This week in There’s Something Seriously Wrong With the Republican Party…

Salon has yet another defector from the party with a loud denunciation of the way it and conservative institutions are functioning. This time it’s Michael Fumento, a longtime conservative author, who just can’t handle the Limbaughs and the Coulters and the Malkins any more.

Is anyone keeping a comprehensive list of these? Andrew Sullivan counts himself , which I suppose is up for debate, along with Bruce Bartlett and David Frum. There’s also blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs. Last fall we had longtime GOP congressional staffer Mike Lofgren. Who am I missing?

What each of these have in common is that they are not primarily ideological defections; these are not folks who woke up one day and suddenly decided that their positions on issues of public policy had been wrong (which is one of the reasons why I’m not sure Sullivan should be in the group; his flip was over Iraq, not over the conservative movement as such). What they are, instead, is partisan defections; they are people who denounce the epistemic closure and/or the mendacity of movement conservatives. And as Ryan Cooper says in a nice post about these flips:

The conservative movement is exceptionally good at propaganda — sloganeering, message discipline, unending repetition and coordinated attack. But for anyone who likes to consider herself an intellectual, propaganda is inherently uncomfortable. A movement which is increasingly defined by propaganda and unmoored from reality will eventually drive the intellectuals out. And when they leave, the fresh air seems to taste pretty good.

The sad part of all this is that it leaves the Republican Party in desperate need of smart, independent-minded conservatives. It’s important to remember: Even if those of us who believe that the GOP and the “conservative movement” have gone seriously off the rails are correct, it does not mean that conservative ideas or policy positions are necessarily wrong.

Even more so, it doesn’t mean that what Democrats and liberals are up to is necessarily correct. It does mean is that what Democrats and liberals are up to isn’t seriously challenged, because there’s no interest in seriously engaging policy or ideas within the conservative movement (and, perhaps, because many of those capable of it are gone).