MINOT, N.D. — It began to dawn on me when I saw the smirk on disgraced state lawmaker Luke Simons' face.
The man had no reason to be smiling.
He made history as the first member of North Dakota's legislature to be expelled. His exile came after a long history of complaints about harassment, first revealed publicly in this column, from many women working at the state capitol, including four House lawmakers, two of whom were, like Simons, Republicans.
As I watched Simons make his unrepentant exit from the floor of the House, seeming to suppress his glee, I realized that the man and his fellow malcontents in a small but rambunctious faction of the North Dakota Republican Party were going to use this turn of events.
Sure enough, Simons quickly postured himself as a martyr on social media. Per his version of events, he was expelled not because of aggressive misogyny perpetrated on his colleagues in Bismarck, but because of politics.
He was too conservative, he crowed, and a certain breed of conservative lapped it up.
His expulsion became a rallying cry for well-organized activists ambushing the NDGOP's local reorganization meetings.
In some districts, incumbent lawmakers were censured for their supposedly not-conservative votes in Bismarck. Among the votes scored was the one to expel Simons.
This is hardly a North Dakota-specific attitude.
Some conservatives are only happy as outsiders.
They're only comfortable when they define themselves as outside of the mainstream. They'll go to great lengths to create the perception that they're out of the mainstream even when they're very much in the mainstream.
Republicans dominate nearly every elected office in North Dakota, yet many in the NDGOP carry on as though they were a minority group.
Watch an hour of Fox News and count the disdainful references to the "mainstream media" by the various pundits even as they broadcast on the most-watched cable news channel in America.
They're as mainstream as it comes, yet they thrive by branding themselves as outsiders.
You can draw a line from that phenomenon to Simons' smirk.
His expulsion, insofar as it could be characterized as an assault by "the establishment" on a capital-T-capital-C True Conservative, was manna from heaven for a self-styled outsider.
This outside-the-mainstream contrivance might be great for a pundit trying to climb the conservative media ladder or a politician like Simons, but is this advancing the conservative cause?
Conservatives, including this one, have long complained about being ostracized in the news media, the entertainment industry, and academia, and there's good reason for those complaints.
How much of that exile is self-imposed by conservatives obsessed with their "outsider" brand?
Conservatives have rallied behind figures such as Simons, or Donald Trump, not because of any discernible leadership qualities or fidelity to conservative principle, but because they posture themselves as outsiders.
That's hurting the conservative movement.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.