Sunday, December 19, 2010

Conservatize Me

"A lifelong lefty's attempt to love God, Guns, Reagan and Toby Keith", by John Moe.

This book was (hopefully) intended to be 90% humor, with maybe 10% something worthwhile. I'm thinking that if one was a liberal (clearly the intended audience), it might be quite humorous. I read it primarily as part of my quest to understand the liberal mind.

The premise of the book is that Moe, a Public Radio broadcaster from Seattle, is going to take "one month" to "live like a conservative" and maybe understand how this (to him) very strange breed of humanity thinks, feels and lives. In what strikes me more as a potential way to make a buck than anything else ( NOT that there is anything wrong with that!), he gets the idea a bit from the "Supersize Me" guy -- yes, the overtones of conservatism kind of being like "junk food" would fit right in with the spirit of the book.

Again, since I believe that this book is vastly more about humor than truth, I'm not at all certain which parts of the actions he took were intended to actually shed any light, or were merely designed to create laughs.

He for example gets "a suit" to see all the big wig conservatives in DC and NYC -- but of course very few of them are wearing suits. He also gets a whole bunch of Wal-Mart based patriotic, NASCAR and cheap clothing, so he can look like the "average Joes" that at least an NPR guy would be convinced are standard in red state America.

Likewise, he must listen to only Country Music -- and for rather lamely constructed reasons, Kid Rock, on his iPod, get his news from all conservative outlets -- Fox, Talk Radio, NRO, Weekly Standard.

He talks to Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol and is surprised that they seem to be reasonably intelligent and he can actually understand (or thinks he does) how they think. He stops at the Family Research Institute and spends an inordinate amount of text on his visit to a College Republican Convention. During these last two, his fixation on his perceived vast mistreatment of "The Gay" by conservatives and Republicans becomes clear.

Apparently, in Moe' mind, not being in favor gay marriage is exactly the same as being anti-gay. It comes down to a world view issue -- does everyone have "tendencies", and "free will" about what we make of the raw material of our bodies, brains, and some of us believe "spirits", or is it true that "we are what we are" -- gay, straight, pedophile, alcoholic, gamblers, moral zealots, liberals, conservatives .... whatever, and our only real task in life is somehow "getting in touch" with our "true nature". Moe doesn't actually get to actually try to understand anything here -- he is just clearly fixated on "how could conservatives be against The Gay", and of course, since the people he is talking to aren't as fixated on the issue as he is, he never gets anywhere in understanding how one might be against gay marriage since "it isn't any threat to HIS MARRIAGE". (I kept wondering if he was as perplexed how one could be against genocide in Rawanda even though nobody killing anyone there was a threat to us?)

Again, it is could be that all "The Gay" stuff was really just about getting liberal yuks at the expense of us religious dummy conservatives who don't support gay marriage.

There are a number of other vignettes -- driving a SUV, Reagan library, Nixon library (he liked Nixon, didn't like Reagan), Rexburg Idaho (voted 92% for Bush), and a Toby Keith concert in Indiana, but the big themes are how conservatives supposedly dress, how they are supposedly all pro-war (yet none of the examples he interviewed in '05 were gung ho on the war in Iraq), how they are anti-gay, and how they are kind of "simple minded" ... again, although many of the ones he talked to were actually counter examples.

To try to capture a bit of what may be his actual non-humorous thinking:

Clarity is not always an easy commodity to come by when you life on the left. Much of liberalism is built on the idea of uncertainty. Irag was opposed on the left because something could go wrong, tax cut programs are opposed because they could further harm the economy, the Patriot Act is opposed because it could lead to a police state. Not to say that liberals are wrong on any of those things, but they were all at least initially based on speculation. Conservatism begins with the permise that the reasoning and the outcome are not matters of conjecture and guesswork, but are rather certainties.

I'd say that liberalism being built on uncertainty and conservatism on certainly is a bit of a stretch. "Something could go wrong" would pretty much support opposing anything, if tax CUTS could harm the economy, then could tax increases help it -- and is that a speculation? Again, I'm not sure if he is really serious because that paragraph ends with "Now if I could only find a way to open my heart and let Ronald Reagan, or someone like him, be my personal lord and savior". He is very lucky that Christians aren't Muslims -- or that sort of treatment of faith would be a swift path to eternity without your head!

Pretty hard to recommend the book to anyone but a really committed lefty -- I suspect if one is solidly in that world view, much of this would be honestly funny and probably comforting a shallow sort of political porn way.

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