Friday, February 23, 2007


One of the less-pleasant things about Berkeley was the degree of Liberal Coccooning. That is to say, being a Liberal became such a tremendous part of your lifestyle and your everyday experiences that there was very little chance of ever encountering non-Liberals. You shopped at Berkeley Bowl, lived in a completely Liberal town, read liberal magazines, and hung out with Liberal friends.

But political movements do not thrive in coccoons. They die. The practitioners grow out of touch, insular, and intolerant of outside opinions. When's the last time Berkeley-style liberalism made a national impact? Late 80s? Winning in politics requires conversion and alliances, not just base-rousing. Witness the Democrats' base-oriented strategy in 2004, where even heraculean efforts by Berkeley-based outfits like Moveon had marginal success at best. And the failure of Michael Moore-style self-congratulatory media.

That's why Dean's version of a muscular, outreach-oriented Democratic party is such an improvement. And why even the hardliners at Kos are preaching engagement with the rest of the country. It doesn't even need to be engagement that gives up principles, but a level of cultural and civic outreach that gets outside of the Liberal comfort zone and into the rest of America.

And I'm so pleased to see that Republicans are going in the opposite direction. Just as Democrats are consciously working to re-engage the rest of the country, the Republicans are engaged in a tremendous effort of cocoon spinning. Fox News. Republican dating sites. Republican-only websites. Even a Republican version of Wikipedia. (!)

It must be so puzzling for Republicans. Even as they've created a mirror world of self-congratulations and personally-oriented media, they've dropped like very heavy stones in polls and approval ratings. And, stuck in an echo chamber, they can't seem to figure out what went wrong.


Paul said...

At any time an ordinary person would want to shop, Berkeley Bowl is a terrible place to do it.

Rebecca C. Brown said...

Josh and I literally could not shop there today because there were no parking spaces within a 10-minute walk of the place. (So we went to Trader Joe's first and came back to Berkeley Bowl an hour and a half later.)

I'll let you in on a little secret: Go there at 5 PM on a Sunday, an hour before they close. It's a relative ghost town.

Ya know, Kevin, I never felt like I was in a cocoon at Berkeley. It's not like only liberal websites are allowed to feed into the city. I think people exaggerate the liberal-ness of the city and the university for dramatic effect.