In yesterday’s Goldberg File email, Jonah Goldberg talked about making a speech at Washington College the night before:
During the Q&A a very attractive girl who’d spent much of my talk rolling her eyes and chatting with her friend, asked me a pretty typical question. She asked, more or less: How can you expect the Republicans to have a future if you go around antagonizing liberals, who are half the country, the way you did tonight?
I responded with a few points. First, I did my “Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield.” Then I did “dog pointing at water fowl.” I followed up with “Billy Hayes furiously pointing at Rifki in Midnight Express.” And I closed with the crowd pleaser “Bill Clinton pointing out his nightly selections from the intern pens.”
Once I was done with my interpretive dance “points,” I adjusted my form fitting unitard and made some verbal ones.
I explained that I was not there as a Republican and that I don’t speak for the Republican party. The GOP is simply the more conservative of the two political parties and as such it gets my vote. I speak for myself, for conservatism as I understand it, and — it should go without saying — the riders of Rohan.
Second, liberals — as in people who actually call themselves liberals — make up only about 20 percent of the electorate, while people who self-identify as conservatives make up 40 percent of the country. So even if I was speaking for Republicans, the idea that the key to Republican success lies in avoiding antagonizing liberals is just plain weird. Besides, liberals have had a great run of late antagonizing conservatives. Shouldn’t that mean liberals are doomed?
I made a few other (verbal) points. Deep Space Nine, much like Brussels sprouts and Swiss armed neutrality, is underrated, etc. But here’s the interesting part (“We’ll be the judge of that,” — The Couch). A central theme of my speech was that conservatives should spend less time demonizing liberals and more time trying to understand why so many people find the liberal message of “community” appealing.
I suggested that maybe what she took for my “antagonizing” could more plausibly be described as me offering “hard truths” she didn’t like hearing. This made her quite angry. One might even say it antagonized her. And that’s fair enough. No one likes being told that their anger stems not from being wrongly insulted but from being rightly told that they’re wrong (“Gimme a second; I’m still trying to follow that” — The Couch).
Still, I find this representative of a lot of campus liberals. They seem to think that the first sin of conservatism is disagreeing with liberals, as if it is simply mean-spirited to think liberals are wrong.
Facts, Horrible Facts
Second perhaps only to the glories of women’s prison movies, this was one of the earliest themes of the G-File, going back to the ancient origins of National Review Online, when I would personally tattoo this “news”letter on the back of a dwarf and have him run to each reader and take his shirt off. It was really inefficient.
What was I talking about? Oh right, the “meanness” of disagreement. Without getting into the weeds of the immigration or gun-control debates, there’s a certain liberal attitude that disagreement is just nasty. If you point out that background checks or “assault weapon” bans won’t work, the response is anger and frustration that you just don’t get it.
That’s because, as Emerson once said, “There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.” Whenever I talk to liberal college kids, I think of this line, because when I disagree with them it hurts their feelings (I would say their tears are delicious, but even I recoil at the image of me running out into the audience and licking the cheeks of weepy college kids).