Bob Driver is a former columnist and editorial page editor for the Clearwater Sun.
I wonder if other countries and cultures love slogans as much as Americans seem to. I suppose they do. There’s no reason why any single nation should have a corner on humor or pithy sayings. They appear on automobile bumper stickers and T-shirts, on graffiti-laden bridge abutments, in house windows and on banners carried by activists as they march for or against a thousand different causes.
Recently in my mail came an advertising pamphlet from Northern Sun Merchandising, an outfit I had not before known about. The pamphlet offered a remarkable array of coffee cups, aprons, T-shirts, purses, calendars and bumper stickers, each one carrying a joke or slogan dealing with politics, religion, the environment, animals, libraries, driving habits – on and on.
As I thumbed through the brochure, I was struck by the liberal bias reflected in many if not most of the slogans. Here are a few samples: “Do you keep hearing crazy voices? Turn off FOX NEWS.” An alleged quote from John Stuart Mill: “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people … It is true that most stupid people are conservative.” “You say ‘liberal elite.’ I say ‘Well-educated.’ ” Alongside a picture of Abraham Lincoln is this caption: “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” “Republicans love the poor. That’s why they want to make so many more of them.”
I should not have been surprised by the left-wing bent of the pamphlet’s contents. On the cover was a headline describing the company’s sales goods as “Products for progressives since 1979.” Have you noticed how the term “progressive” is gradually replacing the adjective “liberal” in today’s political commentary? I’m not sure why one term should be preferred to the other, except that Americans are often eager to accept new buzzwords.
As I surveyed the many slogans, a logical question arose in my mind: Where are the witty conservative sloganeers? Where are the amusing right-wing columnists and standup comedians? When is the last time you heard, or read, a downright funny examination of modern American culture as viewed by the millions of voters who cast their ballots for Mitt Romney and other conservative candidates on Nov. 6?
Goodness knows that the critics of Obama, the Democrats and the liberal philosophy are out there in full force. You can view them on TV, read their publications and listen to them on talk radio. But genuinely funny quips and columns by conservatives are few and far between. Or so it seems to me. Although I’m a longtime political independent, I would welcome some refreshing well-crafted punch lines aimed at the foibles and failures of the left.
These include the belief that government can fix everything; the notion that all conservatives are cruel, insensitive and dumb; the viciousness that liberals can unleash against fellow liberals who fail to toe the party line; the notion that some kind of virtue automatically attaches to the poor and downtrodden; the idea that any gun owner is probably a neo-fascist survivalist; that a citizen’s rights are more important than his/her responsibilities; that any illegal alien who goes undetected for more than six months or so should be granted amnesty; and that any reference to God, Jehovah, Christ, or Mohammed within a mile of any government building should be prohibited. I’m exaggerating, of course. But isn’t that what extreme political discourse depends on for its existence? If every conservative and liberal could sit and quietly talk for six hours with his/her opposite number, much of the sniping and ugliness and stereotyping would disappear. Basic differences would still remain, but so would friendship and congeniality. Those qualities have greatly diminished in the past 20 years or more among persons of opposing political persuasions. Especially, I’m afraid, among members of Congress.
If we’re looking for humor in conservatives, we should scan the work of today’s political cartoonists. Some of them do first-rate work in needling the liberal wing. One of them is Chip Bok, my friend and former Clearwater Sun colleague. I would guess that at heart he’ll never be a mouthpiece for any group, but lately his jibes at Obamaworld have been entertaining.
One reason for the preponderance of humor on the left is that there are simply more people who identify with liberalism. That, by itself, will tend to produce more funny writers. A second reason is that conservatives are labeled – rightly or wrongly – as rich and powerful. And it’s more fun to twist the lion’s tail than it is to torment a mouse.
A request: if you know of any funny conservative writers, please let me know. They may be out there and my reading habits may have been too narrow to find them.
Bob Driver is a former columnist and editorial page editor for the Clearwater Sun. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.