The PJ Tatler

Six Dead Ideas Walking in Michael Medved's Romney Zombie Wall Street Journal Op/Ed

During the holiday weekend The Wife and I finished the first season of AMC’s Walking Dead on Netflix streaming. So it seemed appropriate to augment this week’s article with five more recommendations of underrated walking dead media. As we finish up the remaining Thanksgiving bounty let us be grateful we do not live in a world overrun with hordes of mindless zombies. Now back to discussing the GOP primary, its overrated candidates, and their true believers — all of which in no way resemble the apocalyptic scenarios of our entertainments…

One of the truisms of our political culture today is that “centrist” establishment Republicans are less “ideologically-driven” than “hard right” Tea Partiers. (All these terms are in quotations because none of them actually means anything empirical.) According to this view, “moderate” conservatives are the adults who care more about governing reasonably. We “extreme” Tea Partiers who advocate for the New Deal welfare state’s disassembly do so out of blind-eyed zeal, not a rational analysis of the price America pays as FDR’s economic chickens finally return home to roost.

The irony, though, is that those who most rely on the “Left,” “Right,” and “Center” lens to interpret the political landscape are actually the ones who claim to be above ideological purity: the “pragmatic,” “reasonable,” “grown-up” so-called RINOs who now sneer at those who doubt the electability of their White Knight Mitt Romney.

This column in The Wall Street Journal by talk radio host Michael Medved is a perfect example. Medved’s Zombie-like devotion to Right/Left/Center thinking yields a column filled from beginning to end with lifeless arguments responding to made-up opponents. (And they get worse as the column goes on.)

Medved is not a stupid man at all and he remains a gifted defender of free societies. But Ideology — the political word’s theology — kills brain activity and makes automatons of otherwise thoughtful human beings. Instead of thinking about a question for ourselves we just go with the “common sense notion” of our peer group, regardless of whether the political culture still sustains it. This is why Dennis Prager — who comes before Medved on KRLA here in Los Angeles — insists on the importance of thinking a second time. Howard Bloom promotes the same injunction in his book The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism as his second rule of science: look at everything under your nose as though you’re looking at it for the first time. Bloom’s first rule is “the truth at any price, even the price of your life” and right from the beginning of Medved’s column he ignores this ground zero of rational thought. We start with the sixth most-zombie-like idea in the column:

6. You can name an opponent, cite a specific piece, and then rebut arguments it does not make.

In headlining a typical blog post, Erick Erickson of laments: “Mitt Romney as the Nominee: Conservatism Dies and Barack Obama Wins.”

Such projections of doom portray Mr. Romney as the dreary second coming of John McCain—a hapless moderate foisted on the disillusioned rank and file by the GOP’s country-club establishment, with no real chance to rally the conservative base or draw clear distinctions with Barack Obama.

This analysis, endlessly recycled on the right, relies on groundless assumptions about recent political history.  Three myths in particular demand rebuttal…

Read Erickson’s bold piece right here. Then note the three “myths” that Medved dedicates his article to rebutting. I’ll summarize them now and reveal their shortcomings in a moment:

A) John McCain lost in 2008 because he was a RINO who did not inspire conservatives to get out and vote.

B) RINO Republican elites “forced” McCain on good conservatives who did not want him.

C) Conservatism is a winning political message that cannot be beaten. Ever. Anywhere.

None of these strawman arguments appear in Erickson’s article. And this sets the pattern for the piece: it’s really just Medved misrepresenting Tea Partiers instead of engaging us as his intellectual and moral equal.

Is anyone surprised that throughout his op/ed Medved doesn’t quote his opponents’ actual arguments?

I’m not. One need only listen to Medved’s radio show to understand why he doesn’t respect Erickson enough to respond fairly. Medved’s style of argumentation in his column is related to why he’s the only KRLA talk radio host that provokes me to change the station. Glenn Beck from 6-9, Dennis Prager from 9-12, Medved from 12-3, Hugh Hewitt from 3-6, Mike Gallagher from 6-8, and then Dennis Miller from 8-11. Why do I avoid Medved if I’m driving around town when he’s on? It has nothing to do with ideology (some of my dearest friends have similar views and so did I a few years ago) and everything to do with temperament. When listening to Beck, Prager, Hewitt, Gallagher, and Miller, I don’t feel as though I’m being talked down to by a teacher who disdains his students. Each of them acknowledges their mental limits and seems genuinely eager to learn from others whether it’s a random housewife calling in or a Ph.D. promoting a book. But not Medved. When I listen to his show he seems more interested in forcing his opinion on others rather than joining his guests and listeners as we try to discover the truth together. And that manifests in his column too: He does not even have enough interest in others’ ideas to rebut them.

Next: Let the burning of the straw men commence. Help yourself to a torch.

Resident Evil: Extinction is a surprisingly entertaining action picture — and much better than the two previous films in the series, both of which should be skipped. I haven’t seen the fourth and fifth films but it wouldn’t surprise me if both suck. They probably just got lucky with this one.

5. Tea Partiers are expected to invest their time, money, and emotions in fatally-flawed campaigns.

“Many analysts cited by the New York Times, Washington Times and other prominent media sources continue to blame the Republican defeat in 2008 on the millions of conservative true believers who allegedly stayed home rather than vote for the notorious ‘RINO’ (Republican In Name Only) John McCain.”

Medved makes this argument as an artful refutation of a claim no one of consequence makes: if Romney is elected then it won’t be with Tea Partiers’ votes. This is another variation of the establishment Republicans’ condescending caricature of the apocalyptic Tea Party simpleton. Perhaps Medved thinks that Glenn Beck listeners won’t vote for Romney because we’re prepared to sit out the Obamalypse in bunkers with our dehydrated food, gold, and dog-eared back issues of Soldier of Fortune.

Actually Medved is clever to do this because it avoids the serious issue: many conservatives will be less enthusiastic to give their money, time, and emotions to Mitt Romney. They’ll certainly vote for him in the general election, but Team Mitt is likely to have a rougher time transforming Tea Partiers into meaningful Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) operations and fund-raisers.

Is that because conservatives don’t want Romney to beat Obama? No, it’s because (for reasons I’ll explain) they don’t expect victory. But who knows, maybe we’ll just get lucky with this one.

Next: Why would a talk radio conservative misrepresent Rush Limbaugh’s words? (Rhetorical question…)

With 28 Days Later Danny Boyle revitalized the undead genre by transforming creepy dimwits into a horrific Zombie Charge Assault. A new fever pitch of Undead Terror achieved, a whole new sub-genre emerged in the years since the film’s release.

4. Having a candidate with the “correct” ideology is the most important factor in winning elections.

2) According to another prevailing myth, frequently promoted on talk radio and in right-wing blogs, Republican elites disregarded the obvious public preference for more unequivocally conservative candidates and forced the nomination of the unpopular , Washington-tainted insider, John Mr. McCain, who proceeded to run a disastrous campaign that dragged down the GOP at every level.

Let’s put aside the fact that this is another strawman argument attributed to no one. Who claims that there was some ideal conservative candidate in 2008 and a RINOs-at-the-grassy-knoll conspiracy of sabotage? Remind yourself of the 2008 possibilities and suddenly it makes sense why Medved couldn’t be bothered to find someone of consequence who sincerely makes this argument.

A thought experiment: how would the 2008 election have turned out differently if Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Romney, or Mike Huckabee had won the primary? One might have defeated Obama’s magical Hopenchange? Or would they have run the same generic, uninspiring Republican campaign as Team McCain and been just as bowled over by the dream of the first black president?

In 2003 when I was just beginning to float in activist circles and write about politics for the college newspaper, my early efforts inspired a political science professor to send a rebuking email. He lambasted me for not knowing anything and dragged me into the political science department where I took a few courses the next semester before adding the major to my already declared English/creative writing concentration. Studying campaigns and voter behavior with the mentality of a political scientist instead of an activist adjusted my analyses of electoral politics toward a less sexy conclusion: elections (all levels from local to President) are not won or lost based on what a candidate says, who he is, or which ideological topping he’s drizzled in this year. Elections are won on practical politics. Presidential elections come down to winning a handful of swing states. When it’s close, what actually matters is which side has the stronger GOTV operation in place. Who has the more effective campaign infrastructure? Who has done a better job expanding and mobilizing their base? Who will succeed at the challenge of relocating flesh-and-blood bodies from warm couches to voting booths on a cold, Autumnal election day?

Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Herman Cain — hell, it’d be harder, but even Jon Huntsman or Michele Bachmann — could defeat Obama in 2012 with a competent campaign. It matters less whether the GOP nominates the right person and more on if conservatives wage the right political war.

2012 is not a contest of Democrats vs Republicans, Left vs Right, Obama vs Romney. These are just abstractions which sit on top of the real money and infrastructure responsible for installing the current President in the Oval Office and fighting to keep him there: the Soros-ACORN-SEIU-Community Organizing-Stealth Socialist network. It doesn’t matter who the nominee is. Each will have to endure the same Zombie Charge New Media Assault from George Soros-funded activist organizations and their comrades in labor unions, Alinskyite shake-down groups, and their sympathizers in the Old Media. And no one has yet articulated how Romney will survive running this gauntlet better than anyone else.

Reminder: these stealth Marxists have known about the importance of this stuff for decades. Voter manipulation lies at the heart of the stealth socialist program. Remember “motor voter”? And what’s this lead article this week at PJM by Hans A. Von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams on voter fraud?

Next: An argument conservatives should be embarrassed to read on the WSJ’s editorial page…

Zombies Ate My Neighbors was an inventive Super Nintendo game which satirized campy science fiction and horror films. You collected oddball weapons like squirt guns and six packs of pop which you could use to fight zombies, evil clowns, martians, and giant babies. It was a goofy, pleasant 16-bit memory from my childhood, and far different from the ultra-violence of zombie games today which inspired the Resident Evil films.

3. The ideological landscape of presidential elections from decades ago is meaningful in 2011. 

3) Rush Limbaugh’s favorite slogan, “Conservatism wins every time,” is more a statement of wishful thinking than an accurate summary of electoral experience. It’s true that Ronald Reagan’s inspiring, comprehensive conservatism brought two sweeping victories (in 1980 and ’84). But the same supremely gifted candidate lost two prior runs for the presidency (in 1968 and 1976) to two charismatically challenged, moderate rivals, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

This paragraph needs to be stated for what it is: condescending and insulting. And one almost has to wonder if Medved is being rude to Tea Partiers intentionally. “Conservatism wins every time” does not mean that the candidate wins every time. It means that conservative values clearly articulated will inspire the electorate and crush the Democrats’s reheated class warfare. Medved know this is what the slogan means. How could he not? He guest-hosted Limbaugh’s show dozens of times. Surely he knows the ins and outs of his friend’s views far better than me. So why would he misrepresent one of his mentor’s words? Could he not have found some other way to segue into his next apples-to-oranges electoral comparison?

That Ronald Reagan achieved the presidential nomination in 1980 instead of 1968 or 1976 says nothing about the electability of proudly conservative candidates in 2011 and everything about all the other historical factors impacting the GOP presidential contests at the time. What other variables changed over the course of 12 years in the political culture? How did Reagan grow into a more compelling candidate during those years? Medved is too smart to be unable to see this.

Barry Goldwater electrified Republicans with his delineation of “The Conscience of a Conservative,” but he lost 44 states to the unspeakable Lyndon Johnson in 1964. More recently, tea party-affiliated candidates won several high-profile primary victories in 2010 and went on to ignominious defeats in easily winnable Senate races in Delaware, Nevada, Colorado and Alaska.

It’s surreal to see writing like this on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. According to Medved, Goldwater’s defeat to Johnson in 1964 during the modern conservative movement’s primordial era says something meaningful about the viability of conservative candidates in the political culture of 2011.

I know how the “reasonable” conservatives hate it when we barbarian Tea Partiers do this, but let me remind Mr. Medved what the President’s ideological mentors were doing during this period:

The times change. Children’s zombie games evolve from cartoony entertainments to R-rated butcher fests. And the radicals learn to switch from the honesty of “communist” and “weatherman” to the deceitful “community organizer” and “pragmatic problem solver.” But somehow I’m the “extremist” for using “Marxist” instead of “liberal.”

Next: Speaking as someone who considered himself a “centrist” in the 2008 election and for a few years after…

Zombieland (a comedy with Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Woody Harrelson) was a pleasant watch in theatres, though I still left disappointed, hoping it would be at Superbad-level funny (multiple laugh-out-loud sequences instead of just an assortment of soft chuckles.) But now I’m kind of wanting to see it again. When watching a film for the first time it’s easy to miss noticing when characters are especially likable. That’s because we’re usually not looking for them and have been trained by Hollywood not to expect them anymore. Thinking a second time pays off with movies as well as politics. Some of my favorite films today are ones that I hated the first go around.

2. Self-identified independents and centrists have firm political convictions.

“In short, the electoral experience of the last 50 years does nothing to undermine the common-sense notion that most political battles are won by seizing and holding the ideological center.”

Does the “ideological center” of the political culture change over time? Is the “center” of 2012 different than that of 2008, 2004, 2000, and 1996? If it is then that means that “seizing and holding” the “ideological center” can not be done in the same fashion every cycle.

It is absurd for conservatives to talk about how people allegedly voted for president in the ’60s, ’70s, even ’80s and ’90s as though it has much relevance on the political culture today. The country’s always changing. We might as well be putting the race in the context of Millard Fillmore and Zachary Taylor’s political strategies. It has about as much relevance as trying to compare 2012’s contest to the dynamics of every other presidential election in our lives.

More importantly, though: does one “seize the center” by running a wishy-washy, “center-right” candidate to compete against what the media claims is a center-left president? Or does one “seize the center” by inspiring some in the “center” to embrace conservatism?

We run a charismatic candidate who articulates conservatism well and we can convert enough fence-sitters to win. The whole point of a voter being a “centrist” or a “moderate” is that they don’t have many firm views and don’t know much. Queen Ann refers to them as the “idiot voters.” This does not mean such people are stupid — just that they have not taken the time yet to think about political philosophy. (Perhaps this actually makes them smarter than we political junkies.)

Finally: Let he who is without ideology cast the first vote…

And the most underrated walking dead film ever is in my personal Top 10 Of All Time, The Last Temptation of Christ. Here’s the scene where Willem Dafoe as Jesus defends Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene from a mob wanting to stone her for sleeping with Roman soldiers on the Sabbath:

1. Most voters are ideologues.

The notion that ideologically pure conservative candidates can win by disregarding centrists and magically producing previously undiscovered legions of true-believer voters remains a fantasy. It is not a strategy. At the moment, it is easy to imagine Mitt Romney appealing to many citizens who would never consider Rick Perry or Herman Cain. It is much harder (if not impossible) to describe the sort of voter—Republican, Democrat or independent—who would refuse to support Mr. Romney (over Barack Obama!) but would somehow eagerly back Messrs. Perry, Cain or Gingrich, let alone Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum or Ron Paul.

My emphasis added to highlight the most wrongheaded argument in the whole piece. How can a man like Medved, who worked on political campaigns for more than a decade before I was born, genuinely think that there is such little diversity of thought in the American electorate? Does he really believe that voters are so simpleminded and so easily categorized in “Left,” “Right,” and “Center” buckets?

An obvious question: Are all general election voters ideologues? And by “ideologue” I don’t mean it as the slur it’s most often used as but rather “someone who thinks about politics primarily in ideological terms.” This might be news to some (especially those cloistered within the bosom of the beltway) but there are vast numbers of voters in this country who don’t think about “liberal,” “leftist,” “conservative,” or “tea party” on a daily basis. They know little about these political theologies, and cast their ballots based on other factors, some thoughtful and legitimate, others frivolous or stupid. Do you know how many people vote for President just because they like someone as a person but know next to nothing about his policies? Tell me, if this was a high school popularity contest who would win more votes, Romney or Obama? And mind you that you’re answering the question BEFORE the Soros Slime Machine has gone to work on Romney.


The first season of Walking Dead was about as good as television gets. The day after April and I finished it I instant messaged conservative New Media’s TV guru Ben Shapiro, to express my satisfaction and see what he thought. Ben agreed that the first season was strong but said how disappointed he’d been in the second, saying it had grown too talky and was akin to “The View” with Zombies. Now he more appreciate the show as silly camp rather than a serious horror-thriller. Ben and I often have very different cinematic tastes and like to argue about it (he’s a traditionalist raised on classic Hollywood, I’m more avant garde and worked for years at an arthouse movie theatre) but he’s probably right.

A lot can change in just one season for a TV show. One year you’re on track to be the next President of the United States, the next you’ve jumped the shark.

This isn’t said enough: in 2008 Romney was regarded as the conservative alternative to the “centrist” McCain. Now four years later he‘s the “moderate” and non-traditional campaigns once regarded as dead and buried are serious challengers to the inevitability of the Romney coronation. These developments fly in the face of the “common sense notions” Medved insists all rational people should accept.

How did that happen?

The same way that in Spring 2009 I was a conservative-leaning “centrist” and Obama’s policies and behavior changed my mind toward the Tea Party — just as I’m sure many people reading have grown and evolved over the past few years’ political experiences. So why can’t we just continue nurturing more introspection within our fellow citizens about the failed policies of the Obama administration, and have the courage to run a candidate who genuinely represents our values?

Update: Thomas Sowell’s column this week also takes issue with Medved’s column and makes similar arguments. This makes sense. I’ve read a half dozen of Sowell’s books this year.


Check out my previous PJ Counterculture articles:

Can Herman Cain Rise Back Up on a Cloud of Marijuana Smoke?

Newt Gingrich: The GOP’s Fiery Genie Emerges From His Lamp

Our Deceitful Marxist President’s Cruel War on Sick Medicinal Marijuana Patients

When Boomer Culture Finishes Its Suicide, What Will Rise Next?


And follow me on Twitter @DaveSwindle where you can give me your advice and suggestions for future PJ Counterculture articles.