Opting Out of the Political “Base War”

I am a bit reluctant to cross-post this here since it isn’t necessarily about Georgia politics per se. But I will be presumptuous in saying that I believe that Erick desires Peach Pundit to be a place for both Democrats and Republicans alike and I thought this might be a good conversation starter. Decaturguy made the observation on his blog that our get together a couple of weeks ago was attended primarily by Republicans. Well, Decaturguy, I’m hoping that we can change that next time.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am and have always been a very idealistic person. I can remember in high school and college people telling me that I am too idealistic and assuming that it would wear off with age. Well, it hasn’t. I’m in my mid-30s, married with two children and as idealistic as ever.So you can imagine my dismay at many of the cynical reactions that I have received in response to my article last week about Ann Coulter. I guess I expected better from people in the conservative movement. I’m not sure why.

I am saddened by the inconsistency of so many in the conservative movement. For years, I have heard conservatives become outraged over the extreme rhetoric of leftist spokesmen such as Gore Vidal, Ward Churchill, Harry Belafonte, or Cynthia McKinney. Now I question the sincerity of such criticism. If Coulter’s “hyperbole” is acceptable, then what is the substance of the criticism of the likes of Belafonte other than the fact that conservatives disagree with him?

I am even more saddened by the Christians who defend Coulter, particularly her remarks about the 9/11 widows. Whether or not the 9/11 widows are “exploiting their victim status” to make anti-Bush rants doesn’t excuse Coulter’s remarks about them. Whether she is correct or not doesn’t make what she said right. Saying that these women enjoyed their husbands’ deaths is unconscionable and is a sin. If I made such a public comment, I can guarantee that my church would rightfully call me out for it and ask for my repentance.

I Am A Liberal?
Perhaps the silliest comments I have received are those from Fr. Japes of the New Pantagruel claiming that I am a closet liberal or those at Redstate claiming that I am a Kos Kid. You can’t imagine the chuckles my friends get at such ludicrous claims.

Since when did I take some loyalty oath to never criticize anyone else who claims to be conservative? I am appalled at the implication these days that if one doesn’t fall lock-step along with the freakin’ conservative Pied Pipers, then one isn’t a “real conservative”.

Last I checked, conservativism was about IDEAS. Not personalities. Not political parties. Not administrations.

If agreeing with everything that comes out of the mouths of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, or Rush Limbaugh is a requirement to be a conservative, then I am out baby. That isn’t loyalty. That is a cult of personality.

All Your Base Are Belong To Us
So what is going on here? Why does it appear that conservatives seem willing to sell out to the idea of “the ends justify the means”? The BASE.

It is all about the base. Over the past six years, it has become political gospel that the way to win elections is to play to the base and ignore those in the middle. This is pretty much Karl Rove’s MO and it has worked. And the Democrats are copying this strategy as well. But to what end?

Well, unfortunately for conservatives, they elected a president who hasn’t turned out to be particularly conservative. It is also obvious that this strategy is becoming more and more untenable. The “Base War” strategy assumes a “50/50” country. The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t take much of a slip to lose completely. Alienate your base and you are doomed.

And so how do we keep the base energized? With willing pundits like Coulter ready to throw raw meat to the team. I am just waiting for Coulter to claim that the Democratic Party is the party of Satan. Oops. I suppose she has already hinted at that.

And more unfortunately, this strategy has left many Americans feeling left out of the political process. Actually most Americans. Because the base of each party is actually quite small.

Every week I hear someone say that they feel like a man without a political party. I think many of you can sympathize with that. And this feeling isn’t just based upon where each party stands on the issues. It is based upon concepts of civility, respect for others, and common goals.

Morris Fiorina and James Davison Hunter are both correct. It is a minority of Americans who are fighting this battle, this “culture war”. It is time for the rest of us to opt out of this war.

The Game
I have had many people say to me over the years that I need to lose the idealism and just learn to play the game.

Well listen, I know how to play the game. I’ve been there, done that.

But I’m not going to do it anymore. The game is flawed. And most people know it.

I’m ready to change the game. With your help, I’m going to play a different game.

Now I am certainly not naive enough to think that we don’t have real differences in this country. But I am naive enough to believe that we can discuss our differences without demonizing our opponents.

My blog is proof of this idea. Some of the staunchest conservatives I have ever met comment regularly here. Yet many liberals such as Expat Teacher, Faithful Progressive, gurufrisbee, and rjohnson contribute greatly to our dialogue there. Do we usually agree? Rarely. But I am pretty sure we have never had a flame-war there. And I have trememdous respect, even affection, for my liberal friends that are part of this blog. So I know that it can happen, this meeting of the Left and Right.

So I am looking for more teammates in the new game. Think you are up for the challenge? I urge you to join our conversation here. We are going to change the game.

27 comments

  1. GAWire says:

    I don’t understand what the game is, one because I spent so much time writing my long post on abortion and can’t read all of your’s; and, two, I don’t consider politics/policy a game. Chess is a game. Politics impacts and changes lives throughout the world.

    Dignan, I see what you’re saying and realize that you are not into “the game” but I am just pointing out that I take issue with College Republican/Karl Rove wanna-be types thinking they are puppetmasters or something.

    I also would like to say something about Ann Coulter, which I didn’t say on your last post, quite frankly, because I rarely if ever discuss this type of stuff (today I am indulging my opinions taking away from billable hours). Ann Coulter is not an expert. Coulter says what she does to keep up her appearances on Hannity and scare the world into buying her books. Who cares what Ann Coulter says and why is it a big discussion in the media? In blogs, sure … have the discussion and make your point, but when I am watching the news, I don’t care to see reports that Ann Coulter is ranting and raving over who knows what. I agree with her stance on some political issues and we agree in the sense that we are generally GOP conservatives, but get any more specific than that, and she is just annoying.

  2. Camilla Thrilla says:

    I think Ann Coulter should enter the Lt. Gov race here in Georgia. It would aleast make the Lt. Gov race interesting. Ray “States Rights” Mcberry and Coulter would make a great ticket.

  3. rugby_fan says:

    Since when did I take some loyalty oath to never criticize anyone else who claims to be conservative? I am appalled at the implication these days that if one doesn’t fall lock-step along with the freakin’ conservative Pied Pipers, then one isn’t a “real conservative

  4. Fiddes says:

    “[T]oday I am indulging my opinions taking away from billable hours.”

    Boy, I thought I was the only one (grin).

  5. Demonbeck says:

    I am generally not offended by Ann Coulter, because usually we are on the same side of an issue. However, there are times where she goes too far in her attempts to shock and be anti-PC that she actually seems to forget what she is arguing. People like Ann Coulter, Al Franken and Michael Moore are all necessary evils…they make us regular folks seem more sane.

    With regards to her comments about 9/11 widows and folks like Cindy Sheehan, I think she is absolutely correct. Allow me to explain my point:

    At the US Capitol, there is a Jesus mannequin that used to be placed on the House and Senate steps prior to many key votes supported or opposed by the Christian Right. THe message was simple: “Jesus wants you to vote this way or that.” It was an effective argument and very tough to argue with. This is why people quote scripture when having arguments, because the Bible is infallible. However, at what point does that Jesus mannequin begin to lose its effectiveness? It is not popular to say amongst fellow conservatives, but after arguing with non-religious people until you are blue in the face, one must realize that religion may not be as important to your adversary as it is to you.

    The same goes for 9/11 widows and the like. Liberal groups trot out these mannequins to stump their points of view, but after seeing it over and over again for issue after issue, when does their effectiveness lose its luster?

    No one is going to say that the widows of 9/11 don’t deserve their grief, what Ann is saying is that these outspoken widows have turned their grief into a stump speech. It has become politicized and is therefore no longer holy.

  6. Demonbeck says:

    So if you are a an avid Pro-choice religious nut and you argue for Christian Right Issues and Pro-choice issues, could you be described as a “Base Jumper”?

  7. Michael C says:

    Standing by your principles, Playing the base war, or whatever you call it is why we are here. Lets face it we are all the minority, both the bases of the left and the right.. Not everyone eats, drinks, and lives this stuff as we do. But we the party bases are what holds elected officials accountable, and we want our voices heard.

    This argument is usualy thrown at conservatives, rarely at the left, We are the lemmings, kool aid dinkers, mind numb robots, just waiting for Rush Limbaugh’s next instruction. Maybe its because conservatives believe in something, and liberals believe in everything. To be a liberal means to believe in whatever crosses your mind that day, except being pro-life and accepting personal accountability. To be a conservative means you believe in a coherant set of ideals. Conservatives believe in absoluts. There is right or wrong, black and white, not varying shades of grey. We reject moral relativism.

    For this we are often lumped together. Thats fair, but it is not because we do not think on our own, it is because our core principles come from the same place, the in-errant word of God. Even non-Christian conservative harbor these same values. Liberals do not have this common core, they derive theirs from their own feelings. To the left there is no absolut truth.

    Ann Coulter said what she said to sell her book. We all know that. We also know what she said of these 9/11 widows has a ring of truth to it. However crass and insensitive her tone. But take note that there are conservatives who have condemned her words. Plenty here. Please name a Liberal, not a moderate, who hass condemned the crass remarks of Cindy Sheehan, or these widos?

  8. Mike Hassinger says:

    Michael C. said:
    “Conservatives believe in absoluts.”

    Well, some of us believe in Ketel Ones. And some in Finlandias. We ARE, after all, a big tent.

    And as far as our “core principles coming from the in-errant word of God,” I think you’re stretching there, unless by “God” you mean Barry Goldwater.

    Dignan, you give Coulter way too much credit.

  9. duluthmom says:

    How are the widows’ comments crass or their actions repugnant? Why don’t they have the right to voice their opinion about the nation’s response to an event that impacted them far more than most of the nation? No one is forcing you or Anne or the president to agree with them.

    In 2004, I witnessed many Republicans who embraced the Swift Boat Veterans comments and political actions. Supporters defended the SBV with comments like “they were in a unique position that gave them the right to comment on how they perceive Kerry”.

    The same can be said for the 9/11 widows–they were/are in a unique position that gives them the right to comment on the President.

    Does that mean you have to agree with them? Of course not!

    However, Coulter (as well as others) who supported the SBV but denounce the 9/11 widows can’t have it both ways. If someone feels they are in a unique position to comment, then they should be treated with courtesy, no matter if you agree with them or not.

    Coulter is a vile woman because she attacked the women personally, rather than the substance of their message. I was watching the morning she was on the Today show and was appalled that someone could imply via the title of the book to be so God-like, yet spew such hatred.

  10. Magnus says:

    Dignan, how can you say “Whether she is correct or not doesn’t make what she said right.” If she is correct in her remarks then what she said is right. Since when did we get to the point where we can no longer be offended? Her point was that there are some people out there who if you publicly disagree with then you are wrong and evil for doing so. As we can see by the response she is obviously correct. Ann made a good point but people today push this whole “love everyone, perfect world” mentality and that is just not the case. We are censoring ourselves from free speech if everytime someone disagrees with a person we feel we have to keep our comments to ourselves. The families of those who died should be treated with respect for their loses but if they want to make personal judgements on their own behalf then they are no longer protected by the lose of their loved one.

  11. Demonbeck says:

    No, she attacked the idignation people have when someone disagrees with them. They have a right to their opinion and their voice, but we should have a right to disagree with that opinion or voice without fear of retribution for doing so.

    The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth used their personal experience to directly counter claims being made by John Kerry. 9/11 Widows (or whatever their formal name is) are using their grief to provide a podium to voice their opinions. These are two completely different situations.

  12. Michael C says:

    Mike, I believe you are touting neo-conservative views, not conservative.

    Honestly I have heard very little of the 9/11 widows before this except that they blame President Bush for the death of their loved ones, which is completly absurd.

    I am not saying that the widows do not have freedom of speech to say whatever they want. What I am saying is that if you put yourself into the political arena do not expect to be shielded by the fact you are a widow.

    Everyone has a right to criticise the President. We all have. But everyone who does opens themself to criticism as well. Its a beautiful thing, free speech.

  13. duluthmom says:

    Demonbeck:
    You said “we should have a right to disagree with that opinion or voice without fear of retribution for doing so.”

    I agree completely; and the widows never said you or Ann or the President couldn’t disagree with them. Face it, the only one dishing out the retribution was Coulter herself. If you can show me quotes from the 911 widows prior to Coulter’s attack that prove otherwise I’d like to see them.

    As for merely attacking their indignation, claiming that “these broads” are raking in millions while enjoying their husband’s deaths isn’t an attack on anything except the women themselves.

  14. Demonbeck says:

    Duluthmom –

    Yes, but for a public official to question publicly the intentions of these widows would have been political suicide, regardless of their message.

    No one ever said you can’t kick a cute and fuzzy bunny in the face either, but do you think your Congressman is going to do it in front of a camera?

  15. duluthmom says:

    So their true crime is that the public officials might get some bad PR if they disagree with the widows, not the widows’ righteous indignation as you previously claimed.

  16. Demonbeck says:

    I never claimed the widows righteous anything. I claimed that some people would be indignant if someone publicly disagreed with the widows based upon the fact that they lost their husband in a terror attack. The widows know this and are playing it up in order to move an agenda. In essence, they are politicizing their grief.

    Frankly, it’s a poor example. A better one would be politicizing the death of American soldiers and how people use the deaths of fellow Americans to further their own agenda. It’s as if they are almost cheering for Americans to die.

  17. duluthmom says:

    If Coulter had said something like “the 9/11 widows are about as qualified to dictate policy as I am to teach an class on etiquette”, then I’d have no problem with her criticism because both are true. The widows aren’t qualified to dictate policy and Ann certain has proven she has no manners.

    If the widows had attacked Coulter personally, like calling her a skank, and she returned in kind, it would be just a nasty cat fight.

    However, Coulter made an unprovoked attack on these women based on her (and apparently your) misguided belief that these women think that no one will contradict their claims, and she made it nasty and personal. Since when was she (or anyone else) given the mystical ability to read these women’s minds and conclude that they think they are invincible to criticism? Or that they ever stated it? It is merely her distorted impression that she’s attempting to project onto these women as if it were fact.

    The truth is she doesn’t like their politics and instead of sticking to criticism based on substance, she stooped to a new low and attacked them personally. That is what I find inexcusable.

  18. Demonbeck says:

    The only reason these women are in the spotlight is because of their grief. They are using that to dictate policy. They are dancing on the graves of their dead husbands.

  19. Demonbeck says:

    Actually, I personally blame The Political Vine – a blog that is not nearly as refined as Peach Pundit.

  20. Bill Simon says:

    Oil should be refined, but quality opinions, like those offered by The Political Vine for the last 5.95 years, do not require refinement to the discriminating reader.

    Cheers!

  21. duluthmom says:

    “The only reason these women are in the spotlight is because of their grief.”

    Agreed.

    “They are using that to dictate policy.”

    Correction: they are TRYING to use that to dictate policy. To my knowledge, it hasn’t worked as of yet, hence the reason that few had heard of them until Coulter’s attack.

    “They are dancing on the graves of their dead husbands.”

    Libel.

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