Friday, March 02, 2007

Drawing Lines At The Forum

Ideological battles are not that much different than military battles. Winning, in both cases, involves establishing defensive lines while attacking the enemy aggressively. In politics, capitulation is always the easier course. The first step in the battle is the drawing of lines on a strategic map.

The difference between Colin McEnroe, just to pick a thoughtful progressive at random, and Dan Gerstein, Sen. Joe Lieberman’s front man and the progressive everyman’s bĂȘte noire, also a thoughtful political commentator, is a matter of ideological circumference.

In most matters, moderates like Gerstein and Lieberman have a wide range. Their circle of ideas is wider than that of progressives or conservatives and includes the kinds of inconsistencies Ralph Waldo Emerson boasted of when he said a “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

Now, here in Connecticut, as everyone must realize, there are few if any entrenched conservative incumbent politicians. Conservatives are regularly picked off by liberal, progressive and moderate sharpshooters in the media as soon as they lift their heads out of their foxholes. The Northeast – especially Connecticut – is the lair of the moderate and his fertile breeding ground. Here, in the Land of Steady Habits, we have a moderate habit, a liberal habit and a progressive habit; there are no conservative habits.

Conservatives claim it is the bad progressive and liberal habits that have given us swollen budgets, business flight and readerless newspapers.

When the Hartford Courant recently hosted a forum on blogging, no conservative bloggers were represented on the panel that included McEnroe, introduced as a blogger, a progressive radio talk show host and a Courant columnist. There are no conservative columnists on the op-ed staff of the Courant; John Zakarian, the longtime Editorial Page Editor of the paper pronounced a doom upon them during his tenure and, ever eager to carry forward traditions, other editorial page editors followed suit. The result is: Conservative viewpoints on state issues are bleached out of the paper, and the resulting product is, predictably, wan, feeble and shallow, hardly more than a recitation of comforting liberal and progressive platitudes. In their progress, writers at the Courant rarely confront a hard, immovable, antithetical thought; for them, thinking is a matter of arranging their prejudices in a pretty way and setting up straw dummies they can then torch from within their own impregnable bunkers.

The forum on blogging is emblematic of what passes for “debate” in the state; it was, in essence, a five person one man show. Everyone agreed on the most important points, and a good time was had by all. In fact, nothing new was added by the bloggers to the “debate,” and most of the points made at the forum had been circulating through the mainstream press for some time. No contrary opinions were permitted to disturb the “debaters.” Where all were agreed, all were agreeable. One would hardly have guessed from the panel that nearly the oldest blog in Connecticut, YourNews2, is a conservative blog.

Prior to the forum, Blogdom was treated to a faux debate shortly after Gerstein ventured to write a piece for a new blog on Lieberman’s victorious campaign and the roll played in it by bloggers. Here at least, at the beginning of the discussion, one detected the first faint stirrings of a real debate; but that discussion soon was overwhelmed by the piling on that followed, so sustained and so fierce that McEnroe felt comfortable in loftily refusing to address the points made by Gerstein in his piece. He would leave Gerstein, McEnroe said on his blog, to the un-tender mercies of other bloggers. When only one note is being played in the score, why hammer it home in your own blog? The beef against Gerstein’s piece was that its author was not non-partisan; but then neither is Tim Tagaris, the tech wizard who ran Ned Lamont’s campaign web site, one of the five progressive panelists the Courant asked to dilate on blogging at its forum, and the four remaining panelist were all members of the progressive hood.

The ideological lines in Connecticut, when they appear at all, are not drawn between liberals and conservatives. All the pitched battles are fought between the ancient liberal regime and progressives banging at the gate demanding admittance to the political helm. To conservatives these occasional tugs of war are vastly amusing. It may be interesting – but certainly it is unimportant from a conservative perspective -- that CtKeith, a frequent commentator, does not consider Ghengis Conn, the propriator of Connecticut Local Politics, progressive enough. In Connecticut, the ideological diving line separates old time liberals and progressives. Conservatives have no dog in that fight.
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