Posted on | November 9, 2011 | 62 Comments
“I write for money. And so far, nobody’s offered to pay me to save the world.”
— Robert Stacy McCain, May 5, 2008
Mike Hendrix at Cold Fury has an excellent round-up about the argument among conservatives about how we should react to the accusations against Herman Cain. And in that round-up, Mike cites Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom:
We’re living through an attempted coup. And our major worry seems to be how well Herman Cain’s staff is handling suggestions that he once made a pass at a woman. Who waited 16 years to hold a press conference about it.
No wonder we’re so well and truly f–ked.
Indeed, and we can boil the argument down to its essence: What is the object of the game? To win. Period, end of sentence.
Our Guy is in a fight, getting pounded like hell by our common enemy and, instead of sitting around wringing our hands about the niceties of tactics, we ought to be jumping into the fight and pounding the hell out of Our Guy’s attackers. Whatever the ultimate fate of Our Guy, we cannot rally people to our cause by appearing to be weak.
Weakness is not an attractive quality, in politics or anything else, and it is an error in political combat to worry about making the “smart” argument when what is needed is a winning argument, or at least a gesture of solidarity and a show of force that lets our opponents understand that we’re not a bunch of gutless weaklings.
Nothing is more dangerous in political punditry than the temptation to be “smart” rather than being strong. Granting the intellectual’s natural desire to be seen as insightful and consistent, there are times in politics when pragmatism and strategic necessity require the pundit to suppress such concerns long enough to make the crude and cynical calculation: “How can we win?” or even, “Never mind winning, how can we inflict maximum damage on our opponent in this fight?”
Understand that I do not mean to accuse anyone of insincerity in their arguments, or of trying to curry favor with the proverbial “Georgetown cocktail party circuit.” Quite the opposite, I suspect some conservative intellectuals have succumbed to the same error that I attributed to Conor Friedersdorf in May 2008: Insufficient cynicism:
If you want to save the world, join the Peace Corps or become a missionary. If you want to be a professional journalist, stick to the facts, mind your grammar, hit your deadlines, and try to write something that somebody might actually want to read.
Nobody’s paying me for the correctness of my opinions, OK? Everybody’s got opinions and any random reader’s opinion about the Herman Cain controversy is as valid as my own, except for the fact that I’ve spent a hell of a lot of time covering politics and have known Herman Cain since 2007.
Maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe Cain is guilty as hell and would be, as Ace says, a “godawful candidate” for Republicans to nominate. But it occurs to me, if it occurs to no one else, that beating the GOP Establishment with this “godawful candidate” would signify that the conservative grassroots aren’t going to be shoved around anymore. And I do not accept the argument (frequently made by the “smart” pundits) that Mitt Romney would be a safer nominee than Cain.
Romney is the “prevent defense” candidate, the guy who expects to win by playing not to lose. Perhaps that’s the smart bet, but my gut hunch it that a charismatic populist like Cain would be more likely to defeat Obama than the bland centrist Romney.
Your mileage may vary, and it would be wrong for me to take it personally when other people refuse to go along with my gut hunches. Maybe other people do take it personally, so it was amusing to see that Mike at Cold fury called attention to a rare foray into pure politics by Dr. Helen Smith, cross-posted at PJ Media, where she wielded the knife against fellow PJM’er Andrew Klavan:
Bulls–t. What Klavan is advocating is political suicide.
Read the whole thing. For the InstaWife to be calling b.s. on Klavan is the kind of internecine feud where it’s always more fun to be a spectator than a participant. “Let’s you and him fight,” as folks say down home. And speaking of fun . . .
My elbowing of Ace of Spades caused some commenters to start trashing Ace, which wasn’t my intention and isn’t helpful. While it is my general belief that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong, this is not the same as saying that anyone who disagrees with me is a bad person. So I felt the need to clarify in a comment:
Look, I’m not hating on Ace. I love Ace. I just think he’s as objective about Herman Cain as I am, which is to say, not at all.
So here we have two admittedly subjective reactions: Me, who was pumping the Cain campaign before there was even a campaign, and Ace who never really took to Cain, even when Cain was looking like a winner. Readers are free to make their own judgments, but there is no reason to demonize Ace just because you love Cain and, by the same token, there’s no need for anyone who hates Cain to demonize me.
Our subjectivity — so long as we ‘fess up to it — should not detract from your enjoyment of our blogging as sheer spectacle. People need to lighten up and get over the victory-or-death fanatical view of the primary campaign, which is probably going to seem pretty damned silly in retrospect if, when all is said and done, we find ourselves in August trying to convince America that Mitt Romney is The Only Hope to Save America.
Long ago, in one of my first dust-ups with Conor Friedersdorf, I explained that his basic problem was a deficiency of cynicism. What makes Conor such a pain in the ass is that he is so damnably earnest about politics. You cannot write coherently about politics if you’re going to be a 100% True Believer. You’ve got to dial down your passion and try to appreciate politics as a game, a sort of bread-and-circuses pageant ginned up to fool the people into believing that our government is genuinely democratic. Understanding the extent to which the process is controlled by insiders and influenced by the media, who think of regular voters as a bunch of dumb rubes whose choices can be manipulated almost infinitely, you realize that the best you can reasonably hope for is a chance to f–k up the plans of the Elite — e.g., by ensuring that Elite-anointed candidates like Dede Scozzafava, Charlie Crist and Mike Castle don’t get elected.
To quote my personal hero, Eric Stratton, “Don’t think of it as work. The whole point is just to enjoy yourself.”
Cynical? Of course — and proud of it, because I write for money. And don’t you get your money’s worth? Hit the freaking tip jar!