In the 1960s, just as conservatism was beginning to grow from a fringe tendency into what it has become -- the nation's most potent persuasion -- it was threatened by a boarding party of people not much, if any, loonier than Sheehan. The John Birch Society, whose catechism included the novel tenet that Dwight Eisenhower was an agent of the Kremlin, was not numerous -- its membership probably never numbered more than 100,000 -- but its power to taint all of conservatism was huge, particularly given the media's eagerness to abet the tainting. Responsible conservatives, especially William F. Buckley and his National Review, repelled the boarders, driving them into the dark cave where, today, they ferociously guard the secret of their size from a nation no longer curious about it.
MoveOn.org, which claims 3.3 million members and is becoming a tone-setting tail that wags the Democratic Party dog that is mostly such tails, adopted Sheehan during her Crawford demonstration, organizing 1,627 vigils around the country to express solidarity with her. But the Democratic Party, whose democratically elected chairman is Howard (``I Hate the Republicans and Everything They Stand For'') Dean, is not ripe for lessons in temperate rhetoric, which may be why the Republican Party has far fewer worries than it deserves.
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