(Gage Skidmore)

GOP must work on persuasion, says man who constantly calls all liberals "fascists"

Jonah Goldberg says the GOP must learn to communicate to non-conservatives -- and trots out the same old discourse


Alex Pareene
January 18, 2013 3:02AM (UTC)

Jonah Goldberg, conservative intellectual, revealed in his syndicated column yesterday that the conservative movement is apparently full of "hucksters eager to make money from stirring rage, paranoia, and an ill-defined sense of betrayal with little concern for the real political success that can come only with persuading the unconverted." As Conor Friedersdorf writes, it is sort of a cop-out for Jonah to make that claim and then not actually name these hucksters. (For the record, the hucksters are basically "most of the conservative media and many of its nonprofits.")

Still, how fun it would have been to see Goldberg, a columnist who loves to use the wishy-washy "I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'" style of debate whenever he gestures toward making a provocative argument, call out his ideological and professional colleagues for constantly lying to and bilking the faithful? Maybe next week.

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The main point of Goldberg's column, as he explains at the Corner, is that contrary to common conservative belief, the Republican Party is not insufficiently conservative. In fact, the GOP is just not very good at persuading non-conservative Americans of the superiority of conservative beliefs and policies. This is a somewhat heretical argument on the right, where conservatism is always thought to be the natural inclination of all Real Americans, and every political defeat is due to a failure to be conservative enough, but I don't expect many on the right to listen to Goldberg, mostly because he is not very good at "persuading" anyone of the superiority of conservative ideas.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, a longtime opponent of universal healthcare measures, recently, and unsurprisingly, referred to Obamacare as "fascism" in an NPR interview. That is just a bit of a historically ignorant hysterical overstatement (most modern universal healthcare measures were established in the period after the Second World War, primarily by the countries that beat the fascists). It is also a humorous callback to Goldberg's all-time comedy classic, his "serious" "historical" book "Liberal Fascism."

So, naturally, when Mackey retracted his comparison of the expansion of health insurance coverage to brutal totalitarianism, Goldberg was disappointed. "That Didn't Take Long," his headline reads.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey backs off the F-word in part because, while fairly accurate and defensible, it hurts the feelings of people who have no problem using it inaccurately and indefensibly all of the time:

Goldberg's thesis is that it's OK to call anything you don't like "fascism" because the comical pantomime hippies that he imagines make up the vast majority of American liberalism constantly use that term as a weapon against conservatives. (In his writings, liberals always wear Birkenstocks and they all talk exactly like Rob Reiner in "All in the Family.") And so this is the person -- the one who thinks it is "fairly accurate" and, more important, "defensible," based on playground rules of political discourse, to call moderate liberal social policy "fascism" -- who is calling for the conservative movement to work on its "persuasion" techniques. The GOP has already tried the "repeatedly call your opponents Nazi Fascists" strategy, and it did not do much for them, last November.


Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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