Why Democrats Always Lose the Rhetoric War: The “Amerian Taliban” Kerfuffle

I’m no great fan of DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, but I’m on his side over his calling his book about movement conservatives “American Taliban.” According to progressives such as Matt Yglesias, this title is unwarranted hyperbole*. Tristero explains to boychick Yglesias why the title works:

Matt has described a dismaying number of ways in which the right wing sounds terribly Taliban-ish. Rhetorically speaking, simply by engaging the notion that radical Islamists can be compared to the right wing GOP, the creepy similarities between their worldviews and values simply can’t be avoided. Not reason, not logic, but the rhetorical structure of the argument creates a deep association which lingers on even after Matt goes through the exercise of explaining it away….

Matt can claim as often as he likes that he is not in any real sense equating the Taliban and William Kristol and be quite sincere about it. But simply because Kos – secondhand – got him to talk about it, that is exactly what he is doing.
And that is exactly what we want the right to do as well. We want them to defend their extremism by debunking the comparison with Taliban. Talk about it in detail, please! Tell us all about the important differences between al Qaeda’s homophobia and Focus on the Family’s. Explain all the nuances so we understand.
And the more they explain how different they are, the more the two are rhetorically associated. And invariably, the more plausible the comparison becomes.

For those who think this is dirty pool, well, Big Tent Democrat explains why this is false:

After all, Democrats and the Beltway Left are not really concerned with winning elections. Being “precise” is the goal. An indeed, demanding precision in our descriptions of the Republican Party, as Matt Yglesias writes, is the key to political success. We all know that political debate is always conducted with literal truth as the standard. Comparison, advocacy and analogies are never used, at least not successfully.

Exploring interesting ideas with intellectual rigor and precision has its place, but political opposition to the Uruk-hai** shock troops of the Republican Party is not that place. As Jimmy Breslin put it, you have to be interesting:

Whom do you blame for all the papers’ declining in circulation?
YouFace, these things, everybody seems to be looking at them. But newspapers are so boring. How can you read a newspaper that starts with a 51-word lead sentence? They’re trying to prove they went to college.

Politics is not a debate club. And the stakes are much higher. No doubt, had Yglesias been alive, we would have quibbled with Roosevelt’s phrase “the great malefactors of wealth”–after all, many Republicans weren’t wealthy.
This is why we keep losing or failing to capitalize on our victories.
An aside: Why are we taking Yglesias seriously? This is a self-proclaimed foreign policy expert who was wrong on the signature foreign policy issue of our time, Iraq. It is a testament to his personal political skills that he is taken seriously by what passes for the left, especially as he usually regurgitates neo-liberal (Rockefeller Republican) talking points.
*I rarely break out the term “Christopath” anymore (trying to be civil), but maybe it’s time for that term to make a comeback. It is pretty accurate: what the hell else do you call the followers of Rushdoony? I kid, but they are full blown batshit loony.
**Of course, calling the Salafist theopolitical right “Uruk-hai” is incorrect. They’re not Saurman’s orcs, but Sauron’s. Silly Mad Biologist.

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5 Responses to Why Democrats Always Lose the Rhetoric War: The “Amerian Taliban” Kerfuffle

  1. Joel says:

    While there is debate about whether it was Saruman or Sauron who first created the Uruk-hai, they nonetheless both used them.

  2. Bill says:

    I wish both parties would just evaporate. I’d like the whole concept of political parties to be tossed on the trash heap. You solve problems with what works. You go to the books. You go to experts. You go to history. You go to your own inventiveness and devise something utterly new. You recognize that a solution that works in Muncie, Indiana does not work in Boca Raton, Florida.
    Instead we have two parties that that only go to their very slim playbooks and trot out their one size fits all “solution”. Anyone who can still cheerlead for any party thses days is intellectually bankrupt.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says:

    My very first experience of Matt Yglesias was a blog entry in which he dismissed the hyperchristians as a political factor in terms which revealed he knew very little about them.
    On the basis of that, I put him on my pundits-to-skip list. Occasional second-hand exposure, such as this post, so far indicates no evidence for change on either of our parts.

  4. Kevin says:

    I’m reading the book now – so far, I’m not terribly impressed. There’s no revelations that are new, and mostly it reads like a long Keith Olberman rant – short on facts/analysis, long on ad hominem and hyperbolic language. On the other hand, I agree with the hyperbole and ad hominem, and I like that it’s getting people to talk about it in the media.

  5. Sam says:

    in response to bill, this is exactly what the ‘left-wing’ do. Using facts and science that is as unbiased as you can get to find solutions – but the books and the experts and the history get opposed by right-wingers – for example, it seems only people on the far right are in denial of global warming, despite years of research. the fact that we are able to express our political opinions like we are is in itself a liberal ideology, as conservative beliefs would suggest that anyone contradicting traditional christian values, such as gay marriage and abortion, is banned from doing it. Yes there are people on both sides who take it to the extreme, but liberals are the result of trying to be objective. not that i’m supporting any tactics used in the above article, but I do think it makes a valid point

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