Politics Is Not a Team Sport
By Rogers Cadenhead
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 04:54 PM
The novelist Andrew Klavan has written a rant titled "The Big White Lie" that celebrates himself for being a conservative. I hate self-congratulatory stuff like this, whether it's coming from the right or the left, because it reduces politics to a sports rivalry in which your team rox and the other team sux.Klavan writes:
The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don't have to lie. I don't have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don't have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don't have to say that everyone's special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don't have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don't have to pretend that Islam means peace. ...
This is leftism's great strength: it's all white lies. That's its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they're installed. But because it depends on—indeed is defined by—describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence -- he's not crippled, dear, he's handicapped; it's not a slum, it's an inner city; it's not surrender, it's redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.
Challenging a person like Klavan on his beliefs is like trying to persuade a Yankees fan to switch his allegiance to the Red Sox.
Anyone who thinks that calling somebody a cripple and disliking the novels of Alice Walker make him a conservative is conjuring up an ideology around his pet peeves. I am a conservative because pitchers should not be allowed to bat! I vote Republican because Dick York was the better Darren! I support Shadow President Cheney because he will never let the rabbit eat Trix!
One of my favorite political discussions of the past year took place among the right-wing judicial activists on ConfirmThem.Com during Harriet Miers' "I would make a gooder Constitution pick me thx bye" bid to reach the Supreme Court.
For the most part, the site's published by writers whose beliefs would, in my view, destroy constitutional jurisprudence until my grandchildren are old enough to choose whether to carry my great-grandchildren to term. (Give these folks another two justices and it's not a choice at all.)
But when I read the site, it was clear that many Confirm Them contributors were ideological conservatives rather than partisan home-teamers, driven in their thinking by the philosophy of originalism and the quarter-century in which the Federalist Society has been pushing it. When President Bush stepped on their principles by choosing someone who had no track record of support, they didn't let partisanship stop them from rebelling against Bush and helping to scuttle the Miers nomination. Much to their credit -- and to the disadvantage of liberals who'd be better off with her than Alito -- they were revolting.
Though I'm an unabashed liberal and I think they're wrong about the court in every way that matters, I have more in common with those ideologues than I do go-team-goers like Klavans and some of the diarists at Daily Kos.
Rogers, give the guy a break. After all, he's right.
Conservatives have given us many fine things that were then cynically and ruthlessly denied us by liberals: Slavery, monarchy, child labor, limits on voting franchise, miscagenation laws, exhalted status for white males, lynching, segregation, and the Great Depression.
Seriously, though, I find it difficult to swallow the notion that any broadly-defined political orientation could actually be considered completely faultless or completely at fault. It betrays a narrow, judgmental, simplistic view of the world that is wholly at odds with reality.
It is a shame that this sort of discourse has become the norm in American politics. Now more than ever we need sophisticated, results-oriented thinking, and all we seem to get is sound bite appeals to the lizard brain.
What's really interesting to me about Klavan's piece is that he accuses the Liberal camp of all the things the Conservative camp does.
The problem, is of course, that there exist these "camps" in which to imprison our thoughts and actions, allowing ourselves to not only be labeled, but more often than not ignore our own critical thinking skills to side with our team.
It is, of course, ludicrous. The Republican and Democratic parties are both conservative and liberal, depending on how they wish to define those terms. Packaging it up into a convenient label allows power to redefine those labels as appropriate to their situation, so that Big budgets and larger government control over people's lives somehow becomes "Conservative" under GWB, and fiscal responsibility and debt reduction become "Liberal" values.
This self-congratulatory pap is ludicrous.
I'm not getting the team metaphor here, and politics seem to be subordinate to the central point.
The guy seems to be rationalizing desperate loneliness and alienation by claiming, "It's not that I'm an insufferable asshole; it's that everyone else is a big fat phony!"
Holden Caulfield, call your office.
Klavan's piece purports to be about his plight of having to be discourteous in order to tell "the truth." What it really is is a great opportunity for him to skewer liberals and everything he finds in opposition to his own views, without having to support ay of his claims about what liberals supposedly stand for--he presumes that he's right about his views of what liberals stand for, and builds on that assumption to show how tough life is for him.
He definitely seems to share our feckless leader's bent for absolutism--you're either "with 'im or agin 'im," for sure. Maybe that's because he share's our feckless leaders late life conversion to Christianity.
Klavan, born in 1954, claims to have become a Christian after 35 years of thought and reading. Assuming that he counts his infancy and childhood in that thinking/reading period, he'd have become a Christian some time around 1989. I can't help but wonder if he was this absolutist before that conversion.
Then there's the question of consistency. His claims in the article you excerpt seem just a tad inconsistent with this, from an interview of him in a British crime magazine, said in response to the question "Does your social conscience influence your writing?":
...In the end, the truth is, nobody knows what's right. My liberal friends are always so self-righteous - they think they've got it down pat - but half of what they say is patent nonsense. And my conservative friends are always so angry at the liberals - but they haven't got the answers either. We're all in the dark, acting out of some unknowable mixture of selfishness and whatever it is we call conscience. When you feel that way, as I do, it's pretty hard to pontificate.
I also saw some piece where he was actually bemoaning the lack of civility in modern politics.
On a tangent, note that Klavan is yet another hard right absolutist who seems to have had a pretty easy, maybe even cushy, early life (his dad was a very popular NYC disc jockey that I remember listening to as a kid). Just like Limbaugh. Just like Coulter. Just like O'Reilly. Just like Bush.
Rogers sighs, " . . . [I]reduces politics to a sports rivalry in which your team rox and the other team sux."
You juxtapose this comment with your editor's headline, just below?
Ninth Abramoff Conviction: House Staffer Mark Zachares
Then read down the list below that, and find that this site, your own, is elevating one party over the other, party over nation, in order to force a loss for your 'opponents,' and where there is even a thread about the evil rich . . . no 'liberals' them!
I suppose you have other things on your mind, and consistency can go take a flying leap . . . right? This is all about some 'plot' to address the 'fairness doctrine' and 'bring civility back into politics" (after we destroy the Republican party and any ability it might have to recover. . .)
And, by golly and by gee, you consider the intelligence of your readers to be somewhere around absolute zero . . . sheep who will chew cud and swallow. . . the whole bolus of it . . .
after we destroy the Republican party and any ability it might have to recover
No need for us to do it. The Rethugs are doing a wonderful job of activating their self-destruct sequence. We just want to watch.
"there is even a thread about the evil rich"
No, that's what you've twisted it into. There's a thread about the absurdity of treating the rich as a bunch of victims who need to be protected. Slight difference.
Odd that you seem to view whether one is a cheerleader for the rich, and interest in the consequences of the Abramoff scandal, as indicative of political affiliation.
If I hadn't read a thousand columns like this by liberals, I would probably find Klavan's piece more irksome. But it's not exactly news that if one is interested in retaining one's liberal bona fides, there are certain thoughts and ideas that are better left unexpressed.
"If I hadn't read a thousand columns like this by liberals, I would probably find Klavan's piece more irksome."
So the fact that Klavan's piece irks people on this site means it doesn't irk you? Does it work the same in reverse--you get irked by things that don't irk us?
I never realized we had such power over other people.
Heh. Reading the replies here, it is easy to distinguish who's "team rox and the other team sux" according to the popular opinion. By your very own words, you've proven Klaven correct, at least to some degree. The fact that anyone can proudly claim anything generally benevolent about EITHER of the major parties in this country is laughable, at best.
The reason it sounds like he is waxing poetic over his conservative camp and sounds to liberals like he is touting their ideals should tell you something. Both parties are the same flavor with different wrappers on them. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee, people. The Democrats are no better or worse than the Republicans and vice versa.
Then again, if you are happy that you only got to choose from a lackluster traitor or a retarded draft-dodger in the last election, our wonderful two-party system is probably just what you need. I, for one, am tired to trying to discern the lesser of the two evils every 4 years and ending up in a mess like we have now.
Bottom line...current American politics ARE team sports and popularity contests within the framework of those teams. To deny that is simply hogwash.
Politics is not a team sport.
Anyone who subscribes to the notion that it is, does themselves a big disservice. The thing about supporting a sports team is that it's unconditional love, in a sense. Win or lose, good or bad, you support them cos you're loyal and they are your team. Any call by the ref against your team is a bad call. Any call for your team is a good one. Yet, what is desirable in a sports fan is not good for a political animal of any stripe. When you're entire political discourse boils down to "Rah Rah Rah!" you have stopped being a rational animal and become a rationalising animal. All that said, it's my considered opinion that the left are far and away better at being constructively self critical than the right. The left are, more days than not, self correcting. And that is a beautiful thing.
Speaking or "correcting"...
Andrew Klavan is a novelist?
That's rather funny, in that, when reading over his absolutist drivel one hardly finds anything novel about it at all.
Same old story. Same sad song. Misrepresenting positions of the left and then calling them lies is hardly novel. You can proably turn on FOX News right this second and you'll find more of the same.
Andrew's admiration for Rush and Sean Hannity's ability to put themselves out there and take the unpopular but totally factual stance is a real gem. Of course, it's not the funniest bit in this literary circle jerk of one. For that we have to turn to...
"I see it in Southern California, in the bleeding heart of leftism, where I live. I've been banned from my monthly poker game, lost tennis partners, lost friends--not because I'm belligerent..."
Well, not just because of that, Andrew thinks.
Nice to know that at least on some level Andrew realises he's a bit of a dick. Now if we can just get him to stop whining too.
No, politics shouldn't be a team sport, but the extreme right in this country has done its best to make it that way, on the theory that they are better than liberals at fighting that kind of war.
If you go back to the quotes I posted in the thread on the Hitler poster, you can see that that the estremists have deliberately fostered this attitude:
Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions. Eric Heubeck, in The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement, 2001 (from Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation).
You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can only do it by following Lenin's injunction: 'In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent's argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth. David Horowitz, in The Art of Political War: How Republicans can Fight to Win.
We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals--and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship. Grover Norquist
That attitude was carried over to the way that the Republican majority conducted business in congress, and exemplifies the way the conservative talk radio heroes operate.
You don't have to love Democrats to find this crap repulsive, but if you find this crap repulsive, you need to look at who created it and why, and what can be done about it.