07 February 2008

Invincible Arrogance?

[04 Feb 2008]

While watching the Super Bowl at a crowded house party, I was chatting with a longtime acquaintance when the topic of Super-Duper Tuesday came up. OK, as I political junkie, I precipitated the subject. I remarked that the Giants/Patriots Superbowl game was as unexpectedly exciting as this year’s Presidential Primaries. I noted that McCain was coming back from the political graveyard being on the verge of locking up the nomination, and there was a real horserace amongst donkeys for what was supposed to be a coronation for Hillary.

My friend made a flippant remark that most people are idiots who don’t pay attention when they vote. I wished there was a way to certify that voters had at least considered the major public policy issues during a campaign before they cast their ballots. My interlocutor complimented me for being an intelligent and informed person and implied that it was people like us who should go to the polls on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, I had to correct her as Virginia, Maryland and DC were not voting until for another week. She was insistent that she would be at the polls on Tuesday morning. I suggested that she might be waiting there alone. Rather than lingering on her factual faux pas, I made a self-deprecating comment, “Well, being a white, male, heterosexual, conservative Republican in the Nation’s Capital, I don’t have that much sway in an election anyway.”

Her eyes grew as wide as pies after my utterance. I guess that she had never pegged me as an “R”, much less a conservative. I suspect that she might have regretted labeling me as informed and intelligent in the political process.

In social settings, one can usually avoid engaging with an ideological adversary by just circulating around the gathering. But since we possessed some coveted comfy seats and had known each other for years–so she did not quickly dart away or try to clumsily change topics.

Clearly, she was a liberal democrat from the wealthy People’s Republic of Montgomery County. She said was happy with a Hillary candidacy or Obama or even John McCain. With that being said, I had to ask in a head to head match up, would she support McCain or Mrs. Bill Clinton? She answered Hillary (of course). Naturally she would choose Obama over McCain. But she added that she would not be embarrassed if McCain was elected, unlike the last eight years. With these sorts of sentiments, no wonder why McCain is the New York Time’s choice for the Republican nomination–he’s acceptable to liberals, but they still won’t vote for him. Yet she seemed puzzled why I expressed reticence about McCain.

I noted that he has a quick temper, that he had relished sticking it to his opponents, and his pugnacious demeanor– all of which projects a mean character. These character traits would project poorly against a cuddly but vacuous campaign like Obama’s. I opined that this was a change election and having a 24 year Washington insider who backstabs his party is not a good match. I speculated that the gauzy press that the press corps awards him as a maverick would disappear the moment he got the nomination, but he would not have the enthusiastic support of the base. I also offered the insider political baseball fact that because he took Federal matching funds, he would be dead in the water from April to September, and he would be overwhelmed by Democrats and liberal “independent” group expenditures that will paint McCain in an unflattering light.

As for McCain’s policies, I pointed to his unpopular quasi amnesty bill last year. My friend asked “How do you solve the immigration problem?” She was shocked when I suggested actually enforcing existing law. I said that I was all for legal immigration but cheaters should not be rewarded with permanently renewable Z visas. I explained that I did not think that all of the illegal immigrants wanted citizenship, but that they wanted to work in this country. If we enforced employer sanctions already on the books, the jobs would dry up and many of them would go home. This would begin to solve the problem. I recognized the difficulty of birthright citizenship, especially when the parents do not have legal standing. She offered an anecdote about Southeastern Asian charter planes full of pregnant mothers trying to get birthright citizenship for the scion.

Another policy point of contention with McCain campaign finance reform. I insisted that there was too little political speech and not too much. The last thing that the government should be doing is regulating free speech 60 days before an election. I made the mistake of broadly stating that McCain’s reform impinged on the Bill of Rights. That brought out a barrage of Bush Derangement Syndrome non-sequiturs to decode. When I could continue, I indicated that many McCain supporters point to his stellar anti-abortion credentials. Yet when it came his position on Wisconsin Right to Life v. Feingold, he chose to favor his beloved campaign finance reforms over his anti-abortion credentials.

My friend managed to control her passion when echoing her endorsement of a liberal’s high sacrament of abortion for keeping professional women in the workplace. That definitely closed that subject, for which I was relieved. But it shifted the focus of the chat to Mike Huckabee, whose candidacy seems to be fueled by fervent pro-life support.

My friend offered disdain for Huckabee, who she said wanted to take Evolution out of the schools. I said that I was not familiar with that campaign promise from Huckabee. While I indicated that I thought Huckabee is a stalking horse spoiler for McCain who is a political populist, I insisted that such an evolution stance is not out totally unreasonable. My friend confidently spoke of the superiority of science over belief in creation by a non-existent God.

Moreover, we have been teaching Darwinism for nearly a century. I countered “Can you use the scientific method to prove evolution?” She conceded that evolution was a theory. There was no way to explore the nuances of intelligent design, so I concurred that as long as evolution was considered a theory rather than being written in stone it should be taught in the schools.

As our interesting exchange of ideas wound down, I suggested that if McCain was the nominee, in the end I might have to hold my nose and vote for him (but I might consider the alternative first) because he would be marginally better on judicial nominations and the War on Terror. My friend insisted that John McCain was against the war in Iraq. I retorted that the war was the only issue that the base of the Republican party supported him on. I noted that McCain wanted to send more troops at first and sought to win the war. She shook her head in disagreement.

I stated unequivically that the only Republican I could never support is Ron Paul because he opposes the War on Terror. She indicated that she thought that Paul was a Democrat. I said that he was barely a Republican and more of a libertarian.

As we concluded, she thanked me for a civil discourse. She said that she always talked to people who agreed with her politically. I noted that so often in this hyper-partisan area that we tend to talk amongst ourselves and this leads to piercing rhetoric without understanding the other side. I smiled and said “Just remember, I am the same person that I was before this evening.” But in the back of my mind, I wonder if this exchange will elicit awkward encounters in the future.

When I ruminated over the exchange, several thoughts came to mind. I am struck by the irony of invincible ignorance of East Coast liberals. In the abstract, they like to think of themselves as being so omniscient and understand. But it was tough not to be gobsmacked by the invincible ignorance displayed by someone who smugly strutted superiority over the ignorance of most of the electorate. From insisting on voting a week early, to wrongly assuming the political party of a major Presidential candidate (well, it was Ron Paul). And then to think that a tough bird like John McCain, who staked his entire political future on supporting the surge in Iraq actually opposed the war and wants a quick troop pullout is mindboggling to me.

We definitely need more political speech, not less. But people need to pay more attention because their livelihoods are at stake. Of course you would expect such sentiments from a political junkie–the type of guy who listens to POTUS ‘08 on satellite radio during a midnight drive across the country. Alas, I’m sure that Bittney’s foibles get more comprehensive consideration from an apathetic American populace. Still, I don’t absolutely right off the intelligence or activism of all Americans. When it seemed like the Senate was going to ram the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform (shamnesty) down the electorate’s throats in May 2007, the vox populi spoke and the measure was defeated. So there is hope. But tragedy TV, gossip about celebutards and sports are a lot easier to absorb and tend not to enflame unbridled emotions (unless you are amongst both Red Sox and Yankee fans).

Being in the political minority where I live, and amongst my professional colleagues, I am used to dialoguing with those whom I disagree. I have internalized Laura Ingraham’s admonition for celebrities to “Shut up and Sing” thus divorcing their antithetical ideas from their artistry.

Yet it surprises me how many “open minded” liberals never return the favor of civil discourse or segregating political opinions from other peoples’ favorable attributes. While I was happy for the fun chat, I have to worry that my interlocutor may shun me because we do not sing from the same political songbook. It surprises me how many liberals never have had a real conversation with a conservative. I am happy to engage in a circus of ideas, but so they will cut and run when there is any opposition, and then they will socially contain you instead of engaging in intellectual detente. Yet such insular liberals will pat themselves on the back for being so open minded.

I am a policy wonk who listens to up to 15 hours of engaging talk radio a day (thank God for time-scaling and the fast forward button). I read many blogs and keep up with current affairs. When I ran into Steve Centani from Fox News, he probably thought that I was being a toady when I facetiously suggested “I’ve tried to convince my wife that our satellite hookup only gets Fox News”, but it wasn’t far from the truth. I don’t expect others to have a similar grasp of facts at their fingertips or to necessarily agree with my conclusions. But so many people are content to stick to their syncophantic circles that they refuse to challenge their invincible ignorance.

The other notion was a cautionary reminder. While I would assess my friend as having a non-debilitating form of Bush Derangement Syndrome, I don’t want to become susceptible to a similar malady of the mind. Those people can be perfectly rational and pleasant, but if you hit on one of their mental hobby horses, they are almost literally start foaming at the mouth and incessantly repeat their mantras.

While I’m sure that I disagree with their premises and certainly their conclusions, I imagine that they are intense ideologues. But to me they lack a internal regulator so their passionate politics metastasises into bilious belligerence that borders on boorishness. So, as much as I detest John McCain’s maverick (conservative back stabbing) politics and feel that he is the wrong candidate for this election cycle, I hope that I do not become unhinged like many Liberal BDS victims or the bizarre babblings of libertarian Paul-istinians (sic).

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