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Ed Driscoll

538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal Fascist

July 11th, 2010 - 12:14 am

As always, life on the left imitates Liberal Fascism. Completed near the end of 2007; summing up the state of modern “progressivism” and its past and present offshoots, at one point in his book, Jonah Goldberg wrote:

Again, it is my argument that American liberalism is a totalitarian political religion, but not necessarily an Orwellian one. It is nice, not brutal. Nannying, not bullying. But it is definitely totalitarian–or ‘holistic,’ if you prefer–in that liberalism today sees no realm of human life that is beyond political significance, from what you eat to what you smoke to what you say. Sex is political. Food is political. Sports, entertainment, your inner motives and outer appearance, all have political salience for liberal fascists.

At the Weekly Standard, Matt Labash introduces us to the author of 538 Ways to Live Work and Play Like a Liberal.

No, really! Even eeeevil capitalists Amazon.com, a Website powered by non-Salon.com-approved air conditioned server farms in giant Randian office towers accessible via computer network invented by the military industrial complex itself sells the book!

Because the man can’t bust our ideology. Not when the person putting all the pieces together is the man, the myth, the legend, Justin Krebs:

Who is Justin Krebs, you ask? Only my sensei. My guru. The man who made plain that I had politics all wrong. I used to think along the lines of the British writer and publisher Ernest Benn that politics was “the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.” Thus, I had put my politics in my political box, and my life in my living box. When I should’ve placed all the contents in the same box—a much bigger, biodegradable one. (You can get them at Treecycle.com.)

Krebs showed me that my politics shouldn’t be just my politics, but also my religion, my sun and moon, my inhalation and exhalation. Since politics, particularly liberal politics, bring people so much joy, wouldn’t I be better off politicizing everything—the way I live and work and play? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. The answer is a resounding “yes,” as evidenced right there in the title of Krebs’s new book: 538 Ways to Live Work and Play Like a Liberal.

The 32-year-old Krebs didn’t just write this book, which comes complete with a 538-item checklist. He’s lived it. He sharpened his liberal-living iron on the mean conservative streets of Highland Park, New Jersey; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and, finally, that repository of red state madness, the island of Manhattan. Girding him for battle were his parents—two good liberals, who sent him to a cooperative preschool, where he called all the other kids’ moms and dads by their first names. Krebs says his parents were his “playmates” as well, though all was not idyllic. There are some intimations of child abuse; they took him to a Walter Mondale rally when he was just 6 years old.

Upon graduating from Harvard, Krebs had his liberal ticket punched repeatedly. He served in the office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. He blogs on the progressive blog OpenLeft. He is one of the founding directors of The Tank, “a non-profit arts presenter in the heart of Manhattan.” But his enduring legacy, his gift to all of us really, was hatched over a pitcher of beer.

Seven years ago, like many a good liberal, Krebs and his friends were driven to drink by the “arrogance and authoritarianism of the Bush administration.” What started as an informal vinegar session in a Hell’s Kitchen dive was formalized into a “Drinking Liberally” club, which met every Thursday, a place for activist types to talk progressive politics, network, plot strategy, and get hooched up (though its organizers remind us, “As you drink liberally, always drink responsibly”). As the club gained more members, it begat chapters nationwide and led to offshoot Eating Liberally clubs for foodies, Screening Liberally clubs for film buffs, Reading Liberally clubs for bookworms, and Laughing Liberally clubs that use “humor and laughter to spread understanding of liberal ideas and advance progressive values.” (Sounds like a scream!)

There are now 330 Living Liberally chapters in 50 states and around the globe. It’s no longer just a few longhairs knocking back pitchers of cheap suds, bitching about the Patriot Act. Living Liberally has become a way of life. There’s even a Liberal Card, a membership card which is “about showing your liberal pride, joining the liberal community and claiming your liberal discounts.” It’s printed on renewable green “CornCards,” rather than the petroleum that is blackening not only the brown pelicans of the Louisiana marshlands, but also our souls.

As Krebs writes, Drinking Liberally “has never been about drinking .  .  . it’s about progressive politics in a social setting.” It’s about all of us being “in this together.” It’s not just about “how you vote on Election Day.” It’s about “how you vote with your wallet every day.” It’s not just about “what you chant at a rally, but what you laugh at or rock out to on your iPod.” It’s about saying “it’s about” a lot, and then saying something real meaningful afterwards. Like this: “Living like a liberal is never just about making politics personal, but about making personal politics public.” It’s about alliteration.

I’m just going to be honest again: All this alliteration wet my whistle (see, it’s catching). I wanted to find out what it was all about. Krebs’s book was due for release on July 4, the day we gained our independence as a country. But I was ready to gain my own independence as an individual—independence from this disengaged, right-leaning, but mostly apolitical way of life I’d been enslaved by. So I secured an early copy.

The 538-item checklist was daunting. As Krebs admits, “Some of the ideas are hard, or even uncomfortable. You don’t have to do them all. Just think about them.” So I did. For roughly 10 days, I thought about them and undertook a good many of them. There was no way I could tackle them all. But it was clear that if I wanted to gain my independence by Independence Day by biting off a representative sample, I’d still be busier than a one-legged Obama in an ass-kicking contest. Time to get to work.

Is Feng-Shui involved? Because that would be awesome (from the title onward, language alert):


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Serious question though: Once books such as Lisa Birnbach’s satiric The Official Preppy Handbook from 1980, and Bobos in Paradise, David Brooks’ early-2001 equivalent focusing on the center-left hit the shelves, the clock was ticking on those particular lifestyles. With its Whole Earth Catalog-sounding title, is 538 Ways to Live Work and Play Like a Liberal a harbinger of a movement similarly reaching its expiration date?

If so, how will the post-9/11 left morph in the coming years?

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