are similarly readable. This is a select group, the closest thing that the right has to intelligent commentary. They have something else in common as well: they appear to be going through a slow, public disillusionment with the conservative movement and the GOP.
This is most obvious with Johnson and LGF. Being a smart fellow, he has occasionally parted company with some of the right's nonsense. For example he now routinely slags Glenn Beck as an embarrassment to the movement. Throughout the election was loudly critical of anti-Obama conspiracy theorists (i.e., the birth certificate dipshittery). He has warned the right about allying with European "nationalist" organizations in the War against Islamic Immigrants because of said groups' frequent neo-Nazi ties. Predictably, former wingnut allies like the certifiably-insane Pam Atlas (check out her self-photo) have branded him an apostate and turned on him with a vengance he has not previously experienced. Eventually Johnson decided to label Ms. Atlas a "hateblogger" and "shrieking lunatic" after she accused him of neo-Nazi ties.
This wingnut civil war/pissing contest may be of little interest to non-bloggers but it speaks to a much larger issue. Johnson, like many conservatives, is in the midst of a pitched battle with his conscience. His ideological biases and his intellect are crossing lightsabers. The result is a man who is very publicly coming to grips with the truth about his right-wing colleagues, who is forced to admit to his audience of millions, "Holy crap. The people who make up this movement are totally fucking bonkers."
You can see the same in Andrew Sullivan pointing out the idiocy of Glenn Reynolds and the Teabagging "movement" or Marc Ambinder saying, "My Republican friends keep asking me when I'll take the GOP seriously again and why I've stopped writing about ticky-tak political gamesmanship and GOP consultant tricks. When they're a serious party with serious ideas, then we can talk." Come toward the light, boys.
These examples should not be disregarded when attempting to understand why a historically low 21% of people are willing to admit to being a Republican these days. Everyone with half a brain has turned his or her back on the party in embarrassment. I assume you all have Republican friends and relatives. How many of them are proud to admit that affiliation these days? For the irreducibles, the 20% who say that W was our greatest President, the pride remains. But how can the average, educated conservative – bankers, cops, teachers, medical professionals, engineers, etc. – watch Glenn Beck's lunatic ranting and be anything but mortified? Now that the party is leaderless and wingnut radio hosts have stepped in to fill the void, the party's ability to attract anyone above the grade of "mouthbreather" is severely limited.
There are a lot of smart people in this country and they do not share a single political viewpoint. People disagree. Always have, always will. But smart people, by virtue of being smart, are embarrassed by the kind of demagoguery and stupidity that the right uses to keep the rubes frothing at the mouth and ready to cast a vote against The Homos. Many of us realized this a long time ago – in 1964 for the older folks, or 1980 for the Gen-Xers, or 2002 for the youngest voters – but a lot of die-hard conservatives are playing the part of the tortoise. They don't want to admit it, but with every day, every idiotic best-selling book, every talk radio segment, and every cheap piece of grandstanding by the few Republicans in visible public offices, the truth becomes just a little bit harder to ignore.