March 19, 2005

Too Much Mad Magazine

The other day Matt Yglesias had a funny aside about modern conservatives: "What passes for a conservative intelligentsia in this country has made a decision to become obsessed with ressentiment and trivia—the cover story on The Weekly Standard is Matt Labash making fun of Canada." Tsk, tsk! But his post reminded me of a short passage from Nina Easton's Gang of Five, courtesy of Amazon's easily-abused "Search Inside" feature:
Until the early 1980s, conservative youth politics mostly had been a pretty straitlaced business. Morton Blackwell, middle-aged dean of youth training for the Republicans, shuddered at the thought of protests and demonstrations. There was too much potential for chaos, for arrests, for injuries… In the early 1970s, Blackwell had run an outfit called the Committee for Responsible Youth Politics.

Much as they would borrow from Blackwell's playbook in training their own generation of activists, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed had no interest in pursuing "responsible youth politics." They were part of the Question Authority generation, weaned on a pop culture of irreverence, eager to shock and provoke. Barbed humor was their weapon. Though they didn't always take what they dished out: Impersonations of Reagan on Saturday Night Live prompted Abramoff to consider launching a boycott of the show. They preferred to set their own terms of humor for their generation (147).
So it was ever thus! And it wasn't just Grover and Ralph:
The Weekly Standard's coverage of Washington politics was imbued with a knowing, smart-alecky tone that often turned off older conservatives. Kristol's writers and editors were very much a product of the Question Authority culture-Mad Magazine and Spy, Saturday Night Live and MTV-of their youths (257).
So don't blame the conservatives themselves, blame their upbringing. Blame mass media, and TV, and pop culture. The truly unfortunate part, though, is that these folks all forgot to grow up after, uh, taking over the country and whatnot.
-- Brad Plumer 7:55 PM || ||