"So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back."
-- Paul Krugman in an editorial in today's New York Times
I'm not one of those people who listens to right-wing radio, even occasionally, looking for something to piss him off. If I wanted to make myself angry for no good reason, I'd call my parents -- or maybe put on a Phish record.
That said, I was flipping through Sirius XM radio a couple of days ago when I stumbled across the America Right or "Patriot Radio" channel. The show that happened to be on at the time was something called The Wilkow Majority (I'll give you a minute to shake your head at the right's ongoing and obligatory need to cast itself in the most muscular terms possible) hosted by a guy named Andrew Wilkow. What separates Wilkow from the rest of the crazy-come-latelies out there in conservative radioland is his belief that he's, well, a punk.
I'm not kidding.
Both Wilkow and his producer, an at one time faux-hawk-sporting kid named Nick Rizzuto, have gotten it through their heads that they're the personification of the right's new school -- and that the new school they represent also happens to be the logical next step in the evolution of punk. They've even started a website called "Conservative Punk." If this sounds fucking laughable, believe me -- it is. Do yourself a favor and don't think too hard about trying to fit the square peg of punk rock culture into the round hole of unabashed capitalism and conservatism; I tried for awhile and it only made my head hurt. Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins are turning over in their graves at this ridiculous conceit and they're not even dead yet. You almost have to give credit to the right's lack of shame when it comes to attempting to co-opt some of the better trends of the left while forcibly trading off its own misdeeds, clumsily trying to shove them under the banner of its enemy and hoping that no one notices how full of shit the whole notion is (Hitler was a leftist, racism is a liberal ideal, etc.).
Needless to say, neither Andrew Wilkow nor his remora, Nick Rizzuto, is a punk. To twist a somewhat legendary phrase: Boys, I grew up with punks. I was good friends with punks. I was a punk (and according to some, still am). You're no punks.
The reality is that, after taking a quick glance at his website, Wilkow looks like he could be just about any other right-wing talking head. This is especially amusing when you consider the fact that he is actually quite a bit younger than the usual suspects and yet still looks like your basic perpetually middle-aged white guy who hasn't been blown since college. I guess that's what being Sean Hannity's hand-picked protege does to you. (Now's a good time to once again remind you that a guy who counts his introduction to Hannity among the greatest moments in his life also considers himself an up-the-establishment standard bearer of punk rock's new blood. You've gotta be fucking kidding me.)
All very easy shots at Wilkow and his show aside, though, I have to admit that while listening to him for a few minutes the other day, he made a surprisingly good point -- one that I sort of made here earlier in the week. I guess we're both on the same "Punk Rock Manifesto Weekly" mailing list.
The Wilkow rant in question had to do with the tendency of liberals to seemingly revel in martyrdom and self-sabotage -- their propensity to almost embrace their roles as losers and to be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of even the most assured victory. The crux of his argument was this: The Democrats have near-complete control of the government right now -- from the White House to the Hill. Legislation-wise, they can accomplish practically anything they set out to, and yet they're somehow content to bitch, moan and blame Republicans for standing in the way of progress when in reality no one's completely blocking their path. Worse than all of that, and this is something Wilkow didn't broach but I will: Liberals can't help fighting amongst themselves. It's as if it's ingrained in their DNA to never completely agree on anything. And we've all seen how well that strategy works when it comes to pushing through an agenda or, you know, winning elections.
A couple of days ago I published a piece decrying the Democrats for not being willing to take off the gloves and get their hands a little dirty when it comes to battling the Republican noise machine trying to thwart them at every turn. My point was that there won't be much solace in being able to say, "Well, at least we stuck to the ideals that make us better than the GOP automatons," four years from now if nothing got done and a Republican president is back in office. I'm not saying that there can't and won't be disagreement and dissent; I'm saying that in order to get the job done and give Barack Obama the clout he needs to move his agenda forward by leaps and bounds, there has to be, to a large extent, a united front to face the consistently united front staring you down from the other side of the aisle. To paraphrase The Godfather, as far as outsiders are concerned, you never take sides against the family.
Sure this is slightly robotic and seems to stand against everything left-wing America stands for, but guess what? It wins.
Sometimes you've gotta look at the big picture -- and if there's anyone who can't seem to do that because they're too busy picking every little thing apart just to prove how intellectual, analytical and multi-faceted they are, it's liberals.
Case in point: today's New York Times editorial by Paul Krugman.
First of all, let me state unequivocally that Krugman's a genius; he's one of the smartest people around, and his views are always worth listening to. Let me also make it clear that I'm not suggesting that any side of the political spectrum let its leaders get away with anything and everything. The good of the nation should, for all intents and purposes, trump the good of the party. My argument is that the battle lines are so clearly drawn these days, the alternative for either party is so far removed from its own desired reality for the country, that each side has to be willing to accept that a big picture victory, even a partial one, is infinitely better than a complete loss. The Republicans realize this; the Democrats seem not to. Krugman's editorial, which takes President Obama to task for supposedly betraying the progressive base that helped put him in office, is a perfect example of the self-defeating splinter cell tendency of left-wing politics. Yes, Barack Obama seems to have slipped comfortably into a more middle-of-the-road stance than much of the left-leaning electorate would've liked, but make no mistake: a New York Times editorial from one of the leading liberal voices in America declaring that Obama has lost the support of progressives and now has to earn it back accomplishes nothing aside from doing the job of Republican strategists for them.
An editorial like Krugman's is every conservative's wet dream -- because those on the right know that any well-publicized dissension within the Democratic ranks makes Obama look weak and proves their point to those on the fence: that even when the Democrats have what they need to run the government their way, they can't make it happen. They can't seal the deal, despite having everything on their side.
As Wilkow said, they're born losers.
Right about now, the Democrats need to take a hint from a recent song by Green Day: Know Your Enemy. At the very least, know who he is.
Of course, Green Day actually have something in common with Andrew Wilkow: They're not real punks either.