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We all knew Obama was no Nader when we voted for him. But it still comes as a shock to this New Yorker to be reminded of exactly how conservative the traditional “Liberal” media is. And it is disappointing to see Obama waste his political capital and his mandate by falling into bad old Democrat habits. How many times do we have to say it? Do not pander to self-identifying conservatives!

Is George Will an idiot? Yes he is. Is Newt Gingrich an idiot? Yes, and a hypocrite too. Peggy Noonan? Please. Even Thomas Friedman, who once had a shred of liberal street cred wasted it in support of the Iraq war. So why did Obama agree to sell his pseudo-Keyensian stimulus package on George Stephonopolus’s covert conservative Sunday morning talk show This Week? Though David Axelrod may be a genius at winning elections, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be a genius at passing necessary legistlation or revitalizing the federal government.

Allow me to digress for a moment into a theoretical exposition of what a real conservative is, and why the modern American “conservative” is no such thing. A real conservative is one who believes in moderation in all things, in both morals and manners. A real conservative tempers his or her desires and doesn’t spend a lot of energy on ultimately pointless goals — like recreational consumerism. Consequently they don’t long for much more than they have. A real conservative knows that people’s opinions swing wildly from one extreme to another, but that human nature is constant. A real conservative is stoic and skeptical — there isn’t much point in revolution because nothing ever changes much anyway.

The American “conservative” probably had real conservatives for parents or grandparents, folks from the greatest generation. Our latter-day conservative, on the other hand, was dismayed that his parents couldn’t stop social revolution from happening in the middle of the 20th century. The present breed of American “conservatives” decided that being moderate was for losers, and that only by adopting counter-revolutionary zeal could they put things back the right way. In becoming ideologues, however, they lost the most important part of being a real conservative: moderation and skepticism. Under the influence of repressed ideological zeal George Will became a senile sentimentalist who wrote about the morality of baseball (a ludicrous idea); Newt Gingrich elevated rugged individualism into a rarified form of selfishness and demonstrated its moral power by divorcing his wife, lying on her deathbed with cancer, for his mistress; Peggy Noonan demanded that women be put back in the kitchen while drawing a fat paycheck for sassing back to men; and Thom Friedman almost joined Likud because he thought democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. It’s not just that they’re venal and all-too-human, they’re also rank hypocrites who denounce immorality in others while wallowing in it themselves.

So why would Obama want to sell a progressive, forward-looking legislative agenda on a show populated by reactionary counter-revolutionaries and sentimental hacks? The simple answer is, he’s not a progressive, he’s a politician. That’s fine — I knew that when I voted for him. The more complex answer is that the old-guard political class in this country still thinks the mainstream media is conservative (and it largely is), and that to sway public opinion you have to sway the self-proclaimed opinion makers on TV. This is a catastrophic historical mistake. Not in the last seventy years has a President had the opportunity to give the country a powerful new direction, but Obama and his strategoi in blue suits are too timid to take their opportunity. It’s as if they only partially believe in the new media that helped them win the election in the first place. Allow me to digress again.

Roosevelt took the commanding heights of American politics using the new media of radio. For a long time liberals in New York controlled TV and newsprint. Conservatives reacted first by electing an actor to sell their backwards political philosophy. Let’s call it “selfishness with a smile.” While vanguards like Rush Limbaugh resurrected old media outlets like A. M. radio, apparatchiks like Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News, were waging a directed war to win back the commanding heights of 20th century media. For those people who get their information about the world from the remnants of broadcast TV, Fox News, or CNN, they get a heavily ideologically inflected “conservative” worldview, the very one that ruined America.

The new media has done a lot to reverse the counter-revolutionaries’ attempts to take back control political discourse. Obviously it has not done enough. We have to get the message out: tax cuts benefit rich people; privitization benefits rich people; “projecting U. S. force” benefits rich people. And rich people don’t like you. Wake up and smell the coffee America.

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