Preaching to the Choir

What is interesting from the standpoint of clergy and congregation, so to speak, is the occasional conversion, or at least the willingness on the part of some of these visitors to reflect on what they have experienced. I have read comments to posted articles which indicate a change of heart and mind and have received emails from people who have undergone the painful process of reconsideration. Convinced leftists today are stuck in an evolutionary dead end but contemplative liberals will from time to time come to accept or acknowledge the conservative gravamen and re-order their social and political premises. As David Swindle writes, “We can — and should — present all the facts and arguments available to try and wake people up to the sinister forces that threaten us. Because we will snap some people out of their slumber.”

Which is why it is important to persist despite the Herculean labor of the task and to refuse to be deflected or disheartened by the “preaching to the choir” requiem. And even amidst the distractions that tend to disperse meditative impulses in the current digital and cellular environment, there is always that little gleam of possibility. As T.S. Eliot proleptically wrote in his Four Quartets, “Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.” Moreover, the choir also needs to be encouraged every now and then to prevent slippage and to provide incentive. But we should always remember that there are these visitors and tourists who come to fill their photo albums and sometimes leave with a different view of the world, prepared to re-think their congenial assumptions.

It is only fair to recognize that the reverse procedure may apply equally to liberal left venues, but the tenor of the discourse there is generally very different from what we have grown accustomed to in much of the conservative media. For not only are such left venues also preaching to their choir, but the tone of the service, as noted above, is usually far more vulgar, humorless, splenetic and defamatory, often to the point of breaching the rules of common decorum or mature expectation. Conservative readers on the whole are more likely to take offense at, rather than be influenced by, the stench of such productions. Indeed, conservative talkbackers are at a premium on these sites and would probably need to be wanded aboard. It is reasonable to assume that the “conversion rate” among liberals would now be demonstrably higher than among conservatives.

Still, the conservative camp has for many years fought a tortuous, uphill battle when the prospect of victory seemed impossibly remote. Happily, this appears to be changing, however slightly. To go back to the Arizona tragedy and the leftist “blood libel,” even Jon Stewart and David Brooks have adopted a comparatively sensible and moderate perspective on the event. And as Roger Simon points out, the sale of the Huffington Post to AOL may plausibly indicate that the left-oriented site “is apparently going more centrist…Progressivism, which was riding the crest of popularity on the election of Obama, is over. It is no longer good for business.” Let’s hope he’s right.

Nevertheless, I admit to those moments of dismay in the face of a vast and monolithic opposition when I have been tempted, like some of my colleagues on the right who have had similar doubts, to leave off political writing, sell my house, buy a yacht in the Caribbean, stock it with booze and babes, and let the world go hang. Why sacrifice whatever modicum of pleasure remains to us? Let America collapse. Let the nanny state devitalize its citizens. Let the phalanxes of the left unleash their mad tirades and predictable disasters. Let the West succumb to the Islamic virus. A civilization that wants to die should be allowed to go quietly — or violently — into that good night.

But such reveries of disaffection never last long, and I know that we must continue preaching both to the choir as well as to that group of fortuitous callers and transients, some of whom may decide to stay. The yacht is for later, when the tide has finally turned.