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Puncturing Caricatures of Conservatives By: Dave Gordon
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, November 06, 2008

“Why You’re Wrong About the Right: Behind the Myths – the Surprising Truth about Conservatives”
By S.E. Cupp and Brett Joshpe
Simon and Schuster, Inc, 2008, 275 pgs

Imagine two New York twentysomethings - one of them who works for the New York Times - writing a book defending conservatism. Sounds like a punchline to a joke. But it describes S.E. Cupp and Brett Joshpe and their book Why You’re Wrong About the Right.

Consider it a book version of TV’s Mythbusters, but rather than using physics, the book uses facts to deflate fallacies that have been perpetuated about conservatives and Republicans. Don’t take the authors’ word for it, though – they also interview heavyweight conservatives who add their two cents, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, columnists Jonah Goldberg and Shelby Steele, and talk radio host Laura Ingraham.

Some of the myths that are debunked include Republicans as stupid, as indifferent to environmental dilemmas, and as a coterie of whites-only.

To those who believe that the Republican Party is the party of Caucasians, or the party that looks down at African Americans, think again. The book is quick to point out that the Democratic Party is the party whose national slogan in 1868 was, “This is a White Man’s Government.” The elder George Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. George W. Bush appointed two consecutive black secretaries of state, the first and second in history. As for the Democrats, while President Elect Barack Obama is their star, Joe Biden once offered this explanation for why Iowa’s schools performed better than those in Washington, D.C.: because there were fewer African Americans in the Hawkeye State.

Similarly, the authors methodically disintegrate the myth that Republicans are WASPs.

Former Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Then there’s black columnists Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell, not to mention Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Of the sitting Republican senate members, six are Baptists, four are Mormons, one Church of Christ member, one Greek Orthodox, and two Jews. Hudson Institute president Herb London is a pro-life Jewish conservative. On the flip side, some of the most outspoken liberals are WASPs, such as Howard Dean and Ned Lamont.

And of course, no book about Republican stereotypes would be complete without the inclusion of Sunbelt evangelical NASCAR-loving Bible-thumpers, and the porch-sitting banjo-playing shallow gene pool hick driving the Confederate flag-draped Corvette. That wouldn’t describe the likes of Arnold Schwarzengger, Ann Coulter or Hollywood’s James Woods. (And with 75 million NASCAR fans it is unlikely that all of them are Republican. In fact, the book shows statistically that NASCAR fans are incredibly politically diverse.)

With that, the natural corollary is to discuss the myth that one must be stupid to be Republican. Recall, Democrats drive with bumper stickers such as “Vote Republican. It’s Easier than Thinking,” and “My kid is an honor student. My president is a moron.” Is the president stupid? It is a fact that George W. Bush performed better in college than John Kerry and Al Gore. The latter claimed to have invented the Internet, and once said, “It was clear to me that men and women were equal – if not more so.”

Even though conservatives share a healthy skepticism about global warming, the Left has a tendency to believe them to be tree-destroying, gas guzzling, oil refinery loving, environment rapists. It is not only inaccurate today, but inaccurate historically. Abraham Lincoln set aside land that was to become Yosemite Park. Teddy Roosevelt established the national park system. Nixon established the Environmental Protection Act, among several other pro-planet saving initiatives. And, in recent years, the 104th Republican-led Congress passed fourteen pieces of major environmental legislation – more than the previous four Democratic-led Congresses combined.

With a title like “why you’re wrong…” one must begin by rating the book on the ‘preaching to the choir’ scale. A bit tautological, perhaps, but the facts are the facts (and they are impressively researched). Make no mistake, however: the authors are careful not to fill the book with dry, boring, statistics and data. Anyone could do that with a long enough Google search. On the contrary, it’s a fun, easy read, filled with sharp wit and compelling interviews.

The authors have included a back of the book tongue-in-cheek glossary, and a chapter on how Republicans are, in actuality, great in the sack. It probably helped sales that the front cover shows a hip illustration of the Statue of Liberty with a “rock on!” surfer hand gesture. That said, the book’s defect might be its apparent narrow target demographic, Generation Y - peers of the authors - who would likelier appreciate the amusing, casual use of language and vernacular. Then again, if Barack Obama enchanted the young voter en masse, an intellectual rebuttal such as this book would be of immense help to this generation.

Dave Gordon is a freelance writer in Toronto. His work can be found in the National Post, Baltimore Sun, Toronto Sun and many others.

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