18 May 2009

Apology to Steve Lonegan

The American Conservative, if my hunch is right, has done a disservice to Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, by selling him their mailing list. The publishers of the beleaguered magazine (which announces with its new issue that it will change from a fortnightly to a monthly schedule) well know that a good part of its readership are people who don't think of themselves as conservatives but agree with the magazine's opposition to the Iraq War and its reservations about Reaganism. If they are the reason I got a begging letter from Mr. Lonegan today, they failed to warn him of this quirk of their readership. I could tell this from the message on the front of his letter: "I was told by a reliable source that you were an unabashed conservative."

Lonegan is making his second run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in New Jersey. He finished fourth in the 2005 primary, but seems to be at least the second strongest candidate this time around. Although he didn't mention it in his letter, he's received an endorsement from Ron Paul, who admires Lonegan's fiscal restraint during his mayoral years. But I get the impression that Lonegan thinks that citing Paul mightn't be wise in such a letter, especially since it seems to be directed at Weekly Standard subscribers rather than American Conservative readers.

"The fight to TAKE BACK our country begins NOW!!!" the envelope says. Inside, Lonegan elaborates. "If our Republican Party is going to be rebuilt, it must begin now! Because one thing is beyond debate...

"Government is on the march," he warns, "today's liberal is committed to one thing...Finding new ways to separate you from your hard-earned money. They're determined to redistribute income so that they can keep stealing property and expanding government even further. This is called Socialism. And it's un-American."

Lonegan hopes to become the rallying point for a "conservative" stand in New Jersey, where Jon Corzine is "the most liberal Governor in the United States." Corzine has increased sales and property taxes, Lonegan alleges, and "promises to take his radical brand of Big Government Socialism beyond New Jersey's borders!!" He offers no evidence of any such promise, but insists, "LET ME BE CLEAR -- there's another rabid leftist at the gate just eager to push his Socialist policies on you and me."

Corzine's re-election campaign, Lonegan says, is "our first opportunity to strike back at the smug liberal Democrats and their radical Special Interest groups." Conservatives, I suppose, are expected to take the identities of these "Special Interests" for granted, since Lonegan can't be bothered, or doesn't dare, to name them.

Lonegan claims that he can win in a "blue" environment. He notes that "despite living in a 2-1 Democrat town that voted for Al Gore, John Kerry and gave Barack Obama 64 percent of the vote, I was elected and re-elected three times -- BY DOUBLE DIGIT MARGINS!!" I wonder whether the people of Bogota thought of him as a "movement conservative," as he describes himself now. For that matter, even those American Conservative readers who call themselves "conservatives" have grown suspicious of self-styled "movement conservatives" because too many of them tend to put the "movement" before conservatism. They are ideologues in a way that the magazine usually finds inconsistent with true philosophical conservatism. Likewise, if he thinks he can draw money from Conservative subscribers by waving the Reagan flag, he ought to check out what the magazine has been saying about the Gipper lately and think again.

But being a Reaganite requires optimism, so Lonegan presses on with his plea for funds. He hammers home the point that New Jersey has a "unique matching funds system of financing campaigns" through which the state doubles anyone's campaign contribution. If I were to send him $35, for instance, the state will give him $70. He repeats this point twice over in the remaining page of the begging letter. He also says:

I'm not trying to sound dramatic, but the America that you and I believe in is under assault like never before. Liberals are consumed with power and they are eager to obtain even more. IF YOU AND I ARE GOING TO TAKE AMERICA BACK, WE MUST DRAW A LINE IN THE SAND AND FIGHT -- STARTING TODAY! AND THAT FIGHT BEGINS WITH THIS CAMPAIGN!!

Remember, Lonegan's not trying to sound dramatic, despite underlining all the stuff in bold caps and drawing blue asterisks in the margins. If he wanted to sound dramatic, after all, he'd send me one of those cards that plays a song when you open it, and he could really cut loose. Still not trying for drama, he closes by promising, "With your help, I can rebuild the conservative movement with a big win here. On to victory!" But he'll have to get on with it without me.

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