TCS Daily


Take That Advice and Shove It

By Douglas Kern - November 9, 2004 12:00 AM

I'm pleased to announce that my Internet advice column ("Ask An Obscure Conservative Legal Guy!") has recently introduced an online chat feature. I'd like to share with you this transcript of my first session:

Dear Obscure Conservative Legal Guy:

On behalf of liberal Democrats everywhere, I would like to extend to you our thanks for being the only pundit to refrain from writing some insufferable column about what we lefties should do in light of the disastrous election on November 2.

Um....

Oh, by the Goddess, you wrote one, didn't you?

Well, yes, but it's clever and insightful. Entitled "Get Off That Window Ledge, Hippie!" my new essay provides discombobulated liberals with several nuggets of wisdom from which -

Save the crappy pitch for the Tigers' starting lineup, you hate-mongering fascist. Surely you realize that every word-slinging scribbler on the entire planet has written 800 words on what we should do differently. Essays offering "Advice for Democrats" now occupy more space on the Internet than Pamela Anderson's breasts. Small children are writing columns suggesting that we dump McAuliffe. Squirrels are telling us to run Southern governors. The smarter Venus flytraps suggest that we abandon gun control. For crying out loud, one rotten election and suddenly everyone is Dick Morris.

But I truly believe that I can offer to you some advice that will allow you to fulfill your role as America's opposition party in a manner that will be more responsible and efficacious without compromising your -

Gosh, that sounds like a thoughtful, tempered, and well-meaning tidbit of wisdom, so let me offer this nuanced and reasonable rejoinder: Screw you.

But -

Is that too simple and direct, Mr. Big Words? Let me break it down. Asking you for advice on how liberals can win elections is like asking O.J. Simpson for tips on a successful marriage. You're about to peddle to me a clogged commode of minced words and honeyed phrases that all conduce to one point: we liberals should be less liberal. Admit it! In that worthless essay that you're about to sell to your credulous editors at TCS, you've got at least one point to the effect of "Embrace rural values," or "Reconsider evangelical Christianity" or "Abandon your reflexively pro-choice stance at the national level" or some conservative crap like that. Am I right?

Er...I must confess that I do have a paragraph here suggesting that a few unambiguously pro-life Democrats at the national level would attract hundreds of thousands of Catholic and orthodox Protestant voters back to the Democrat party. I point out that, as I peruse the Comments boxes at my favorite conservative religious websites, I detect scores of "values voters" who prefer the Democratic position on economics and foreign policy, but cannot vote for pro-abortion candidates. I also note that, for every vote you lose to Nader in such a repositioning, you gain ten votes from the Republicans. And, just as the presence of pro-choice Republicans like Giuliani and Schwarzenegger does not significantly detract from the pro-life stance of the Republican Party, so might a few pro-life Democrats -

Abortion? Feh. The only right a fetus has is to be sliced thin and piled thick.

Is that the line that will win the South for you in 2008?

What we meant to say is, um, we're personally opposed, good people can disagree, it's a troubling issue, yadda, yadda, yadda. Jesus Christ fits in there somewhere. You know what we mean.

Yes, we red-staters certainly do.

Look, this whole make-nice-with-the-fundies thing is hard for us, okay? Half the reason we became Democrats was to get away from small-town Babbitt-flavored bible-thumpin' bigotry.

Which leads to my next point: "If you don't want religious Americans to think that you hate them and their beliefs, maybe you should stop hating them and their beliefs." Little about the liberal post-mortem of this election reassures ordinary Americans that the Left has anything to say to them. When Thomas Frank argues that social conservatism is simply false consciousness, meant to distract the masses from their proletarian peonage, or when Jane Smiley whines that orthodox religious beliefs are merely a smokescreen with which to inculcate ignorance among the apparently cretinous masses, what can we conclude, except that the Left considers itself too good for non-Left votes?

Whatever. Do you have any suggestions that don't require us to sell out our principles?

I suppose you don't want to hear "It's time for a Sistah Souljah moment with Michael Moore and his America-hating wannabes." Moore's America is composed solely of puppets and puppet-masters (and oh-so-superior auteurs filming the show) -- hardly anything worth fighting or dying for. Is snarky sniveling filmmaking now a liberal principle?

But never mind. I won't belabor the "Don't run polarizing figures from the 60s" point, either. How about "Stop pursing the chimera of 'electability,' and pick someone you actually find appealing?" Or perhaps "Sincere liberal beliefs expressed in a moderate way are better than insincere centrist beliefs expressed in a dishonest way?" Or "Stop whining about 'mandates,' because that's just sore loser talk?"

We don't want to do any of those things. We're happy the way we are. What can we do to make you happy with the way we are? Can you give us any advice that allows us to win without actually requiring us to change?

Nope. You can claim that you lost this presidential election by accident, if you must. You can believe that you lost all those Senate races as a result of Karl Rove's voodoo mind control mojo. Or you can insist that it was your illimitable sense of honor and decency that prevented you from campaigning hard, dammit! Any number of delusional lefty commentators will be happy to sell you those tinfoil hats.

But you lose not because you don't communicate your intentions clearly, but because you do. Change your intentions, or change the terms of the debate.

Your attachment to the status quo suggests a rationale for your beliefs that extends beyond the political. And religious people know a rival religion when they see it.

But -

You're done now, blinky. Get some rest. Sober up. Take comfort in your still-unquestioned mastery of academia, the mainstream media, Hollywood, organized labor, and the State Department. I can indulge your manic rage and self-pitying up to a point, because I'd be rending my garments and biting the heads off of chickens had Bush lost. When you're done wallowing, figure out how you're going to defend the beliefs of 48% of America with honor and dignity. If you act the part of the opposition with loyalty to the America that is -- not the America that you wish you had -- then you might earn the trust of the people when the tide of history turns, as it always does. Act that part with contemptuousness and resentment, and it will go a different way.

Be nice. It's just common sense. You are, after all, outnumbered.

With love, and with apologies if that love seems condescending,

The Obscure Conservative Legal Guy


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