It's certainly the impression you get scanning Daily Kos and Think Progress and even the inestimable Talking Points Memo. Don't you people ever drink or get laid? Barack Obama leads John McCain comfortably in the polls, the immediate legacy of the Bush years lies symbolically somewhere between "The Scream" and the Hindenburg, and American liberalism in general is said to be on a dramatic uptick. So why are liberals still so earnest and dire? Here's a random excerpt from today's Kos:
Pelosi and Obama particularly can put an end to this mess. Rockefeller and his band of merry appeasers have too much power, making life really difficult for Reid. But if Reid holds firm and refuses to take up the bill on the Senate side first, then Hoyer has got to try to figure out how to get it through the House—a tougher proposition. But Pelosi could be a leader and say "no." Obama could make one phone call—whether to Hoyer, Pelosi, or to his friend and supporter Rockefeller—and say "no."
This "mcjoan" blogger is talking about FISA, but I'd just as soon have Alberto Gonzales grappling-hook his way into my living room because I said "Muslim" on the phone than have to read through that perspiring and heaving paragraph again. What mess has Nancy Pelosi ever put an end to, praytell? And couldn't mcjoan wait until the bill in question were passed or defeated before obsessing about it like that? I'm beginning to worry about her family's unwillingness to wage a C-SPAN intervention on her behalf.
"But you don't get it, Weiss! We have to stop the Bush-Cheney junta until term limits force it from office like all juntas!"
I am depressed, and it's got me feeling nostalgic. Not too long ago there was a great Entertainment Weekly for the ivory tower called Lingua Franca, in which a celebrated essay by one Jim Miller was published under the title, "Is Bad Writing Necessary?" Miller held up two leftist intellectuals — Theodore Adorno and George Orwell — as examples of opposing prose styles that the modern lefty political writer would invariably adopt. Broadly speaking, one was difficult and esoteric, the other common but by no means vulgar. Adorno thought "lucidity, objectivity, and concise precision" were tricks perpetrated by "ideologies" of service mainly to money-grubbing editors and writers (he was kind of a Marxist); real culture demanded jargon and allusions that only a select readership would understand. Orwell, meanwhile, dug lucidity and concision — he would have agreed all writing was subjective — and thought you couldn't change people's opinions unless your stuff was universally comprehensible. Brute facts mattered, as did a window-pane transparency of meaning. Sexing up language to the point where it lost all semantic value was the stock-in-trade of totalitarianism. For the muddled democrat, it was a sign of insecurity ("Maybe my opinions are weak after all. If I hide them, no one will notice.")
The updated version of Miller's thesis, in this our dread age of blogorrhea, surely concerns the mirth factor. Postmodernism is dead, but tragedy is not. Even when the lefty blogs try to be cute or amusing, they fail horribly. When did "wanker," MyDD's epithet of choice, become a mordant insult? Two days ago, Think Progress teased me by promisingly titling a post "McCain Hates Condoms" (kudos to Cindy if they're even relevant in the marriage anymore) and then ending on this note: "Indeed, McCain is not what women want."
Indeed, no one saw that movie and Mel Gibson's not what they want anymore, either. Stop perusing Congressional testimony and update your fucking Netflix queque.
Perhaps the problem is that a sense of humor is innately conservative, as G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, Kingsley Amis (after whom I named my Cocker Spaniel), Christopher Buckley, Judd Apatow and others have either explicitly or implicitly attested. Even Mark Twain was at his best when he was fusty and backward-looking.
Though that lets the other side of the aisle off too easily, I think. Feel free to use the space below to compile a list of great progressive wits and satirists for today's Balloon Juicers and Firedoglakers to model themselves on, or at least steal better nicknames from. Help put a smile on a Gitmo detainee's face.