The blogosphere is in a lather over Ann Coulter’s use of the word “faggot” at CPAC. The American Spectator and National Review are both supporting calls to have her banned from CPAC forevermore for that affront to homosexual-Americans.
The whole episode is a good illustration of the Coulter method. She knows where the fault lines lie between the New York-Washington, D.C. conservative movement and the red-state conservative grassroots. She’s so popular in part because she says the kinds of inflammatory things that the punters want to hear, things that conservatism’s own Eastern establishment dare not say for fear of offending polite, liberal opinion.
But Coulter is only with the grassroots against the movement’s own East Coast elites when it comes to the most trivial, Neaderthal rhetoric. In that same CPAC speech, she endorsed Mitt Romney, the blandest, safest “conservative” candidate. If she’s really such a hard right-winger, why didn’t she endorse someone like Tom Tancredo? Ironically, if she had done that, she might have single-handedly boosted a marginal candidate to the top tier; instead, she jumped on the Mitt Romney bandwagon and caused him embarrassment, since he later had to disassociate himself from her language.
For all that she needles the girly-boys of the movement, she is not actually any kind of grassroots firebrand herself. She’s strictly conventional when it comes to any issue that matters. She has the effect of co-opting and neutering whatever populist discontent there is with the Right’s establishment. She’s like a Barbie dolls that’s been reprogrammed to say “faggot” instead of “math is hard”: offensive but harmless.
Coulter has many times paid homage to Phyllis Schlafly. The two women couldn’t be more different: Mrs. Schlafly doesn’t use inflammatory language, and she actually organized the grassroots rather than simply titillating them. And unlike Coulter, Phyllis Schlafly is willing (up to a point) to call the Republican Party and the conservative establishment on the carpet, as she does in these quotes reported from Politico.com:
Bush has “made so many mistakes,” said the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly. “The war is a disaster and he flubbed the [immigration] issue.”
And the leading GOP contenders to succeed Bush? “They’re all equally unacceptable,” Schlafly said.
Ann Coulter would never say anything like that. It’s what she doesn’t say, much more than what she does, that really indicts her.