8.11.06

THE TEDIOUS CONSERVATIVES. Thus does Garrison Keillor characterize his kind of Democrat in Homegrown Democrat, which, given the election returns, makes an apt Book Review No. 38. In some ways, Mr Keillor sounds like the libertarian critics of the just-ousted Republican Congress.
There are reality-based Republicans whom I would trust completely, but those aren't the ones riding high in Washington. They are a party that is all about perception, the Christian party that conceals enormous malice, led by brilliant bandits who are dividing and conquering. They rushed a law through Congress to keep a brain-dead woman alive in Florida and created a circus around her comatose body and then, when polls showed the winds against them, quietly folded their tents and crept away.
The bridge to nowhere also merits mention.

Much of the book expands on commonplaces that might be the Habits of Highly Effective People. Don't take all the cookies, even though nobody is looking. You are not so different from other people so don't give yourself airs. Wait your turn. Keep your voice down. Do your part. Don't jerk people around just because you can. Everybody else is just as cold as you so don't complain about it. Make Something of Yourself. Don't be a Noise with Legs. Sometimes, however, Mr Keillor comes off as more interested in making a facile point than in being logical. Thus, drunken college kids at bar time become President Bush's fault, but a few pages later those colleges become the Democrats' think tanks. The advantage of living in (Democratic) St. Paul is that social services are so good that the ambulance will be at your place in not exceeding four minutes; in the (Republican gated community) suburbs, the ambulance is privatized and may or may not turn up, but one of Mr Keillor's good friends dies, perhaps because an ambulance was 40 minutes in coming, in (Democratic) New York City.

The book might be useful in shoring up the belief systems of people already inclined to agree with Mr Keillor, but the examples are likely to resonate with a population few in number and high in median age. Rural electrification. Common schools. Hubert Humphrey. That Mr Keillor is able to find things to mock about Democratic presidents Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton suggests that there is more wrong in the United States than a few Elmer Gantry types holding Republican Party cards.

So what's his case for the Democrats? 1. Civil Rights. (There is still room for a reasoned discussion of whether the power of the state should be enjoined from doing anything to forbid free association, or if it should be employed more aggressively to compel association. See Identity Politics.) 2. Ponytails. (A tribute to Title IX, particularly in sports. Not an unmixed blessing.) 3. Clean Air. (Refers to smoking bans, not steel firms. See point 1 on freedom of association.) 4. Geezerhood. (Social Security and Medicare good. Can you say "contingent liability?") 5. Pregnant Teens. (Might some of the Habits of Highly Effective People contribute to reducing the frequency, and thus the necessary evil of abortion?) 6. Oddballs. (Mr Keillor concedes, not strictly a Democratic idea, but institutionalizing people does not strike him as a good idea. No social engineer he.) 7. Cops. (Civil servants have to be civil; don't privatize.) 8. Tolerance. (Provided you're not a smoker or a Hummer owner or a resident of a gated community.) Not unreasonable, but not completely persuasive.

No comments: