I’m no great fan of DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, but I’m on his side over his calling his book about movement conservatives “American Taliban.” According to progressives such as Matt Yglesias, this title is unwarranted hyperbole*. Tristero explains to boychick Yglesias why the title works:
Matt has described a dismaying number of ways in which the right wing sounds terribly Taliban-ish. Rhetorically speaking, simply by engaging the notion that radical Islamists can be compared to the right wing GOP, the creepy similarities between their worldviews and values simply can’t be avoided. Not reason, not logic, but the rhetorical structure of the argument creates a deep association which lingers on even after Matt goes through the exercise of explaining it away….
Matt can claim as often as he likes that he is not in any real sense equating the Taliban and William Kristol and be quite sincere about it. But simply because Kos – secondhand – got him to talk about it, that is exactly what he is doing.
And that is exactly what we want the right to do as well. We want them to defend their extremism by debunking the comparison with Taliban. Talk about it in detail, please! Tell us all about the important differences between al Qaeda’s homophobia and Focus on the Family’s. Explain all the nuances so we understand.
And the more they explain how different they are, the more the two are rhetorically associated. And invariably, the more plausible the comparison becomes.
For those who think this is dirty pool, well, Big Tent Democrat explains why this is false:
After all, Democrats and the Beltway Left are not really concerned with winning elections. Being “precise” is the goal. An indeed, demanding precision in our descriptions of the Republican Party, as Matt Yglesias writes, is the key to political success. We all know that political debate is always conducted with literal truth as the standard. Comparison, advocacy and analogies are never used, at least not successfully.
Exploring interesting ideas with intellectual rigor and precision has its place, but political opposition to the Uruk-hai** shock troops of the Republican Party is not that place. As Jimmy Breslin put it, you have to be interesting:
Whom do you blame for all the papers’ declining in circulation?
YouFace, these things, everybody seems to be looking at them. But newspapers are so boring. How can you read a newspaper that starts with a 51-word lead sentence? They’re trying to prove they went to college.
Politics is not a debate club. And the stakes are much higher. No doubt, had Yglesias been alive, we would have quibbled with Roosevelt’s phrase “the great malefactors of wealth”–after all, many Republicans weren’t wealthy.
This is why we keep losing or failing to capitalize on our victories.
An aside: Why are we taking Yglesias seriously? This is a self-proclaimed foreign policy expert who was wrong on the signature foreign policy issue of our time, Iraq. It is a testament to his personal political skills that he is taken seriously by what passes for the left, especially as he usually regurgitates neo-liberal (Rockefeller Republican) talking points.
*I rarely break out the term “Christopath” anymore (trying to be civil), but maybe it’s time for that term to make a comeback. It is pretty accurate: what the hell else do you call the followers of Rushdoony? I kid, but they are full blown batshit loony.
**Of course, calling the
Salafist theopolitical right “Uruk-hai” is incorrect. They’re not Saurman’s orcs, but Sauron’s. Silly Mad Biologist.