No, Really. We Shouldn't Adopt Conservative Tactics.

Today, I have a review up of American Taliban by Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos. You should read the full thing, but here's the gist:

...ultimately, any similarities are vastly outweighed by incredibly important distinctions and vast differences of degree. I'm no fan of the right wing, but the only possible way it can be "indistinguishable" from the Taliban is if conservatives are stoning women for adultery, stalking elementary schools to throw acid in girls' faces, and generally enforcing fundamentalist religious law with torture and wanton violence.

Taking issue with my review, Digby argues that in my attack on Kos' book, I'm missing the big picture:

The inconvenient truth here is that these people are dangerous because their worldview is dangerous. Lethal even. And somebody has to have the guts and to call them on it in their own terms. This "tired genre" of "our opponents are monsters" has been decidedly dominated by one side and the consequences have been grave. We have a fight on our hands and the only real question left is whether anyone on our side is willing to wage it.

Listen, I have no problem with throwing punches and fighting the good fight against the forces of wealth and regression. And I won't hesitate to attack the conservative movement for its sexism, racial resentment and monomaniacal devotion to enriching the privileged. But there's a vast difference between that, and stressing a moral equivalence between the right and the Taliban. The former is true and focuses our aim for the battles ahead, the latter, as Patrick Appel writes at the Daily Dish, doesn't "accomplish anything besides juicing book sales and temporarily riling up like-minded folk."

Hell, Kos admits as much when he describes the purpose of his book, "Because look, this book, ultimately, is a big 'fuck you' to every conservative who has ever accused us of wanting the terrorists to win." Kos isn't Paul Revere; he isn't warning us about some incipient threat to our safety; he's trying to get back at conservatives who accuse liberals of hating their country. Which, as I said in my review, is fair; Kos has never claimed to be an honest broker for the truth. But the fight for progress doesn't require us to bend the truth or distort our opponents' ideas; we can wage this war as we always have, by fighting for our values and giving the right the rope it needs to hang itself. Sure, "fuck you" feels good, but the moment you turn to smears is the moment you concede the weakness of your own position.

The conservative movement is a perfect example of what happens when you let dishonesty consume your argument. In its drive to demonize liberals, it has become an incoherent mass of rage and resentment, devoid of anything approximating a governing agenda. The right has become so doctrinaire that it has lost its capacity for self-correction. This year's Republicans will win because of high unemployment and poor growth, not because the American people have suddenly become more receptive to conservatism (they haven't).

Granted, hyperbole and distortion has helped the right win elections for almost 30 years, and during that time, they have successfully changed the terms of American politics. But for all its electoral success, the conservative movement hasn't really changed the guiding assumptions of American governance or stopped the expansion of the welfare state. Liberals might be arguing in the house that Ronald Reagan built, but conservatives are still trying to breach FDR's fortress.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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