Meanwhile, Robert Caro was interviewing a hedgehog…
Posted June 15, 2012on:
First, I want to thank Madamab, all the writers and posters for being so welcoming. It is greatly appreciated.
It’s been a confusing week. In the classically immortal words of Dolly Parton, “I don’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt.“ In any event, a bunch of random thoughts are beating their little bat wings around the cranial belfry like so many meth addicts at a djembe festival.
The first random thought was spawned by something Robert Caro said in an interview about his latest book on Lyndon Johnson. In 36 years, this is Caro’s fourth book about the big-eared Texan and he plans others. Caro sees his multi-volume opus not as a study of LBJ, but more as a study of power in the mid-20th Century. He is such a prolific researcher there doesn’t seem to be any shred of paper evidencing a nano-second of Johnson’s life he has not read or had tested for DNA residue. In the interview, Caro said, “There is no one truth, but there are an awful lot of objective facts.”
Another squadron of bats has been beating out a snippet of an Archilochus poem that became the modern parable of The Fox and the Hedgehog — “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” While the fox is sly with many tricks, the hedgehog knows only one big thing — to ball itself up and be protected by its coarse spiny quills. It seems no creature has yet developed an appetite for pin cushions, but I’m sure some molecular gastronomist has given it a shot at $300 a plate.
Now to the sane mind, tying these seemingly disparate thoughts together seems about as likely as having Marcus Bachman narrate a John Wayne Film Festival or having Charles Krauthammer keynote a Positive Psychology seminar, but stick with me here.
It has always bothered me that conservatives are so much better at “messaging” than liberals. It is in no small measure because of Dr. Frank Luntz — the ultimate spinmeister who could sell bubble gum in a lockjaw ward. I’ve often thought when Frank Luntz burps the entire Republican caucus becomes flatulent.
Courtesy of Luntz, conservatives linguistically fly at 30,000 feet in a rarefied air free of turbulence, engine clogging Canadian geese, and facts. They have learned the rather elementary lesson that things don’t get dicey and messy until you fly closer to the ground where the real life consequences of that high-flying rhetoric are felt and can be seen.
You see, the conservatives are hedgehogs, they know one big thing — how to ball themselves up in polysyllogisms and survive even though most Americans don’t like the taste of what they are selling. The liberals on the other hand are like the fox — they know many things, but at the end of the day, all the sly stuff is lost in its own minutiae and the liberal fox is left raiding the hen house to suck a few eggs.
Suffice it to say, conservatives have refined the glittering generality to a fine pristine sheen that would make the Hubble telescope’s mirrors look like the dull reflectivity of an old Campbell’s soup can. Liberals flounder around in a world of footnotes, caveats, endnotes, and indices that isn’t food for thought for anyone other than those with Cheeto-stained fingers and the visual acuity of eyeless Mammoth Cave fish.
All people of whatever philosophy who care about public policy have to get better at dulling the oh so attractive glittering generalities of what has become par for political discourse.
This is where Robert Caro’s words come in — there is no one truth, but there are an awful lot of objective facts. To ultimately do battle with intellectually flaccid generalities, people who care about doing what’s right have to learn to use objective facts in such a way as to bring the Luntzites (isn’t it amazing how close Luntzites is to Luddites) out of the rarefied air and closer to the real world consequences.
Here’s a start:
- In 2009-2010, the top 1% reaped 93% of all the income growth. Wham
- In 2006, the top six banks had $6.8 trillion in assets — today, increasing 39%, those top 6 banks have $9.5 trillion in assets — a farcical remedy for “too big to fail.” Bam
- In the last 10 years, the Bush tax cuts have cost $2.5 trillion and in the entire 8 years of the Bush terms, only 3 million jobs were created. Thank
- Unemployment in the European Union averages a record 11% with some member nations that have opted for full blown austerity having unemployment as high as 24% — tell me again why Paul Ryan’s austerity budget will do the opposite in America? You
- In the last two years, corporate profits have hit historic records and American corporations are sitting on almost $2.0 trillion in cash — and I thought government regulations were killing American business? Madamab
Five sentences — five facts — five big thoughts said simply enough to bring the high flying generalities of the Luntzites to tree top level.
To paraphrase Elmer Fudd while he was doing an impersonation of Joe Lieberman, “Those wascally hedgehogs have to sleep sometime.” Progressives have to get in touch with their own “inner hedgehog,” stop playing the fox, stop talking from footnotes, and get down to simple, plain understandable facts.
This is an “all skate” open thread.
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