Books done right
(Originally posted to Greater Democracy)
Monday afternoon, I attended a panel discussion on the role of conservative books. Zell Miller’s name caught my eye, and I thought I should try to attend. I know that some of my friends wouldn’t have been able to sit nicely through a panel with people like Zell, but I went and listened.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get it, but I showed up, told them I wasn’t on the RSVP list. They said that wasn’t a problem, and in I went.
Writings that last
A lot of the talk was about Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative, and as I listened to them speak reverently about that book, I wondered where is the great progressive Democrat manifesto? Where is the progressive equivalent of Contract on America?
Perhaps the most interesting part of the discussion was about the importance of Blogs. Several people, including Hugh Hewitt, John Podhoretz, http://www.nationalreview.com/frum/frum-diary.asp >David Frum all spoke about how important blogs are. One person commented that 50% of American’s now get their information from alternative media. Someone else corrected to point out that that includes talk radio. Nonetheless, everyone is watching how the Internet will be used.
During the question and answer period, a student asked how to counter all of the liberalism being espoused by professors. The response was that she should start a blog.
Robert Cox, editor of a blog called The National Debate disagreed with the idea that anyone can blog. His experience has been that the left is far ahead than the right with regards to blogging and that all the tools are funded by the left. The right has by and large abandoned blogging. The idea didn’t seem to resonate with people there.
One of the panelists quoted the adage, ‘never fail to promote people who are in competition with you.’ And put in a plug for www.realclearpolitics.com
A final comment about blogging. Brent Bozell commented about how blogging is new in terms of the technology being used, but it is older than the hills. It is pamphleteering. He sure sounded like one of those liberals at The Tank from Sunday night.
A sense of belonging
One of the areas that was focused on a lot during the panels was what role does conservative books, and for that matter conservative talk radio and conservative blogs play? Is the goal recruitment, or conversion? At what point does conversion come too late? There was talk about young people as a prime audience.
Yet one of the important aspects was the loneliness of being a conservative, especially a conservative in Manhattan. There was talk about how conservatives feel that the dominant culture belittles their beliefs. A key aspect of the conservative media is that it validates the core beliefs of conservatives. Again, it is interesting to see the similarities on the left. The liberal media, and here I’m not talking about the so called liberal media what everyone likes to talk about, but the liberal media as it exists in blogs, on Air America, etc., is validating the core beliefs of progressives.
As an aside, one of the panelists spoke about Air America as being to shrill; not the sort of thing you would want to listen to in a car. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself that I was noting that even this panel had a tendency to get a bit shrill from time to time, and that conservative talk radio seems to have captured the market on shrillness.
Information and energizing the base
One of the other areas that was talked about was that people are hungry for information. They want to be able to argue with as much information as possible around the water cooler.
Ultimately, however, it boils down to energizing the base. One panelist commented that if the conservative base doesn’t get energized, Bush will lose. Again, this reflects some of the discussion on the left about the importance of Michael Moore’s movie to energize the Democratic base.
There was discussion about whether conservatives will abandon Bush. There was frustration expressed that the moderates were getting so much convention air time and that not enough focus was being placed on important issues such as gay marriage and pro-life issues.
If Bush focuses on Gulliani or Pataki voters, it could bode very ill for Bush in this election. The bigger picture is the coming fight for the soul of the Republican Party. It was noted that the panel was taking place in Rockefeller Center.
Changing conservative landscape
Another topic was the changing political landscape. It was noted that conservatives are finding that women’s rights are important. I suspect this was mostly in terms of justifying military actions in Islamic countries. Cal Thomas spoke about the rights of women to read, saying there’s one issue we can all agree upon. A woman in the back muttered, ‘Oh don’t be stupid.’
There was some talk about how the dialog will end up being about the importance of the war on Islamic terrorism and not the culture war. References were made to Sunday’s protest and a concern about people retreating from the war on terror. It was pointed out that unlike the cold war, mutually assured destruction does not seem to be a deterrent in this new war.
It is interesting that this came on the day that President Bush said he didn’t think you could win the war on terrorism, only that you “can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world”
Perhaps this brings us back to the issue of McNamara’s speech on Security in the Contemporary World, which has been discussed her so often before. “There is still among us an almost eradicable tendency to think of our security problem as being exclusively a military problem.”
Random other thoughts
There was a bit of talking about how back in the sixties, conservatives used to hand out books on the corner as part of the political process. I had to stop and wonder if DVDs have become the new book handed out at corners?
As to the effect that ‘Unfit’ will have on the election, one panelist commented that if Kerry loses it the effect will be overstated by the Democrats. Perhaps the same will apply to Michael Moore if Bush loses.
One person commented that ‘People in old media assume that Republicans lie’ Hmm. I wonder why that is.
Another comment was that it is probably too late for a hardcover traditional books to come out at this point and still have an effect on the election, due to the time it takes to get a book out. However online videos and mass emails will continue to have an impact.
As I left, I was given various goodies, including an “American Compass” coffee mug made in China and a copy of ‘The Many Faces of John Kerry”. Inside the cover it warned that ‘Kerry will jeopardize America’s War on Terror’ and that ‘Kerry will pack the federal court with activist judges, possibly even appoint an ultraliberal justice to the Supreme Court’. My liberal friends read that were surprised to see a book written by David Bossie listing reasons to vote for Kerry.
All in all it was a very interesting day. I hope that conservatives and liberals can learn from one another to learn how to get people from any point on the political spectrum more engaged in the political process and how to move back to intelligent discussions about the issues.