Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Frank(en) Partisanship

This summer I almost had the opportunity to meet Al Franken. We were both at a banquet of sorts for the reunion of the 1965 AL champion Minnesota Twins. I passed within a foot or two of the fellow, but saw no reason to make an introduction.

Franken seems to be much like Ann Coulter in that they both do a very good job of preaching to the choir while angering the people in the pews. I have not read any of his material, but he seems to do a good job at angering conservatives while causing liberals to blush with pride, patting themselves on the back about how right they are.

Since I have not read anything by Franken, I will instead use Coulter to illustrate a point. I picked up "Slander" at a book store a few years ago and read it. The idea behind the book was to show how liberal rhetoric is so shallow that it consists mainly of calling conservatives names. The book consisted, oddly enough, of some witty and humorous name-calling on behalf of Coulter. It is doubtful if her mud-slinging is increasing the size of the conservative fold substantially.

This would seem to apply equally to pundits of the "mainstream media"--whatever that means--as well as humble little folks like myself over here in blog-land. Despite Hannity's claims of people who have become "Hannitized", I am not sure how many have been. And in fairness, Hannity's is more tactful than Coulter, if also less witty.

The reason that we have so many pundits is that there are no shortage of people who spend a great deal of time convincing themselves they are right. While in and of itself not problematic, it does one good to read something disagreeable from time to time. While reading a Coulter book may prove entertaining, it is unlikely that it will change my mind on a lot of issues, namely because I agree with Ann on quite a lot of things. Reading a Franken book on the other hand, will possibly allow me to see the other side more clearly, even if it does not change my mind.

Of course, it should be noted that I am at least a bit hyprocritical on this front. There is not a single liberal columnist I read on a regular basis namely because most of them drive me mad as they are wrong about most everything. Indeed, the three columnists linked here are all conservative authors.

The reason for all this is Al Franken's new ad. It is not bothersome because it is offensive, for it is not, but because it is not funny at all. Franken is, supposedly, a funny man, but this ad was not. It is also, seemingly, a bad way to promote one's book. The liberals who are going to read the book already know who he is. The conservatives, whom the ad is targeted at, are supposed to become enraged and buy the book. Rather than trying to get more flies with honey, Franken is trying to attract bears with bee stings.

It has been said that there is no such thing as bad advertisement. In other words, all public relations is good public relations. And of course, the mere fact that I would take the time to write this means that Franken's advertisement worked, at least in some small way. Yet the goal of a political author is, ostensibly, not just to sell books, but to change minds. The question is one of effectiveness in rhetoric.

But the irony of this whole situation is truly the best part. While Franken and Coulter--to keep the token partisans--rarely see eye to eye, the two parties they belong to do, and often. Just as Franken would have the Democrats rectify all the errors left in the wake of Republican rule, so would Coulter lead the Republicans to prevent the blunders the counfounded Democrats keep on committing. Despite their intentions, it must be remembered that the old definition no longer apply. Conservative no longer means Republican any more than liberal equates with Democrat. In fact, the thing closer to the truth is that a Republican could very easily be mistaken for a Democrat.

As a third party supporter, it becomes frustrating seeing the partisan bickering occuring over trite affairs. With both parties beholden to corporations and special interests, the fighting is ineffective at best. At worst, it distracts us from the few things even the most blatant partisans should be able to agree on, be it elimination of deficit spending, protection of basic liberties, a sensible immigration policy or term limits for our representatives in Congress.

Five will get you ten more people will talk about this silly ad around the water cooler than will bemoan the minute difference between the two parties. Either I am missing something rather important or else I desparately need Franken's advertising crew.

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