I'm about to do something I don't really want to do: offer advice to Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party. And free advice, at that. (Although if he wants to send me a check I'm not going to turn it down.)
My advice, Howard, is this: shut up, and tell your people to shut up. If you do that, I guarantee you're going to win the next election.
Let me explain.
This morning, as is our wont, we had our local classical music station on the radio. It's not a very good station, quite honestly - it has a very small playlist which it tends to repeat over and over (I mean, how many times can you listen to The Four Seasons in one week?), but it's the only classical station around since they bought out their only rival. (A nice bit of capitalism there - I'll bet they hated to stoop that low.)
It's part of National Public Radio - or National Communist Public Radio, as Joe Bob Briggs put it. And it has Garrison Keillor. I'm not sure what else you'd need to discredit it, but that should be enough for starters. It's why we refuse to become members during their endless pledge drives (The next time I hear them talking about how people who aren't members are really using their service without paying for it, I think I'll remind them that I do indeed pay for it, out of my taxes.)
Anyway, the noxious, bloviating Keillor came on this morning with The Writer's Almanac, and it was another one of those mornings where I couldn't reach the remote control in time to turn it off. I did learn that today was the anniversary of the surrender of the British at Yorktown in 1781, and I was glad to hear that. But then Keillor launched into his pious, ever-so-earnest rendition of the poem of the day (and by the way, the man has no concept of how to read poetry; he can make a Shakespearean sonnet sound as exciting as a grocery list), "Of Presidents & Emperors" by David Ray, which as far as I could tell consisted mostly of comparing President Bush to the emperor Nero. He did this in a most clever way, by insisting all along that there was no comparison between the two - one ofthe oldest rhetorical tricks in the book.
After all, Nero murdered his mother - Bush and his mom are on excellent terms. And Bush doesn't force people at swordpoint to worship him, or even applaud his words. Of course, there is that little thing about murdering innocent Iraqis with Tomahawk missiles. And since "Congress consists of the deferential," he has nothing to worry about there. (Hmm, wonder if anyone's told W. that Congress is made up of pushovers and pansies?) I could go on, but you get the point.
This was not only a bad poem, it was stupid. I'm not even going to link to it; if you want to read it you can Google it. And of course Keillor read it in the most keening voice, trying to infuse it with all the grandeur he could muster, even though he succeeded only in sounding pompous, as usual.
But here's where my advice to Howard Dean comes in.
As you regular readers probably know, I'm not a Bush fan, let alone a Republican. I disagree with him on the budget deficit, immigration policy, increased spending, the response to Katrina, No Child Left Behind, and his nomination of Harriet Miers, and I'm not too sure about Iraq sometimes. And that's just for starters. But by the time Keillor was done, I felt like defending George Bush against everything anyone (including me) as ever accused him of. I practically had my checkbook out to make a contribution to the RNC.
Howard, if you're reading this, believe me when I say this: your people just don't know when to stop. If you'd just shut up loudmouths like Keillor, or Michael Moore, or three-quarters of Hollywood, your guys and gals would win in a landslide. Because there's nothing that unifies the Right more than the Left. There are a lot of people out there like me, people who've either dropped out of politics altogether or were never very interested in it in the first place. We might vote, but then again we might not. We stay away from the news, and try to lead normal, quiet lives with our families, friends and loved ones. We're slow to get riled up.
But when we do get riled up, it's a doozy.
And when your nattering naybobs get up there pontificating in the most obnoxious, arrogant, and crude manner, it gets us riled up. Oh, at first we just get angry, but then you push it that one extra step, and it sends us over the edge and into the ballot box, where we wind up voting for another Republican candidate, even after we swore we'd never do it again.
Trust me, that's what happened in 2004, when I voted for Bush. It's what happened in 2002, when the memorial tribute to Paul Wellstone turned into a campaign rally and put a lot of disgusted Minnesotans right into Norm Coleman's camp. (And Tim Pawlenty's, too. I liked him even less than Coleman, but I got upset enough that I made it a two-for-one.)
You lefties out there just don't know the art of the subtle approach. You're like the pushy salesman who doesn't know when to let up, and winds up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. You've worn most of us down by sheer disinterest, to the point that we're not going to vote at all. Your own base is secure in the common contempt you hold for Republicans. And yet your message is based on such hatred that you can't hold it back, even though you're just preaching to the choir. You have to let loose, and when it does you've succeeded in two things: making your own supporters, whose votes you already had, very happy; and making a lot of common people, who weren't going to vote at all, very angry.
Now, I did come to my senses finally; I turned off the radio, and my moment of sympathy for Bush passed. But the fact is, while I disagree with Bush on many issues, I disagree with his Democratic opponents on almost all issues. And yet I'm still reluctant to get involved in politics, except when the liberals drag me into it, kicking and screaming.
The kicking and screaming, by the way, is directed mostly at the liberals.
So Howie, if you're still with me, take my advice. Stealth is not a bad thing here. You can get a lot of your agenda accomplished simply by saying nothing. After all, most Democrats and Republicans are just flip sides of the same coin anyway - you both want to spend our money; you just disagree on what. Democrats may be more outspokenly pro-abortion, but the Republicans are just as weak when push comes to shove. You both talk a good game about reforms, but in the end vote in your own self-interests. The areas in which there are real differences are few, and aside from the most staunch conservatives there aren't many people (Republican candidates included) interested in them. The table's set, but you always wind up ruining it.
Tell Michael Moore to make an infomercial. Suggest to Garrison Keillor that he read poems like Three Blind Mice. Get Barbra Streisand to make another album of Broadway hits. And above all, whatever you do, keep them away from the microphone. Get it?
No need to thank me, Howie. Just drop the check in the mail, babe.