Friday, May 19, 2006

Hey Fool! You Oughta Enroll in Conservative Skool!

I’m happy to see that my fair state has a spanking new right-wing training camp. It’s called the Minnesota Academy for Conservative Leadership and seems to have been put together by the same claque of professional ideologues behind many of the state’s musical-chairs thinktanks (or, as I like to call them, “bullshit factories”). According to their website, “the Academy was created to meet the challenges that conservatives face here in Minnesota from the burgeoning amount of liberal grassroots organizations pouring millions of dollars to reverse the recent trend of conservative electoral victories.” How will they accomplish this noble goal? By bringing forth a doughty band of Republi-warriors, of course: “Only by training and educating a conservative grassroots army, we will be able to defeat the liberals at the polls and make Minnesota a more conservative state for generations to come...

It sounds great. If I had the spare money and were I willing to spend a weekend sitting around in a doughnut-scented conference room with a bunch of eager-eyed Young Republican types, I would go to some of these seminars and find out just what they’re about. As it stands, I can only imagine some of the course offerings:

THEOLOGY 101: Here the right-wing blowhards-in-training learn the golden rule of the conservative movement: that no matter the question, the answer is always conservatism. Conservatism is sacrosanct and infallible. It has all the answers. It is never wrong, it is only wronged by politicians and insiders who fail to be pure in their devotion to it. If a Republican’s policies fail, they fail because they were either (a) stymied by traitorous liberals (see DEMONOLOGY 101) or (b) not conservative enough. When Bush’s approval ratings were sky-high and the country bent to his command, he was a vehicle for the glory of conservatism. Now that large swathes of the nation have come around to the view that his administration is wretched, incompetent and dangerous, Bush has become a disappointing betrayer of the true faith. Conservatism is perfect, the remedy to all problems and the solution for every riddle. Let this truth into your heart and what seems dubious will become reasonable, the obnoxious will become ordinary, and Sean Hannity will be revealed as a great thinker.

And how is this done? Simple. All you have to do is take every noble quality you can think of—common sense, self-reliance, perseverance, decency, honor, respect, compassion, valor, courage, etc., etc.—and claim them as “conservative”. All your opponents will have left is low comedy and sarcasm. Therefore, you win. With conservatism, the conservatives always win. The liberals can triumph election after election and socialism can descend over America, it doesn’t matter. It won’t diminish your holiness one bit. It cannot tarnish the sacred truths your Strausses and Hayeks and Ayn Rands have dispensed. When your life is through and you, naturally, ascend to heaven, you will sit at the right-hand of God, the ultimate free-marketeer.

Kids have to learn these things. Otherwise they might end up as RINOs. And that’s almost worse than being a Democrat these days.

ADVANCED RIGHT-WING RHETORIC: Here all the aspiring drive-time radio deejays will become well-versed in the jujitsu of the Professionally Outraged. After all, what cultural warmonger can survive without mastering tactics like these:

#1) The Pile-On: For this to work, you have to wait until somebody somewhere, preferably a left-wing professor no one’s ever heard of, says something ill-advised. Once that has happened you must immediately write ten thousand words about the tremendous affront to decency that the person in question has committed. Shamelessly position yourself as a defender of virtue and a paragon of fairness and reason. Use whatever leaps of logic you can think of in order to connect the ill-advised statement with the contemporary liberalism as a whole. Once all this is accomplished (or, in your mind, “proven”) spend the next five weeks castigating every liberal you can find for failing to condemn the ill-advised statement strongly enough. From that point on, refuse to acknowledge the validity of any position held by anyone who hasn’t adequately expressed their disgust at the ill-advised statement. This is also know as “The Ward Churchill”

#2) The Puff Adder: Get angry. Or at least pretend to get angry. Pour out all your venom on whatever the target du jour is—be it immigrants, Iranians, or Nancy Pelosi. Don’t hold back at all. If you want to call John Murtha a pants-pissing appeaser coward girlie-man, go on and do it, no matter how tasteless that might strike a soberer eye. Conservatives, those who wield the true faith, get license in these matters: you can hurl all the invective you like and still be a member of the civilized party. And whenever some sissy-assed liberal complains about you, you’ve got four strategies you can pick from: (a) go on and insult them too, (b) point out that you were just trying to be funny and isn’t a shame how liberals are so humorless these days?, (c) point out that it’s not a bad thing to be passionate about the issues of the day, or (d) smoothly transition into...

#3) The Switcheroo: This is the subtle device by which you accuse your accursed foe of having committed or countenanced the same behavior that they have just criticized. This is also known as the “But Bill Clinton Did It Too” move. If a liberal speaks about the dangers of unauthorized wiretapping, you angrily point out how they weren’t making a big fuss about Bill Clinton pardoning his friends. If they complain about unethical behavior among Congressional Republicans, you call them hypocrites for not complaining as loudly about all of Bill Clinton’s decades-old transgressions. Some might say that this is a fallacious way to argue a point. They might say that, since you tacitly admit that the conservative behavior is wrong, all you do here is merely impugn the person on the other side for not having said something else. No matter, though. After all, in conservative movement rhetoric, impugning the other guy is the main thing.

#4) The This-Matter-Is-Settled: This is what you pull whenever some liberal wants to argue about single-payer health care, the Iraq War, the social safety net, corporate welfare, or whatever else they’re always on about. When faced with this sort of wonkish blather, you simply yawn, dash off a few patronizing insults, and point your huffing nanny-statist in the direction of a couple of articles which “prove” how incredibly asinine all their opinions are. These articles will, of course, usually be poorly-sourced blog screeds and thinktank drivel, but to you they are as good as holy writ. Just remember this maxim: bias is always the other guy’s problem. The New York Times is commie dreck, but the National Review is scrupulous and fair. The “mainstream media” always has a sinister agenda, but your favorite rightist bloggers are just concerned citizens. This is one of the beautiful things about contemporary conservatism: it’s always everyone else who has the ideology. As an aspirant to the mindset, you’ll learn all about it in your next class...

ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY: Politics is a great vocation for people who want to project their inner conflicts and latent self-loathing onto some nebulous opponent. Here the future Grover Norquists of America will learn that any number of unflattering personality traits can be vanquished simply by attaching them to the figure of “the liberal”. You’ll learn how to make a point out of your own longed-for righteousness by accusing this empty social category of being intolerant, oversensitive, ignorant, arrogant, sex-obsessed, dead-set against sex, hypocritical, hyper-critical, slothful, puritanical, mendacious, hostile, effete, bigoted, short-sighted, intellectually impotent, zealously partisan, humorless, unserious, materialistic, hippieish, brutish, crude, Machiavellian, feminine, haughty, obnoxious and cursed with heads full of poo. Just as everything decent and fine eventually leads to conservatism, all that is wrong and unpleasant can be tied back to liberalism. Only hard-core conservatives really think this way, but aren’t hard-core conservatives the only ones who count? Everyone else is a potential convert, an apostate, or an enemy. You can believe yourself into greatness. It’s sort of a mind over matter thing: being right comes from having the right right-wing opinions. Nonsense, perhaps? But at the Minnesota Academy for Conservative Leadership, nonsense will be the food that nourishes your hungry soul...

APPLIED COSMETOLOGY: Everybody knows that government is a dirty game. You can’t seize it and keep it without getting into bed with some shady characters. Our country just doesn’t work that way. How, then, does a good-hearted young conservative square this with their down-home values and their cherished principles? Well, you’re going to learn! Through a secret and highly-sophisticated process known as “bald-faced lying”, any chipper right-winger can get down into the sewer only to climb out again smelling like jasmine and hyssop. Marvel as our local Brylcreemed Taliban, who have more use for the apocalypse than for democracy, are made over into simple God-fearing folks who just want to be left alone to worship in peace! Swoon as a pack of gun-toting white supremacists magically become true patriots and steadfast guardians of our borders! Thrill as noxious hatemongering harpies are gussied up into take-no-crap comedians! The amazing thing about conservatism is that it can make anyone pretty! Don’t you want it to make you pretty too?