Monday, August 18, 2003

Big Lies

I haven't yet bought Joe Conason's new book, Big Lies, because I have to many other things on my reading list right now. But Salon this week is publishing excerpts from the book and I would recommend reading them. Today they have published the introduction. I'd like to draw special attention to the concluding paragraphs:
This book confronts the biggest lies deployed by conservatives against liberals, progressives, and Democrats. Its purpose is not to defend every liberal position or politician. (It also isn't intended to disprove every right-wing myth, some of which are so widely disbelieved as to be irrelevant -- such as the Bush administration's insistence that its goals include cleaner air and water.) It doesn't suggest a conspiracy against liberals, or argue that Democrats haven't brought any of their problems on themselves. And it shouldn't be taken as a blanket indictment of Republicans or conservatives. That last point is of special importance to me. The spiteful, malignant discourse that became so common during the Clinton era has done lasting damage to democratic participation and civility in our political system. Although as a matter of literary convenience I frequently refer to conservatives and Republicans, I certainly don't believe that every conservative or every Republican is responsible for the offenses discussed in these pages. Unlike Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter, I also don't believe that my political adversaries are uniformly "no good," or un-American, or greedy, or bigoted, or stupid. I shouldn't have to say this, but I know from personal experience that generosity, compassion, and wisdom cross all partisan and ideological boundaries. I married into a family that includes Republican conservatives who happen to be among the finest people I have ever known. My wife's grandfather is an unrepentant right-winger who likes to tweak me with editorials from the New York Post and Internet jokes about dumb Democrats. He is also a true patriot and a gentleman who has treated me with kindness from the first day we met, despite my obnoxious opinions. I would much prefer an atmosphere that encourages friendship rather than hatred among Americans, regardless of ideology and party. Unfortunately, I don't think there's much chance of that happy outcome until liberals learn to hit back hard. The classic American hero is the underdog who wins respect by fighting back against a bully. Sometimes the bully just limps away to nurse his wounds. Sometimes the bully wises up and mends his ways. Occasionally, the underdog and the bully become best friends. But the underdog who dares to fight back is always better off.
I think that is the point I have been trying to make for several years now. The Democrats, for to long, have been dominated by an attitude that they shouldn't fight a battle that they aren't guaranteed to win. This has only lead creedence to the conception of liberals as wimps and has done NOTHING to improve their electoral prospects. Any politician who is not willing to risk defeat is simply not going to achieve anything great. Sometimes the hopeless battle is the only one worth fighting. And sometimes, the hopeless battle turns out to be not so hopeless. Which is why I support Howard Dean.

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