Over the weekend, Ace Of Spades wrote a very lengthy, very insightful piece triggered by the reflections of Fred Thompson over his presidential bid, and Ace’s frustration as a Thompson supporter. As I read (and read and read) it, I found myself nodding — I, too, was a Fred-head (though not as strongly as Ace was), and Ace’s burst of genius was something I wish I had noticed. I’m going to quote the most germane portion, but you really owe yourself to read the whole thing:
Let me propose a thought experiment. Imagine ten liberals and ten of
us. We’re each asked a series of political questions. Our task is not
to answer as we ourselves would answer, but instead to guess at
what our liberal counterparts will say, and not just as far as
conclusions, but also as far as reasoning and assumptions and secondary
Who do you think would do better at this task– we or they? We would.
Because while we are fed a steady litany of liberal assumptions and
assertions on a daily basis, a liberal is entirely free to ignore the
conservative movement’s beliefs altogether by simply never consuming
any conservative media.
And 95% of them, of course, choose to do just that.
We on the right would probably make that choice, too, if it were allowed
to us — but it’s not. We can’t escape the liberal media, even when we
And we wouldn’t just win this experiment on points; we’d destroy them,
three knockdowns and then one knockout (and there’d be more knockouts if
the ref let us keep pounding on their unconscious heads).
Even the most pro-life among us could, if asked why liberals are so
strong pro-choice, trot out the reasons the liberals would give: an
embryo is not a life unless it can exist independently of the mother, a
woman shouldn’t be punished by unwanted pregnancies, a woman shouldn’t
be economically disadvantaged by unplanned babies, a woman’s personal
decisions are sacrosanct, there is a right to privacy between woman and
I’m not saying the pro-lifers would agree with those premises: But they could name them.
On the other hand, the liberals’ guesses about our beliefs would be,
once you got past the fifteen synonyms for “Because they’re stupid”
(more on that in a bit), would be the vaguest guesswork about words
they’ve barely heard us say. “Because, um, it’s in the Constitution?
Or something? I hear them talk about that a lot. They probably think
something in it says something about something.” That would be a rather
good guess on their part.
Now, liberals, therefore, have an abject lack of competence in
describing the conservative mindset. They don’t understand how we
think, and they don’t even care to find out — they never bother asking
us, you’ll notice. They tend to inform us of what we think and then tell us why those thoughts they just claimed we have are in fact wrong, ignorant, and evil.
I can predict what a liberal will say on any issue. I will not only
guess his position, I will accurately guess his reasoning. The latter,
most of the time, anyway: I will either guess his primary reason, or
his secondary reason, or a reason he’s actually contrarian on (and thus
departs from the liberal mainstream) but which he will at least
recognize as a legitimate reason offered by may other liberals.
He won’t be able to do that with me. He doesn’t know and doesn’t care to find out.
But if called upon to supply an explanation, he’ll guess.
And he’ll resort to The Narrative. Devoid of facts or accurate guesses
based on close questioning on other matters, he’ll take his best guess
at a logical Narrative about my beliefs and motivations.
And what will his guess be? Well, since he never bothered to ask, and
never bothered to read a conservative writing his beliefs out, and
since, even when he ambushes a conservative (as Martin Bashir did
yesterday with Andrew Breitbart) he doesn’t actually bother listening to
the answers but instead simply follows up with a re-worded restatement
of the accusation, he’ll resort to the very easy, very natural, very
simple Narrative that explains it all.
He’ll choose from the following list:
1) Because they’re stupid
2) Because they’re uneducated
3) Because they’re superstitious and credulous and think that God told them to believe this
4) Because they have weak minds and Rush Limbaugh told them to think this
and, of course, for those who aren’t clearly in the above categories:
5) Because they’re racists and they hate
6) Because they literally — as the Simpsons’ parody went — because
they very literally “Want What’s Worse For Everybody,” i.e., they are
not only villains, but self-aware villains of deliberate and knowing
choice, villains because they’ve decided to Choose Villainy.
And just as I finish and start digesting this, I stumble across the perfect example: Doug Mataconis’ latest shot at the Tea Party movement, and the group of left-wing commenters that infest Outside The Beltway.
Mr. Mataconis is, in my opinion, is in the early stages of “Charles Johnson Syndrome.” He’s generally considered on the right, and rejects the term liberal (although Doug still calls himself a conservative), but devotes the vast majority of his time to kicking and denigrating and running down conservatives, to the delight of a dedicated cadre of leftists who cheerfully pile on his attacks. He’s not so far along the path that he’s engaged in the paranoia and frantic rewriting of his history and demanding of absolute loyalty that are the end stages of CJS, but the early signs are unmistakable.
But to the actual substance of Doug’s piece, and especially the comments: it’s exactly as Ace says. They don’t understand the Tea Party movement, and they don’t care to even try. They project their own theories and beliefs, and then demand that the Tea Party comply with the narrative they’ve created out of thin air.
Let me propose some alternate explanations for Doug’s examples.
1) Texas, with the surge in “social conservative” issues over “fiscal conservative” issues.
Well, for one, Texas has always had a strong social conservative bent, so this is nothing new. Further, Texas’ budget woes are nowhere near as severe as in other states; yeah, it needs fixing, but it’s hardly the basket case California or Arizona or Rhode Island or Michigan are. It’s simply not a major crisis yet, and still manageable — kind of like the federal deficit under Bush, before the spending orgy that started with the Democrats’ rise to power in 2006.
2) Abortion and “anti-gay” issues.
I hate to break it to people, but the sole motivating factor behind such positions is not religion. Some very non-religious (and even anti-religious) people oppose such “liberal” policies. Here’s where Ace’s observation really shines: I’m a nominal conservative who is “squishily” pro-choice and quite firmly in favor of “gay rights” in most cases, but I can understand the opposition to those positions — both the religious and the non-religious ones. And further, I can respect them, and refuse to casually dismiss the religious ones — I understand how these people, thanks to their religion, sincerely and honestly believe that to stand by and say or do nothing while these “evils” are advanced is a profound insult to God, and are compelled to do all they can — within the system — to fight them. I disagree with them, and will oppose them, but I respect them and their beliefs, and appreciate their commitment to fight within the system.
3) The final one isn’t from Doug, but his commenters — that the primary factor motivating the Tea Party movement is “racism.” Since the Tea Party wasn’t formed until after Obama (a black man, or more correctly, a half-black man — since racial identity is so important to these people, we must be precise) became president, and opposes most of what he does, than obviously his race is the determining factor.
This is beyond codswallop. This has to be what Douglas Adams had in mind when he coined the phrase “load of fetid dingo’s kidneys.” The Tea Party, as I’ve seen, read, and experienced it, is almost profoundly agnostic on race issues. Yes, there are some nuts who bring their racism to it, but they’re largely ignored or ostracized by the vast majority. Although I have to admit that “white supremacist” is one of the first things that comes to mind when I consider some of the leading voices in the Tea Party movement — Allen West, Herman Cain, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Alonzo “Zo” Rachael, and so on.
On the actual substance of the “they only got fired up once we had a black president” critique: again, codswallop. Yes, George W. Bush oversaw expansions of federal spending, federal power, and federal debt. But it was at least nominally sustainable. It started shooting up in 2007, when the Democrats took back Congress, and skyrocketed once Bush left and a Democrat moved into the White House.
One single data point: in 2006, Congress raised the debt ceiling to $8.965 trillion dollars. That’s $8,965,000,000,000.00. (I think I got all the zeroes right this time.) Then-Senator Obama eloquently spoke against it, saying it was irresponsible and unsustainable.
Then the Democrats took back Congress, and raised it six more times — three times signed off by Bush, three by Obama — and now we’re looking at a seventh, as we’re right on the verge of reaching the current limit of $14,294,000,000,000.00. (Double-checking my zeroes again…) That, by my reckoning, is an increase of roughly 63% in four years.
In comparison, the debt ceiling went up 71% in Bush’s six years. Just for giggles, let’s add 71% to the amount of the debt ceiling when the Democrats took Congress back, and it comes up to $15,330,000,000,000.00. That’s just a trillion more than it is now, and they’re talking about raising it again. The last raise was $1,900,000,000,000.00, so it’s definitely within their reach. (OK, now I’m just showing off that I got the zeroes right.) And it took Bush 6 years to hit that 71% mark; the Democrats have only taken four years to hit 63% — and they had a higher starting point, so that 71% is a hell of a lot more money.
To underscore Ace’s point that started this whole thing, I can understand the argument behind the left’s insistence on painting the Tea Party as racist. And further, I can speculate as to the real reasons, the ones they won’t admit to themselves.
For one, they’re utterly obsessed with race, and they can’t imagine that others are not. So therefore race has to be a primary concern with pretty much everything.
For another, they’ve had decades of using their race card. It worked for decades, diverting their opponents into frantic defenses and shutting them down entirely. But I think we’ve been using the wrong metaphor — it’s not a race “card,” but a race “checkbook.” They’ve overdrawn their account at the Race Bank, and we simply won’t honor it any more, but they still insist they can’t be out of money — they still have checks left!
For a third, I suspect that there’s a significant element of “white guilt” behind it. The ones who most loudly proclaim “racism!” here tend to be white, and they are likely subconsciously “proving” their non-racist nature by supporting a black man (even though he was totally unqualified and proving wildly incompetent), and need to constantly reaffirm their “non-racist” nature by trying to expose and denounce other “racists.”
Sorry, folks. I understand your feelings of white guilt, but I don’t share them. And I don’t feel particularly inclined to indulge your issues to the point of playing a role in your psychodrama that doesn’t fit.
Ace’s theory of the “narrative” and its power omits one thing, that I feel I need to add: the pushers of the narrative use it as a Procrustean bed, and last November we went all Theseus on their asses.
But damn if he didn’t just nail it.