Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Party of Reason

One of my vices is an inability to be reasonable about what I spend at bookstores. Because I indulge this vice, I hang around in these places more than the average guy and, consequently, see a lot of publishing trends. I saw the Chick-Lit thing coming a mile away.

A more recent trend is books by people on the left who complain that people on the right are somehow a)idiots b)psychologically maladjusted and 3)brilliant con artists. All at the same time.

This trend follows hard upon a series of books suggesting that we are on the verge of theocracy.

This is not a new thing for the American left. Richard Hofstadter made a reputation in the '60s suggesting that the nascent conservative movement reflected then in Goldwater's nomination as the GOP presidential candidate was rooted in paranoia and other forms of psychological maladjustment.

I concede that conservatives also make hay by burning the evil straw men that supposedly represent the other side (see, e.g., Coulter, Ann)and people will always enjoy seeing their views validated in entertaining, albeit unfair, ways (Coulter, like Michael Moore can be and the late Molly Ivins sometimes was, is often very funny.) A little hyberbole can be good fun.

But too much is a sign of weakness. You can't win a battle of ideas when by telling yourself that you have already won. In a recent essay in the Weekly Standard, Noemie Emery summarizes some recent conceits on the left advanced by some relatively respectable people (Al Gore, Michael Lind, Joe Conanson)in the following way:

Here are some other choice fancies that the Party of Reason believes:

* Global warning causes both hot and cold weather, just as elections are stolen when the Democrats lose them, but are stolen too when they win.

* A country in which dissent is a flourishing industry is on the brink of a great fascist crackdown, as you can tell by all the books written attacking the president, the plays put on that call him an idiot, and the movies that call for his death.

* When exit polls indicate a different result from the actual vote count, the polls are correct and the vote count is fraudulent, a fact covered up by journalists who are (a) Democrats by something close to a nine-to-one ratio; and (b) dying to uncover a huge government scandal, so that they too can be famous like Woodward and Bernstein, make millions of dollars, and be played in the movies by Hollywood stars.

* That the Presidents Bush, from Yale and a long line of Yankees, who made the careers of the first black secretaries of state ever named in this country, are secretly longing to bring back the South of 1859.

* And, that the Republican party, whose frontrunners are a once-divorced actor (just like Ronald Reagan), a Mormon from Massachusetts by way of Michigan, and a thrice-married Italian Catholic from the streets of Brooklyn, is a shrunken husk of a regional faction, punitive, narrow, and wholly obsessed with extreme social mores, relying on extralegal repression to perpetuate itself in power. To the more intense members of the reality faction, all of this makes perfect sense.

Ah, reason! How sweet it is, and to what lengths it can lead you, when you think that you have a monopoly on it. Political parties are coalitions of interests, fighting it out in a series of struggles, in which no side has a patent on wisdom and virtue, and no wins are ever complete. People who understand this maintain their own balance and bearings, but those who insist they are fighting for reason lose what remains of their own.

1 comment:

wa said...

These observations are further supported by the example of liberals to frequently prescribe education (on the issues, vs. education as an institution), reasoning that, "If people just had all the facts, they'd reach the same conclusions [as us]". In other words, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention".

It is important to remember that "Reason"able people can reach very different conclucions from the same set of facts, and it doesn't make them hateful or evil. In other words, some (not all, granted) of us ARE paying attention, but don't always (or necessarily)experience "outrage". The recent discussions of North Avenue are a good example.