Gut Check: Greg Answers Questions While Drinking Lots of Wine
Breitbart News: What do conservatives have to do to resonate with young people?
GG: They have to explain, succinctly, why their stuff works. And you have to do it with humor, minus jargon, minus anger. Freedom is fun. It's not shrill.
Simply looking at the dreadful state of things, and saying "thanks Obama," and linking him to the apocalypse is already old hat. I get the simplicity--it's what the left mastered with Reagan, and later with both Bush's. At a certain point you have to offer an optimistic, breezy alternative that can be easily understood, without sweaty negativity that makes you appear as though you have a score to settle. It's hard for conservatives, who despise government--and therefore despise governance--to come up with a "plan" for health care. I detest planning, but if you don't do it--they will. Our plan will always be the "free market," but we need to explain how that works (with examples--there are lots!) and that our alternative does not HURT people.
The challenge for us, is that our critics lazily call any of our beliefs exclusionary and painful to the underclass, when it's precisely their practices that achieve those brutal realities. Kevin Williamson's recent piece in National Review comparing the net worth of white and black families, tells you all you need to know about toxic liberal policy. It's horrible. We need to explain how the opposition--recently with health care--is narrowing choice for young people, but also reducing potential for that young person to put his or her money elsewhere. One-size-fits-all health care for everyone means, ultimately less food and clothing for your child.
Let's compare the predicted outcomes of Obamacare from both ideological extremes. The left will call it a victory for the progressive ideal: expanding government to provide more goods and services to those who cannot provide for themselves. Well, we know this is only part of the case; it's a costume. What this is, is an inventive disguise for wealth confiscation and transfer. But, is it going to be the hell, as the hard right envision? No--because it never is really as immediately bad (at once) as you say it is. That's often the problem. Hell comes in small steps. And before you know it you're there.
Sure the website is a fucking mess, but it will be fixed. Then... what's your argument now? It's got to be about the law. Pelosi and her brood shoved this thing through, and it's a soulless, destructive beast that ultimately limits choice, and therefore, freedom. It's a step backward into a world we beat. We are accepting the principles of those we bested.
But screaming that it's Armageddon drives cynicism. You don't have to shout. It's why the defunding scheme was not simply a mathematical failure, it was a rhetorical one too. I get the impulse: standing on the cliff and shouting "stop!" at the growing blob of government. I've been shouting that for decades. But the difference between shouting "stop" and actually "stopping" it, comes through viable, likeable candidates, elections, and winning. It's not achievable simply through the orgasm of talk radio, or bizarre candidates who appeal to the loudest voices. Sometimes we are too kind to candidates because we are too kind. And we think their uniqueness is refreshing, when it's just odd. Even I thought Christine O'Donnell was delightfully quirky. Boy was I wrong on that one. Very wrong. I should have listened to a few RINOs on that one.
Which is why you have to explain that Obamacare doesn't have to be deadly to be awful. If all Obamacare is, is providing you with less, that costs more--that's already harmful and immoral. Think about it. The intrusive hand of government just took money from the middle class, ran it through the change machine that is bureaucracy, and that same middle class has less insurance for more money. So where did that money go? To cover people who didn't ask for it. Obamacare just picked your pocket. And they spent it on something nobody wants. Those nobodies are everybody.
What this means, plainly, is money was taken from Jane, to pay for Paul. If Jane's life wasn't impacted so negatively, we'd probably live with it (Medicaid is pretty much that model--a bottomless billion dollar pit--but at least it's not threatening you by force to do something you don't want to do). But Jane is not simply seeing her money go to someone else, her own personal happiness is eroded. This is not a first theft for big government, but it might be the most recent. And the most obvious, despite the disguise.
Related to Obamacare is the IRS corruption, and that's the scandal a smart politician could work to great effect. It's now the policing arm for the Democratic party, especially for Obamacare. You don't agree with Obama, we'll pay you a visit. If that's not a scandal, then none of this matters. Meanwhile, as they chase down conservative groups, to help Obama win elections, they continue to dole out billions in earned income tax credits--the biggest scam this side of the pet rock. Here the IRS makes Madoff's corruption look modest. Because of the whirlwind of other stuff--the NSA in particular, and Snowden--Obama escaped the IRS scandal, through a back door, created by the right jumping in bed with the hard left.
Breitbart News: What is the biggest obstacle the right puts in its own path?
GG: SABS. Self-appointed Bouncer Syndrome. It's a phenomena often erupting among those of us who, imbued with strong ideological beliefs, feel compelled to tell you dismissively that you're not as conservative as they are. I was like this person. For a long time. Calling someone a "RINO" makes you feel stronger about your own beliefs, even if it divides the team you belong to. The great thing about the Republican Party is that ALL of its members are "Republican in name only," because there are so many different variations. Hell, I'm not even sure what I am. I registered as a Republican only once to vote in a primary (for my old drinking pal Pat Toomey in PA). I can't remember if I changed back to Independent, which I always was. I never paid attention.
It would be helpful to look at the left, and see how unified they can be, when it comes to winning. I despise lockstep, but I'm talking about winning--coming together despite differences. The day that I'm called a liberal is the day this party is dead. I've been a screaming right winger for 25 years. When someone calls me a RINO because they discovered talk radio a year ago--sorry dude--I was reading Paul Johnson when you were pooping in your pants and swinging from monkey bars in the playground. When you debate over tactics, you cannot impugn those who disagree with you, as lacking in principles. It's what your adversaries love. You're supposed to focus your fight outward, not inward.
This bouncer syndrome occurs often among libertarians. They love announcing "you're not really a libertarian!" Sometimes I wonder if that's all some libertarians do: Hang around and tell you that you can't come into their club of... one. By the way, what I'm advocating is also what I advocate about marriage. When you go buy a car, the couple must present a front, even if they're vulnerable to different desires. The conflict should not be between spouses, but that couple and the guy trying to sell you undercoating. Know your opposition.
Since I took my stance strongly defending the NSA, I got a lot of grief from preening types, who Googled Benjamin Franklin's quote on security, and sent it to me triumphantly--as if that somehow undermines a fairly straightforward position, or elevates theirs. I admire all the guys at Reason, because they are consistently cynical toward government intrusion. And they give me a run for my money. But I'm mostly critical of those who despise the current administration so much, they join hands with people bent on dismantling certain safeguards against terrorism that are necessary to maintain the freedoms I cherish.
As a conservative with a libertarian streak, I believe the only way I can be free to do whatever I want, whenever I please, is to be as ruthless and powerful in advocating the security of this nation. I want a deadly defense, and the greatest spying capabilities possible. I want my freedoms protected. I am sacrificing nothing; Oh, on the contrary, I am aggressively demanding MORE. To conflate the compiling of email addresses with "reading our emails" is simplistic and dishonest. And when we find violations, we call them out. But they are few. We can just as easily find such violations in our military, and our police. Would you do away with them as well?
The canonization of Snowden was, sadly, more a reflex to jab a stick at Obama with--and it overlooks one great flaw. You are now siding with a segment of the left who wishes to dismantle the weapons we've created to fight terror. Seeing conservatives complimenting Glenn Greenwald is disturbing--for these conservatives fail to see how much contempt Greenwald holds for them. The case in point: the recent revelations about our spying on foreigners. So what's the problem there? That's what spies do. If you don't like it, why do you go to James Bond movies? Spying is a necessary currency for adults. This is not a game played fairly by all participants. If you decide to play "fair," they will only keep cheating. See the Russians.
So we must be the best at it, and make no apologies for our deviousness. Our deviousness is only criticized because we must be so damn good at it. That Snowden thinks this is somehow against the constitution is laughable, and destructive. My intuition tells me that if a Republican becomes President, many of the critics of the NSA on the right will dissipate. I admire the consistency of some on the left who hate such activity under Bush and Obama; and those on the right who supported it under Bush, and now. Anyone else--the flippers and the floppers on the left and right--they are willing to sacrifice our security before the altar of ideology.
Breitbart News: As you mentioned, you’re a conservative with a libertarian streak. Do you believe that is the direction of the movement?
GG: On social issues, yes. The world will do what it wants, and personal feelings toward it will not change things. You may not like gay marriage, but I think you’re wrong. Gay marriage is a conservative stance, in my opinion. It's not an original one, but it's mine. Abortion? I'm pro-life, but what can I do, but show people that there is a moral underpinning to my belief that exists independent of the bible. My pro-life beliefs are libertarian in nature, not religious. I don't need a God to tell me there's something sad about removing people from the finish line--who defied the odds to be "born." Being born is the ultimate lottery, so being plucked as you cash that ticket seems beyond comprehension.
But I'm also a realist. The bed is made. Being pro-life is like being for total gun control. You want guns banned, because then no one will die by guns. If that were to happen, you'd be right. But it's never going to happen. I'm pro-life. I'd like to see all babies born and made available through a vibrant adoption process. But that's not going to happen, perhaps for a very, very long time. So all I can do is comment on the culture that creates a tumorization of the fetus. And at times, I admit, I am not as dedicated as those folks on the street, brandishing the garish photos of dead babies. But I do not see that going anywhere. I do not see victory for anyone here. So I move on.
Give up on the drug war. Don't make a big deal of it. Just stop. It's not working, and it's against human nature to deny an individual's choice to mediate whatever predicament they're in with oblivion. Oblivion should be legal. And if it's legal, there is less harm to others who must endure their drive for oblivion. Legal heroin means no heroin addict will try to steal my car. I know a few people (I can count them on one hand) who do not need oblivion. I am not one of them.
Free markets matter. Fighting regulation based on shoddy hypothesis matter. Climate change--whether you believe it's marginal effect is manmade or not--cannot, nor should it be the furious engine that it's designed to be for taxation and regulation. Hell, a little global warming saves lives. That's science. The predicted apocalypse is wrong. We need to kill that beast. Libertarian writers excel at marshaling facts better than anyone because they exist outside the duopoly of right vs. left. It gives them the freedom to destroy your gun control arguments with statistics; it gives them the ease by which they brutalize the war on drugs rhetoric; it gives them the power to question the over-reach of climate change science. Facts matter, and the more they are simplified to tell a story, the better.
The problem with much of the ideas that affect our society is that they are boring. Climate change apostles used to win handily not because they had facts (they concocted consensus in a pretty complicated process that requires lengthy explanation), but because their rhetoric is far from boring. It's romantically apocalyptic. Al Gore made a second career, and hundreds of millions, holding a sign reading "the end of the world is near." The person refuting that makes pennies, by comparison. I can't wait for that war to start. There are so many new fighters willing to dismantle the hysteria. As a luke-warmer, I can accept a slight increase in temperature over a century, but I'm far from convinced that requires drastic changes in our lives or economy. We spend twice as much on climate change as we do on borders. Out of fear.
Libertarianism attracts the smartest people I know, so maybe I'm not as smart as I should be. Because I support the NSA--I have lost my libertarian card. So be it. But, again, I maintain that for America to remain the most free, the most "libertarian" outpost on the planet--we must protect it with every weapon viable. And spying, surveillance, cameras,--the whole bit--I welcome it. Save your Ben Franklin Google quote--I've thought about this more than you can imagine.
Bottom line: you want to beat a liberal democrat? Put forth a right wing Obama. Someone charming, likeable, accessible, who can convey your core beliefs succinctly, confidently, and without easily parodied mannerisms. For republicans, that's really, really hard. The people I'd like to see run, won't run. Even so, I veer from the hardcore Allen West to the charismatic, natural Chris Christie. I dig Gary Sinise. They are vastly, different, but they fall under the same umbrella: they aren't big government liberals, and they have singular, resonating points of view. My dream of dreams is that a 90 lb. farm girl with the guts of 12 MMA fighters would enter the ring, but Dana Perino would never do it. If she did, I'd be her social secretary, and end up babysitting a dog. We need more Mia Loves.
Breitbart News: You understand the value of pop culture and its impact on politics as much as anyone, why do you suppose this concept is not embraced by our side?
GG: I'll tell you why. Because we think everything is weird. It's the nature of conservatism, I guess. We take risks with money, but not with much else. But that's wrong. We wrinkle our noses at things we don't understand. Rather than just understanding it. I see this whenever I pick music for one show I do. It's not as obvious as it used to be. But the moment my segment opens, and the song I pick is played--something by Tobacco or Torche--you can sense the eyerolling. It's "what the hell is this." But as much as love the music--it can't all be country music or classic rock. Try some doom, psychedelia, krautrock, or scuzzy electronica.
Louis CK may be profane, but he's also perceptive and honest. Alec Baldwin may be an ass, but he's one of the finest comedic television actors in recent memory. I hate the phrase "open-minded," but we must open our minds to the creativity you otherwise might find unnerving. To me, music is the closest thing I get to religion. It's mathematics that nails your soul. These are simply equations created by other humans that affect complete strangers in ways that are novel--every singl, new melody or riff affects you in a new way. A new song does something to you that no previous song did before. It's a miracle to me that I find a new song or album that blows me away. This new album by Fuzz. I play it daily. God, it’s great. I'm sure there will be another one that does that same thing, shortly.
My point: laughing at what is weird or different is not a conservative virtue. And I hate it with a passion. I'd rather hang with a liberal fan of the Melvins than a rightwinger who hates the Melvins. Look--Johnny Ramone was a rightwinger. And, under specific criteria, the Ramones might be the greatest band ever. It would be nice to see more Johnny Ramones.
Breitbart News: Competing with the left's monopoly on entertainment, media, and education is a daunting task. How do you think we can chip away at it?
GG: That may never completely change. But it can change a little. The most obvious solution is to encourage offspring to engage in it. It might be too late for you. I'm not taking up guitar lessons again. I was too nervous, and had a bad experience with a squirrel (not a joke). The arts can be a business, so look at it that way. Creating something people like, and making money off it--that's free market meeting the free mind at its most awesome.
Look--there is no doubt that these people (artists in seedy downtown bedsits) hate you. But my theory is this: almost everyone involved in the arts who's any good was mostly indifferent to politics. Reflexively liberal? Probably. What do you expect? But intensely political artists are intensely political because their art wasn't that good enough. Performance artists are often left wing, because their "performance" is politically left wing to gain grants and attention. They get more than a pass. They get an invitation. Without their acceptable "radical" assumptions, their lack of talent would be unacceptable. That's why Karen Finley would not exist if she were a Reaganite. You can shove yams up your ass, and get a grant for it, as long as you're a lib. Look her up--I’m not kidding about the yams.
"Satisfaction" is not a left-wing or right-wing song. The Stones just wanted to play music and get laid, and then get rich. I'd encourage people to get their kids interested in making things, and see what happens. My pessimistic feeling about progress in this arena is real. The left don't veer toward banking and business because it's scary and weird. That's risk that scares them. The same could be said for the right and the arts. Maybe that will never change. I do notice, however, that many musicians who are older are rabidly right wing. Once they make money, they see the folly of demonizing a system that rewards them for hard work. Kid Rock is a great example. But there are many others.
Breitbart News: How are you?
GG: I'm okay. I'm tired. I've been doing two shows, sometimes three--every day for two years, and writing books at night. I do almost nothing else. I go to the gym. I read. I drink. But I'm tired. Not complaining, though. Being tired is better than the opposite--by a long shot. We should all be tired. Tired means you’re running on empty, and not leaving anything behind.