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It has been said that everyone in America is firmly planted in red or blue—permanently conservative or irreversibly liberal. But are we all really that locked in to the left or the right? A lifelong liberal, John Moe was determined to find out. So he reset his radio dials from NPR to Rush Limbaugh, joined some of today's most influential conservative thinkers for a series of "conversion sessions," made pilgrimages to the Ronald Reagan and Richard M. Nixon museums, and spent the Fourth of July in the most ...
It has been said that everyone in America is firmly planted in red or blue—permanently conservative or irreversibly liberal. But are we all really that locked in to the left or the right? A lifelong liberal, John Moe was determined to find out. So he reset his radio dials from NPR to Rush Limbaugh, joined some of today's most influential conservative thinkers for a series of "conversion sessions," made pilgrimages to the Ronald Reagan and Richard M. Nixon museums, and spent the Fourth of July in the most Bush-friendly county in the country, in an attempt to discover if there was actually a conservative trapped inside him yearning to be set free.
Conservatize Me is a fresh, humorous, and highly entertaining look at our country's political landscape, one that will strike a powerful chord with millions of disgruntled Americans while stimulating the mind and tickling the funny bone.
Should I Choose to Accept It
In which the author attempts to tap the inclinations that could drive him toward a radical ideological realignment.
"How do you normally part your hair?" asked Julie, my barber. "To the left or to the right?"
"To the—well, let me see—I guess I never thought about it. I go like this," I said, smooshing the thinning crop to one side in a halfhearted motion like I usually do in the morning before leaving for work. I was a little confused by the mirror but after quick calculation was able to say, "So I guess to the left."
"No," she said, "your hair goes to the right. You should comb it that way. You naturally go to the right." She had no idea how chilling that was for me to hear or why I sat in silent stricken terror for the rest of the haircut. "Is everything okay?" she asked, noticing that I was frowning gravely at myself in the mirror. I told her the haircut was fine. It's me that I was wondering about.
It was mere days before I was to begin a potentially life-altering experience. I was going to try to make my politics like my hair, moving from left to right.
I live in Seattle. Republicans still run for office once in a while around here but it's more of a hobby for them. In the Seventh Congressional District, which includes most of Seattle, Jim McDermott has been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in nine straight elections. He cruises to easy victories every time. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in2003, McDermott went to Baghdad along with thirteen-term Michigan representative David Bonior and the two of them were shown around town by emissaries of Saddam Hussein. Ultimately they announced that as far as they could tell, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. McDermott was heavily criticized for the trip. Conservative columnist George Will said, "McDermott and Bonior are two specimens of what Lenin, referring to Westerners who denied the existence of Lenin's police-state terror, called 'useful idiots.' " The trip took place just a few weeks before the 2002 elections and McDermott, despite being denounced as a traitor by many on the right, cruised to victory with 74 percent of the vote. Of course it should be noted that he was, you know, right about the whole weapons-of-mass-destruction thing, but still, he could have been dead wrong, run naked through downtown Seattle shooting random strangers, and eaten a baby koala—live on television—and he still would have received at least 62 percent. Seattle likes liberals.
It should also be noted that the Communist Party historically has always been strong in Seattle and I've heard we have one of the lowest rates of churches per capita among major cities in the nation. So if one were to claim that Seattle is a bunch of godless liberal commies, well, we would have to pretty much fess up to that.
This is the world I was raised in and where I've lived most of my life. Seattleites are aware that there are Republican voters that exist in the world, but those voters are sort of like those stars that astronomers can only posit the existence of, they cannot be picked up on any traditional viewing device. And yet . . . Sometimes, while reading The Nation and sipping on a latte, trying not to spill any on my Gore-Tex pullover, I would think about what liberal meant. I knew liberals were against the war in Iraq and against racism and homophobia and against Bush's tax cuts and against the power of major corporations, but what were liberals, you know, for?
I was also aware of the axiom that if you're a conservative when you're twenty you have no heart, and if you're a liberal when you're forty you have no brain. I couldn't help but wonder at age thirty-six if my liberal lifestyle was getting in the way of my natural evolution.
My life was not a conservative vacuum, however. My wife Jill's brother-in-law DJ is about as conservative as one can humanly get. The son of Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, he was once one of Ralph Reed's top men at the Christian Coalition and went on to be a Bush appointee in the Federal Highway Administration. DJ has his beliefs, he's sincere about them, and when we talk/duel/argue, those beliefs couldn't be more different from my own. Maddeningly, he invariably wins the debates we have. Too often, he has points while all I have are complaints. Of course, he has some rhetorical advantages since he earned a law degree from Georgetown while I earned a theater degree at an obscure liberal arts college, but the point remained: he won arguments.
Unlike the traditional liberal caricature of conservatives, DJ is a great guy. He does not secretly plot the conquest of the world with covert emissaries from Halliburton, he doesn't fly into a murderous rage at the mention of any member of the Clinton family, and rarely, if ever, does he roll around naked in mounds of gold coins stolen from third world families. He's a good husband, good father, and a patient golf partner.
Around the time of the 2004 elections, the program director at the public radio station where I work asked me to do more segments about national events on my weekly radio show. He thought it would be interesting to have a conservative and a liberal on together to hash out a particular question from week to week. "Is Iraq another Vietnam?" for instance, or "Should Rumsfeld be fired?" I was skeptical. "But won't that be an awful lot like those stupid shows where everyone yells and acts like jackasses?" Not if I didn't yell or act like a jackass, he told me.Conservatize Me