Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Interview: Brett Joshpe, co-author of "Why You're Wrong About The Right"

A new book has been released called Why You're Wrong About The Right, written by S.E. Cupp and Brett Joshpe. I interviewed both of them for this blog, and have decided to split those two interviews into two posts. The last one, with Cupp, was published yesterday. If you like what you read, go buy their book on Amazon.

Tell us a little about the book.

We identify 20 common stereotypes often associated with conservatives and Republicans, discuss their origins and refute them. We make our arguments through our voices and through the contributions of several dozen well-known public figures ranging from academics to athletes to celebrities to politicians. In the course of explaining what conservatives and Republicans are not, we also try to identify some of the common themes that unite us.

What inspired you two to write "Why You're Wrong About The Right?"

I'd say it was a combination of experiences that was particularly prevalent during college and law school. The visceral left-wing, anti-Americanism, from students AND professors alike, in higher education has probably contributed more to my desire to work on this project than anything else. In addition, because of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, these sentiments have been especially visible.

Do you think conservatives have been badly represented?

Badly represented by our own people or by those who portray us? I think there are many Republicans in Congress in recent years who have damaged the Party through scandals and wasteful spending. I think President Bush, who I support, has nonetheless alienated some people from the Party. There are also some spokespeople for the Party who I'm sure would have more appeal if they presented their message differently, but they are there to entertain more than anything and people should not take them too seriously. In terms of those who portray us, the stereotypes persist for a reason. The media, Hollywood, academia (frequent sources of our information) often paint a very unflattering picture.

Where do you think the stereotypes of conservatives originate from?

Again, Hollywood, media and academia do a nice job of putting forth some erroneous myths, as well as many of the left-wing politicians who speak in 10 second sound bites and say things like, "Republicans just want to line the pockets of the rich." They are simple, conclusory statements that lack evidence but have an effect because people hear them so much they start to believe them.

With such negative images of conservatism in the media, what then leads so many to drift towards the right?

Intuition and common sense. I think most Americans are a lot smarter than many of the coastal, media elites assume. Just because the biggest newspaper, The New York Times, says something does not mean people are going to accept it as true or representative of their point of view. To some extent, the media, Hollywood and academia are so out of touch with average Americans that it helps the conservative movement and fosters a back-lash with many people.

Journalist Bill Bishop has said that Americans have clustered into regions of people that all for the most part share their worldview. Do you see this as a problem? If so, how should we solve it?

I don't view it as a problem. Yes, American cities tend to be more liberal and rural areas tend to be more conservative. That is not a new phenomenon. Naturally, cities are comprised of renters and tenants, whereas rural and suburban areas are comprised of owners, which is one of the many factors that leads to this dichotomy. There is also plenty of diversity. I'm a New Yorker, but I don't agree with the worldview of most of the people around me. It would be a problem if we didn't have an electoral college system, but because we do, and not a popular vote system, it ensures that all regions of the country (particularly smaller states and swing states) are adequately represented and heard. Furthermore, to the extent certain regions of the country are comprised of people with similar worldviews, there is nothing wrong with that. It is part of the American dream that if one wants to settle down in an area that doesn't resemble New York or San Francisco, that is part of their prerogative.

How do we think we can better expose younger students to conservative and libertarian ideas?

More conservative academics would be helpful. To that goal, conservatives should go back and re-read William F. Buckley's "God and Man at Yale." That seminal piece was fundamentally about how conservative alumni of higher education need to use their influence to insist and pressure college administrations to hire a more balanced intellectual faculty. I think if younger students are presented all ideas, not just conservative or liberal ideas, in time there will be a greater gravitation towards conservatism at a younger age, but right now, they are mostly just fed unrealistic, ivory tower bunk. Also, and perhaps most importantly, conservatives and the Republican Party need to start branding to America's youth. That is part of what my co-author and I are trying to accomplish through this book. Democrats have done a much better job of marketing to the youth demographic thus far and that needs to change.

What's some advice you have for conservatives living in liberal areas?

Speak up and don't be intimidated. Embrace your status. Remind the liberals around you that intelligent, thoughtful, tolerant people might not agree with them. And go find fellow conservatives. They are out there.

What criticism has your book been met with?

We have received some humorously intolerant criticisms from people on the Left…things like "you guys are morons, how did you get to write a book?" Most of the criticisms have been completely mindless and ad hominem.

What praise has it been met with?

People, both on the Left and Right, have said that the book is fair and the tone is humorous and irreverent without being obnoxious or disrespectful. People have also said that the book paints a picture of conservatism and the Republican Party that is needed right now and is often lost in the popular depiction. Some of my liberal friends have given it the highest compliment of all: "persuasive".

How should conservatives deal with a possible Barack Obama presidency?

First and foremost, we should not concede a Barack Obama presidency yet. I still believe John McCain will win, but it is important for conservatives to "get onboard" the McCain candidacy and to work hard to convince people that he is a better candidate than Barack Obama. Conservatives needs to educate people as to what a Barack Obama candidacy would mean politically. It is not necessary to engage in unfair, personal attacks, because Obama's political record speaks for itself. He is a far Left candidate whose only record of embracing moderate, bi-partisan politics can be found in his recent policy shifts to appear centrist to general election voters. That is isn't hyperbole or fear-mongering. It is a fact, and it needs to be repeated.

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