Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Don't be snotty

Joe Klein is catching flak for this statement:
Liberals were "right" about Vietnam, but they have paid a price ever since because they were so obnoxious about their correctness.
I have never seen a better, more concise explanation of the struggles I've had to be a true, full-fledged liberal.

Because, in my heart of hearts, I found a lot of liberals to be very irritating. Berkeley cemented this. I met a lot of Progressives who are snotty, humorless, intolerant of dissenting opinions, love to needle, quick to badger. And so forth. In sum, do not pass the Beer Test. Would I have a beer with this guy? At Berkeley I read a lot of self-haters like kausfiles and actual-conservatives like Instapundit because I was so tired of going through the Daily Planet's letter page. They seemed more fun!

Thankfully for my Liberalism, I moved to LA. Where people are more friendly. It's a lot easier here to understand the difference between the occasional moonbats espousing certain causes, and the underlying correctness of those causes. The war in Iraq IS stupid. National Health Insurance IS a good idea. Now I feel sad for those beknighted sorta-Democrats like Klein who cannot divorce their personal revulsion of the people behind Liberalism and the policies about it. What a crappy way to live! Intellectually convinced in your position but unable to party with your fellow adherents. So angry at Liberals that you morally equate the slaughter and torture of Vietnam with... being snotty about it afterwards! How many Cambodian bombings equal one Michael Moore documentary?

Nationally, the Democrats and Republicans have made the distinction easier. Mostly because the Democrats have increasingly understood the importance of presentability. 2004 was certainly a nadir. Michael Moore is even unpleasant to look at. Kerry was such a dour, pompous ass I have no idea what we were thinking. Now we've got Obama. Even Hillary has worked hard to cement a friendly image. Meanwhile, Republicans, urged on by the blogs and talk radio, have become so unhinged and wide-eyed they just come off as giant dicks.

This could explain the accession of Jonah Goldberg to the upper ranks of Republican commentariat. He's not the deepest thinker, nor does he make much sense. But he's NICE. He makes JOKES. Stuff like that is a positive.


Tommaso Sciortino said...

It's true. I feel like I was impervious to this effect because I:

1. Wasn't really politically involved until after College.
2. Got into blogs when I did instead of going to the local food-not-bombs rally in Berkeley.

My early years in the blogs especially were very formative because I was dealing with full fledged racists and the like who were far more repellent than BAMN protesters blocking Sather Gate.

What's really upsetting though is that Kleinism is not confined to personal animosity but is considered a reasonable basis for essays in Time magazine.

Paul said...

What we were thinking with Kerry was that his only real liability wasn't that he was dour or pompous - since there was no actual evidence of either - but that people would say he was dour and pompous. We just hoped people would get over their prejudices. It didn't help matters that lots of liberals were buying into the myth, and pressured him to do all sorts of silly posturing.

Tommaso Sciortino said...

Yeah, Kleinism is a big obstruction to the very liberal policies Klein claims to support.

Kevin said...

I wish it was otherwise, but Kerry is totally dour and pompous. Seriously. I'm too much of a lazy boy to pull anecdotes to actually try and prove this argument, however.

In any case, his inability to rebut the d/p charge is as bad as the real thing. Obama would never have that problem.

Paul said...

The problem for Kerry was precisely that people were pulling - and in many cases making up - anecdotes that demonstrated no such thing.

Paul said...

In fairness to Klein, he identifies a real public relations problem. It's just that his method of dealing with it exacerbates things by 1) making the debate more about tone than about substance and 2) irritating liberals and thereby making them snottier still.

Paul said...

Oh, and it's also worth remembering that nobody thought Kerry was a perfect candidate, but an awful lot of people - rightly, in my view - thought he was the best available. Sure, Obama won't get tagged with the d/p label, but he can certainly get hit with the "inexperienced" charge. And how comfortable, really, is the country with the idea of a black president?

Neither of those worries mean Obama shouldn't be the Democratic nominee. All candidates have strengths and liabilities. I think even in retrospect Kerry had the best balance sheet of the contenders.