Friday, March 04, 2005

Democrats are a joke

. . . Or how the right learned to undermine the left.

I was thinking on the AirTrain over here (I'm sitting in JetBlue's terminal, comlete with wireless internet access) that the Republican strategy of constantly associating liberal causes with comedians, actors, singers, and entertainers is a powerful political one, and something of a role reversal. The way I came to this line of thinking is kinda funny. I saw a poster advertising contact lenses with a picture of that mousy, bespectacled Scooby Doo character without her glasses on, and I though of how much Janeane Garofalo looks like her. Then I thought about the show Scarborough country, and the fact that she appeared a few times as the liberal on their pannel.

Thinking about other panels I'd seen, I was amazed at how many times the Republican point of view has an old, authoritative-looking guy plugging it, and how many times the liberal side is taken by a young, well-dressed, metro guy, or by an entertainer. For conservative news channels and conservatives generally, this makes sense. It's hard to take an entertainer seriously, even if they're well-spoken, and often they're not. (No offense to Janeane Garofalo, but she's a better comedian.) Hammering home how out of touch liberal entertainers are trying to steal our country, conservatives do more than construct liberals out of touch. They're also constructing us as intellectual lightweights.

To me, that's certainly an ironic project. Though there are certainly conservative intellecturals, there's a reason that so many colleges and universities are liberal havens. (And despite what conservatives say, it's not because there's ideological discrimination.) Conservatives, I believe, self-select into fields that fit their worldview; they enter business, follow "greedy" money-making pursuits, and demand ever-lower taxes. Liberals also do a certain amount of self-selecting, and frankly I wish more of them would decide to practice their philosophies instead of thinking about them all the time. So perhaps conservatives are combatting the impression that liberalism is the "intellectual" or "thoughtful" position by cementing the image of the liberal entertainer in the public consciousness.

Of course, there used to be another side of liberalism—the activist side. And I say "used to" because, up until the emergence of the Deaniacs, it seemed that liberal activists had become non-facors in national politics, coopted by hopeless political causes, like Nader's failed runs. There used to be union activists, pro-labor activists, who fought for hard-nosed, classist political causes, that they identified with and that meant a lot to them. This side of the Democratic party, this activist liberalism, is all-too rarely seen. Students more and more are carrying that torch, but they don't hold the same weight as coal miners do. Like entertainers, it's too easy to portray students as idealistic lightweights. I guess that's what I meant by hard-nosed. Coal miners, factory workers, are hard to classify as lightweights. They are forces that conservatives, even conservative ideologues, have to at least seem to respect, lest they alienate Americans.

So I have to board soon. This isn't as well thought out and careful as it could be, or ought to be. Frazzled from travel and all that. About to be home for spring break. Maybe the rate and quality of blogging will pick up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a link about that on ordering contact lens yesterday that made it sound like you would do better finding it online.

6:51 PM  

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