But Charlie Sykes gives it all up this week in his no-doubt well-paid alter-ego as a "senior fellow" at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), a right-wing front group disguised as a "think tank", based in Wisconsin and funded (like Sykes himself) by the usual suspects.
In an article titled "Not Dead Yet", Sykes visits the morgue to view the chilled body of "conservatism" and declares that the dead shall live, even as the deceased is rolled toward the oven, soon to be seared into the ashes of history.
Sykes is paid well by many to front for this kind of optimism. His article purports to offer a game plan for the return of Republican (he says "conservative", but we know who he’s working for) rule after the Bush years, which have been as much a disaster for the GOP as they have been for everybody else.
For all its lofty ambition, the piece is remarkably trite, featuring the same tired rhetoric Sykes trots out on his radio show. You know the routine: lefty "socialists" will overreach and brave conservatives will ride to the rescue, with SUVs and tax cuts for all, blah blah blah.
A large part of Sykes’ plan is "defining the terms of the debate between the left and the right", a service he provides for the GOP every day, for free, on his public-airwave, 50,000-watt radio show. And, as it is with all wing-nuts, "defining the terms" begins with telling lies about the left. He claims the left "offers" the following:
- "Grievance (the politics of victimization)" – No one is supposed to complain or seek redress for anything. If you think you are discriminated against because of your race, gender, sexual orientation – well, you big baby. Democrats support providing a little equalizer against social and economic Darwinism and believe the equal protection clause of the Constitution means something other than Bush beats Gore. And, guess what – some people really are victims.
- "Entitlement" – well, one person’s entitlement is another person’s safety net. Does he mean Social Security and Medicare, which has provided at least minimal security for our parent’s generation? Food stamps and medical care for the poor? Libraries? Is health care for all a good idea? Sure, and, as with all safety nets, it would make society safer, healthier and, yes (this is Sykes’ real problem), more equal.
- "Class envy (and the politics of Redistribution)" – McCarthyism is not dead. The wing-nuts are increasingly throwing out the S-word to "remind" whoever is listening to them that the Democrats want to take your money and give it to them. Nonsense, of course, but, as with much of this, they hope the repeated lie becomes the perceived truth. Ironically, it is GOP surrogates like Sykes who play the real "class envy" game, making sure their listeners know about the supposed wine-and-brie inclinations of the Hollywood "elite" and who keep secret the truly elite nature of the people who fund, say, the WPRI. At least the Dems are out there in public with their supporters. Where do I go to meet yours, Charlie?
- "Bureaucracy and the Nanny State" – ah, the Nanny State. This is the one, Sykes will tell you, that wants you to lose the trans fats and maybe keep sugar soda out of school vending machines. There is no place in Sykes World for, say, an FDA that protects us from bad food or fraudulent drug claims. You are all on your own, apparently. The "market" will sort things out, if it can sort through all the dead and damaged bodies.
- "Tax increases" – See Socialism, Politics of Redistribution, above. Tax "increase" also means the elimination of the cynically sunset-ed Bush tax cuts for the rich, enacted while everyone was asleep right after 9/11. Sykes argues that, since Democrats want to provide more government service (such as universal health care), they must be planning to raise taxes. But the biggest government spenders in the history of the world are the Bush Republicans and they never had to pay for it, so why should we? Local and state governments have to live within their means and, yes, cigarettes and gas might cost more. Deal with it or cut back.
- "Group identity" – You know those cute ethnic events and festivals that Old Milwaukee used to celebrate as part of our diversity – you know, German, Polish, Italian – all those white guys? Well, as the skin of our residents got browner and yellower – suddenly, group identity is a bad thing. Grandma on the south side still talking Polish is quaint and heroic – her neighbor talking Spanish or Hmong is probably some kind of damn criminal. That Democrats recognize ethnic, racial and sexual diversity just means we live in the real world. The white guys just had their last run – I’m afraid the Bushies ruined that whole deal forever.
- "Collectivism" – See Socialism, above-above. Well, we are in all this together, and the problem with that realization is...what, now? The fear he is trying to strike in the hearts of his suburban audience is that they might have to get out of their cocoons and deal with other people of, ugh, other types. They can relax. They can stay in their subdivisions and hide from the rest of us, if they want. They will be missing out on an exciting future, but, heck, just stay put.
- "Litigation" – I assume he means people suing individuals and corporations who have harmed them. I assume he doesn’t mean the majority of civil litigation, which involves businesses suing other businesses, debt collection, foreclosures and other actions that keep business-side lawyers the best paid in the business. It is part of the rank hypocrisy of the wing-nuts – complaining about the small, rare legal victories of the little guy against the corporations, while being perfectly comfortable with a record number of foreclosures, evictions and repossessions by corporations against the little guy.
- "Multiculturalism" – see Group Identity, above. What could be worse than accepting and celebrating the many cultures that make up the fabric of America? Like I said, we used to appreciate this stuff when it was just European diversity – just different styles of lederhosen or whatever.
- "Ambivalence on security" – ambivalence as in – what? Because we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq? Because we want to leave that particular quagmire? Because, if you say someone is a terrorist, we think you should have to prove it in better than a kangaroo court? Because we know torture doesn’t work and should be above using it even if it did? Because we resist the government trolling our phone and bank records on a fishing expedition and we don’t trust them not to use it for other reasons? We are not ambivalent on security – we’re smarter. The security situation after 9/11 calls for much more than ham-fisted thrashing around playing the role of some bad-movie tough guy. Is there anyone except these nut-jobs who think that we would be much more "secure" with anyone but Junior Bush in the White House? Here's a secret: they know it, too.
Sykes goes on to recite the glorious attributes of conservatives – including belief in glittering generalities like "freedom", "opportunity", "growth" and other concepts that liberals are not against anyway. My favorite is "common sense". Yeah, a lot of that going on in Iraq and elsewhere.
There is something heartening in all this cluelessness. If Sykes really thinks the right can make a comeback by lying about progressives the way they have done for years, he is sadly mistaken. There is a theory I read recently that talk radio and the other elements of the GOP echo chamber serve only to convince themselves; that they will soon look around and see only themselves listening to this crap and will be unable to deal with the world the way it really is, especially after the Dems pick up the White House and increase their majorities in both houses of Congress in 2008. They will still have their radio shows and their secret enclaves and they’ll continue to try to poison the nation’s politics. But, in the end, they might as well be on some VOA short-wave broadcast beaming into Cuba. It means nothing and they’ll be standing on the outside while the rest of us move forward, positively and proudly.