Two very schticky people visited Ann Arbor this weekend. In response to an online quiz that I had created for the amusement of my friends and family, one of our guests asked me if Swanson, as in the brutally hot Kristy, was a Jewish last name. The other visitor spent five minutes on Washington Street looking at names of all the office-building tenants and deciphering who was Jewish. They both told me a great deal about some upcoming bar mitzvahs.
Two very down people also visited Ann Arbor on Saturday. One of them carried on about how much she liked a Counting Crows CD that a 16-year-old had made for her. Prompted by another one of the quiz’s questions, the second traveler asked me if he had really neglected to include Tracy McGrady on his list of NBA players whom he claims he could dismantle one-on-one. They both followed up some of their statements with a rhetorical “Nome sayin’?”
The first group and the second group are comprised of the same two people: 54-year-old, enlightened lawyers from New York. May I please present my parents, Alfred Ira Litman and Betty Jane Jacobs, who flew from the liberal cloister that is Manhattan’s Upper West Side to the only other place where they feel as comfortable in their politics, Ann Arbor. My parents are examples of how completely outnumbered the liberals in this country have become, how they have failed at playing politics and how that dwindling group is unfortunately insulated from much of the nation.
Both my mom and my dad are pro-choice and anti-war. They support a plethora of social welfare programs and believe in the absolute protection of civil rights. They don’t hate minorities; they don’t vilify the poor. The only people like them that I know are here or at home. And even in New York, many of the “liberals” that Mom and Dad know are liberal only after securing their own safety and prosperity through conservative means, rights and altruism be damned. The pole of the political spectrum at which you can find Alfred and Betty Jane is a lonely one.
Last week’s election was a clear indication that the forces of conservatism were either coopting or overpowering their leftist counterparts. During one of the opening sequences from the old cartoon “Superfriends,” The Justice League (Superman, Wonder Woman, El Dorado et. al.) collides with the Legion of Doom (Lex Luther, Giganta, Grodd, et. al.) and the opposing groups meld together to form the show’s logo. In “Superfriends” terms, last Tuesday the Legion of Doom collided with the Justice League but just kept going, not stopping for logos or credits. The Republican gains in the House and Senate were so striking not because they were historic or because of their implications, but because Aquaman, Batman, and the rest of the Democratic leadership saw Toyman, Scarecrow and the rest of the Republicans coming and did nothing.
Republicans galvanized and activated their supporters much better than the Democrats did theirs. Cunningly using fear and group warfare as motivation, Republicans were able to give their voters issues and stances. The Democrats? They were last seen rolling over in the Senate out of fear of appearing unpatriotic. Where did that leave my parents? They had already been quite upset with their party’s “platform” and after last week, they were left to stew in their discontent. Yet talking about how bad things have been did nothing to motivate Tom Daschle. Upon too few ears did my parents’ gripes fall, and too little was done otherwise.
Why do I make that conclusion given the pockets of Democrats in places like Chicago and Los Angeles? Because after hours of bemoaning the fate of the Democratic Party, my parents and I went to see Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. Moore poignantly showed that the violent culture of this country is perpetuated by a confluence of the proliferation of guns, the media-driven fear engendered in most on a daily basis and a serially underlying fear of “others” (or “ethnics” as NRA President Charlton Heston said in the film). My parents were shocked by how dissimilar they felt from many portrayed in the documentary. They don’t know people who own guns; they don’t know where to get a gun.
This insulation from the real America provided a melancholy reminder of why last Tuesday happened: liberals don’t live in the United States. They live elsewhere, and since the liberal message is swallowed by its supposed protectors, elsewhere is getting smaller. My parents flew home yesterday since no one can drive through hostile waters.
Joseph Litman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.