The White House and the Coffehouse

Daniel, of course, beat me to it, but Michael Gerson’s fluffy column is so truly awful and illuminating that we should all take turns flogging it in our own ways well into next week.

Gerson — a self-described conservative — believes that as long as consumers voters are going to treat politics as yet another means of cheap emotional renewal, there’s no reason conservatives shouldn’t play the game too. Since suburbanites like to surround themselves with facile revolutionary symbols while pecking at their Powerbooks, the right ought to champion policies that generate emotional enthusiasm and appeal to “cause-oriented consumers.” Using public policy to deliver grandeur and emotional uplift might not sound very conservative to some of us, but after all, “this reality of the market is also a reality of American politics,” according to Gerson.

For more about Gerson’s myth of the coffeehouse, see Matthew Scully’s hatchet job. But meanwhile, here we have a man who admires poseur leftism for its marketing chops, thinks that public policy ought to be “morally inspiring,” boasts that he’s “comfortable among the revolutionaries,” and then tells conservatives to pull up a chair and take his advice. I expect no shocked reactions from anyone when he pulls a David Brock and starts a second career as a sanctimonious, self-flagellating liberal. The convergence of Gerson, Rove, and Bush is the sort of historical accident upon which I hope we can all look back and laugh someday, assuming the “Emo-Republicans” never become a serious electoral bloc.

The most complicated question is why, as a rather serious-minded conservative, I am often found in bohemian coffeehouses, comfortable among the revolutionaries. Maybe it is because politics doesn’t always predict lifestyle. Maybe because there is a bohemian impulse inside every writer, searching for a little quiet rebellion. Maybe I just like good soy lattes.

Maybe, Mr. Gerson, you’re just a late-blooming suburban undergrad lefty hooked on the emotional thrill of imagined revolution, who just happens to have had the ear (and the mouth) of the US President at a traumatic and transformational moment. You have had more than your due measure of influence and now it’s time for you to please go away.