Monday, July 14, 2008

Interview: S.E. Cupp, 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 next one, with Joshpe, will be published tomorrow. If you like what you read, go buy their book on Amazon.

First off is S.E. Cupp:

Tell us a little about the book.

Why You're Wrong About the Right tackles 20 stereotypes about conservatives and/or Republicans...that we're racist, sexist, homophobic, warmongering, uncool, unfunny, bad in bed, and heartless, to name a few. We interviewed dozens of noteworthy thinkers and doers to help us prove the intellectual diversity of the conservative movement and the Republican party. Tucker Carlson, Newt Gingrich, Tony Stewart, Ted Nugent, Laura Ingraham, George Will, Curt Schilling...these are all folks with very different political views and perspectives. The more interesting areas are where we all disagree, and not always where we all come together.

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

Brett and I grew up in the liberal Northeast, went to very liberal universities, live in liberal Manhattan, and work primarily among liberals, I at the New York Times and he at a NYC law firm. So we were used to defending ourselves, or at the very least explaining ourselves, to our liberal contemporaries. Most people were surprised to learn we were Republicans...we didn't seem to fit the image they had in their minds about what Republicans were supposed to look like and talk like. After all, we didn't go around stealing babies, clubbing seals and ripping trees out of the ground to whittle into gun racks. People were genuinely surprised by our politics, and then incredibly disappointed.

Do you think conservatives have been badly represented?

Absolutely. The Left, the liberal media and Hollywood have done a fantastic job of uniting in this endeavor. And as such, they have collectively been able to seal into American sediment the image of the Republican as uptight, cold-hearted, stiff, sober, evil, backwards, stupid, fanatical, reckless, money-grubbing, self-absorbed and a whole host of others. But Republicans (and conservatives, to a degree) also haven't done an adequate job of defending themselves, especially in recent years. So we're partly to blame.

Where do you think the stereotypes of conservatives originate from?

It would be hard to pinpoint, as there are so many, with so many different historical birthplaces. But I'd say that the reason they have stuck is that liberals seem to change their cause on a daily basis. Causes du jour are embraced with alacrity and passion, regardless of how capricious or rooted in the moment they are. Though much remains unsettled, conservative ideology hasn't changed much over the past's been honed and nuanced, but most conservatives agree that we want to preserve tradition, limit the size of government and promote individual responsibility. Because we don't ebb and flow so easily with the Zeitgeist, liberals can't really attack our ideology in new and fresh ways, so they attack our collective character. We go after their causes (because there are so many and it's relatively easy) and they go after our so-called nature.

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

Most conservatives (and Republicans too) that I know aren't "joiners." There's a rebellious streak on the Right that frankly used to characterize the Left but has gone since all the liberals who were at Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury have grown up to be successful bankers and lawyers and country club members. So when the media or Hollywood criticizes Republicans for being (gasp!) Christian, or redneck, or stupid, I think middle America rejects that kind of condescension and characterization out of hand as transparent, manipulative and mean-spirited. The Right is far more tolerant than the Left these days, and that's understandably appealing.

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?

Yes, his is an interesting argument, and not entirely untrue I'm sure. But if it is, there's nothing really new or different there. There have been nomadic tribes, clans, settlers, etc for thousands of years who have grouped together to be among their own kind. The only difference now is that we don't do so for physical survival. But maybe we do it for emotional or social survival. While I enjoy my minority status as a conservative in Manhattan, I absolutely love going to areas I know to be "friendly to my kind." It feels good. Besides, it's understandable that people would want to raise their children around like-minded people.

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

It's not really up to us to expose young people to conservative or libertarian ideas. If parents want to raise their children to be conservative or libertarian, they'll do so. I don't want my child to be influenced by a liberal agenda, so I wouldn't expect to influence others by a conservative agenda. Politics isn't for children. Morality and values are, and those aren't up to me to impart.

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

Enjoy it! Use it as an opportunity to refine your own beliefs and maybe even inform someone else's. Develop thick skin and a good sense of humor. Start a "Drill in ANWR" rally at a sporting event. Wear GOP paraphernalia to Whole Foods. Loudly criticize PETA on any college campus in the country. It's only politics.

What criticism has your book been met with?

Plenty. We were attacked by liberal literary agents just for wanting to write this book. There's a good amount of hostility toward two young, urban conservatives who have dared to write a book. It's like we're treading on liberal turf and we're not at all welcome.

What praise has it been met with?

We do press almost every day, and at least once someone on the radio or in an interview will tell us how much they enjoyed the book, how provocative they found it, or how funny it was. The truth is, people want to be engaged by politics, not bored by it. We infused this book with the kind of irreverence and ease that we like to read ourselves.

How should conservatives deal with a possible Barack Obama presidency?

Only half-seriously. While the prospect of President Barack Obama is real, I don't think most voters will feel comfortable entrusting national security, the beleaguered economy, or our overseas endeavors to someone with such little experience and obvious lapses in judgment. Besides that, I think most of middle America finds him elitist and out of touch, and I don't think they're wrong.

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