TCS Daily

Say It Loud, We're Purple Proud

By Ilya Shapiro - December 30, 2004 12:00 AM

It's been almost a year since the powers that be at this wonderful experiment in spontaneous editorial order took a chance on this wet-behind-the-ears upstart and started publishing my political musings and other flights of fancy. And over half a year since the op-ed that rocked the nation first appeared here, before being picked up by the L.A. Times and from there onward to become a central tenet of the political discourse in this election year.

Now, I can't take full credit for the spread of the "Purple America" concept, but when you run a Google search coining that term, my TCS piece is still fifth on the list. It's a simple idea that lots of folks thought of while pondering all the talk of red and blue states, but I was an early purveyor and added a twist on the more common formulation that has suburbanites picking à la carte from the Republican and Democrat policy smorgasbord.

That is, my Purple America is not so much a blend of red and blue places or ideas, but a confluence of values from Red America with tastes from Blue America. It combines a strong belief in personal responsibility, ordered liberty, and civil society, with a passion for independent film, Belgian ale, and salsa dancing -- along with a good ball game, preferably on grass and without the designated hitter.

Purple Americans are neither your father's libertarians nor your mother's establishmentarians. Instead we are the perfect embodiment of an age when college students tend to be more conservative and meritocratic than their parents while at the same time engaging in a second sexual and cultural revolution that Tom Wolfe and David Brooks have stylishly uncovered for the fogeys. (Though with a modicum of triteness: "The kids these days, they 'hook up' with no plans for commitment, while also listening to ironic music and planning their careers -- I'm shocked, shocked.")

As one of the founding members of the purple polity, I feel an obligation to present its list of New Year's resolutions, the goal of which is for Purple America to become a force to be reckoned with not just among the punditocracy but also in campaign warrooms and the halls of government. So, herewith:

1. I resolve to clarify at keggers and cocktail parties that Purple America is not synonymous with "moderate" in the sense of being neither true-blue liberal or red-meat conservative.

2. At the same time, when a Republican politician preaches economic and religious freedom while wanting the government to regulate personal behavior, I resolve to call him on it.

3. Similarly, I resolve to call out Democratic politicians who preach tolerance, equality, and personal liberty while supporting government-mandated speech codes, racial discrimination, redistribution, and "re-regulation."

4. I resolve to point out that there is nothing wrong with coiffing wine at a NASCAR race or downing beers at the opera, so long as your beverage of choice is good quality -- and if you're drinking it because you like it and not simply to appear contrarian.

5. I resolve not to label people politically based on appearance and superficial demographics; that iPod-toting hipster rollerblading to Whole Foods may have a Bush-Cheney sticker on his jalopy, while the nice middle-aged couple shopping at Wal-Mart may be Deaniacs looking for a deal.

6. On the same note, I resolve not to perpetuate the over-used red state-blue state trope, as we are one country and there are amazing, incredible things about each and every part of it.

7. To that end, I resolve to remain open-minded about new cultural experiences, but reserve the right to call a spade a spade when something is clearly lacking in artistic, culinary, scientific, or other merit.

8. I resolve not to invest too much of myself in the quotidian humdrum of national politics, because the business of America is business and the healthiest societies are also the least politicized. (This will be a hard one for this Washington-based political junkie.)

9. Along the same lines, I resolve to go forward this new year with a boundless sense of optimism and good cheer because these are prevalent among the political and cultural figures I admire-and they make life a whole lot more enjoyable.

10. I resolve to read Tech Central Station religiously, and tell all my friends to do so too.

Thank you, TCS readers, for indulging me. I only hope that in 2005 I can continue to make my columns worth your time.

Ilya Shapiro is a lawyer and writer living in Washington, D.C. He last wrote for TCS about the correlation of voting patterns to educational attainment.


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