Sunday, October 02, 2005

Outrage vs Cleverness

TAPPED blogged One of the reasons the left has such a difficult time moving public opinion is that, all too often, it reacts with cleverness to situations where outrage would be a more appropriate response.

I seldom see the Left being anything but outraged, because they are outraged at being out of power. A little cleverness would be nice.
Bill Bennett yesterday offered left bloggers a golden opportunity to make political hay, and what do we have? The spectacle of them explaining his remarks away in order to prove ... what exactly? That they, too, studied Latin and philosophy?
Maybe they were just unwilling to try to blame him for one sentence, when his next sentence said exactly what theoutraged Left is screaming.
Let me break the significance of this down in strict political terms. The last time Democrats gained seats in Congress, in 1998, it was thanks, in part, to unusually heavy voter turnout by southern African Americans. John Edwards, who has since become a welcome voice for the poor and middle class, would never have made it to the national stage without their support. Furthermore, one of the very few times I've seen the GOP compelled to reach out to its base -- as opposed to the press corps -- about something a Democrat has said was after Howard Dean repeated, in a somewhat distorted fashion, a fact from Hillary Clinton's ground-breaking speech on abortion, in which she noted that abortion rates had risen in some states under Bush. Few things outrage the conservative base more than the idea that one of their own might be doing something to promote abortion.
And few things outrage the liberal base more than the idea that anyone might be doing something that does not promote abortion.
So Bennett's comment is, essentially, a political twofer: a prominent values conservative talking about abortion in a way that could upset conservatives, and a statement that could scarcely have been better designed to outrage a critical part of the Democratic base.

Jonah Goldberg blogged It certainly reads to me like she's upset that liberal bloggers are being too intellectually honest. The upshot of Franke-Ruta's position seems to be that deliberately distorting Bill Bennett's intent and meaning is a small price to pay to villify him unfairly and for the added bonus of angering-up southern blacks in order to get limousine liberals like John Edwards elected. And if Matt Yglesias or Brad DeLong see it differently, they should just be quiet -- for the sake of the movement.
That kind of movement is best initiated by a dose of a strong laxative.
I find this very illuminating. We get a lot of grief around here from time to time for supporting conservative politicians or figures -- including Bennett -- when liberals insist the only intellectually honest position is opposition and outrage. Therefore we must be operating in bad faith. And here we have someone at The American Prospect all but declaring that intellectual honesty is corrupting liberalism and its nakedly partisan ambition to attain political power.
If the objective is to excise intellectual honesty from liberalism, they are certainly achieving their objective
Nice movement she's working on.

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