David Mamet’s Village Voice piece on his political conversion—”Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal’”—has caused a minor sensation.
To me, of course, it’s an old story, not only because I experienced something of the sort myself, but because I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time analyzing the process.
Each such tale is unique in its details, but each one is also similar in broad outline. Mamet’s is getting a lot of attention because he’s a famous playwright who moves in artistic (read: highly liberal) circles, and the Village Voice venue (hey, I like that alliteration!) in which he chose to “come out” guarantees him high visibility. And it doesn’t hurt that his piece was linked by Drudge.
And so as a self-styled expert on the subject, I want to welcome Mamet to the fold.
His tale involves three important elements that I have found are almost standard in such stories. The first is a conversion to what he refers to as the “conservative (or tragic) view” of life versus the “liberal (or perfectionist) view.” I write “conversion,” but Mamet’s journey—like most such trips—involves not so much a change of mind as a realization of a viewpoint one may have already held for some time, but never known what it signified in political terms.
And that brings as to the second element: the willingness to open up the mind and actually read some conservative writers, often for the first time, with the subsequent realization that they make a certain amount of sense. And if they make more sense than the liberal stuff a person has been imbibing all those years, then there may be no turning back.
The third element is a rejection of the kneejerk idea, loudly vocalized in many liberal circles, that America is a mess and that nearly everything we do is wrong. Mamet found instead that he might just be in agreement with the statement (to paraphrase Churchill) that America has the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
But I submit that Mamet is only at the beginning of his journey—or rather, to paraphrase Churchill again, at the end of the beginning. His friends and colleagues, on the other hand, probably think it’s the beginning of the end for him, and might start acting accordingly. But he will find there’s a whole other world out there of simpatico people.
Mamet hasn’t shed some liberal assumptions that I see as incorrect. It is telling that he still spouts the old “Bush stole the election in Florida….Bush lied about his military service” routines. Perhaps some day he’ll do more reading and examine more of the facts in both stories and come to change his mind about both things; perhaps not.
Mamet’s stance on specific political personalities can be summarized as “Everybody is equally corrupt, and we might as well accept it and become conservatives and adopt the tragic view.” But although each side most definitely has its corruptions and distortions, that doesn’t mean that it’s all a perfect equivalence. Nor does it mean that the Party line (and in this case, the Party to which I refer is not only the Democratic Party but the MSM) on Bush and his “lies” is the truth.
When Mamet delved into conservative writings and opinion, he found that they meshed with his perceptions and experience of the world better than the liberal writings with which he’d previously been familiar. And so he changed. That is the risk (or the benefit?) of being openminded and honest enough to take in new information.
In the first paragraph of his piece, Mamet quotes John Maynard Keyes as saying, “When the facts change, I change my opinion.” In Mamet’s case, however, it wasn’t really new facts that he encountered so much as a set of philosophical viewpoints that fit better with the facts as he had already perceived them.
I applaud Mamet for his courage, and expect that he will continue to learn and his thinking continue to evolve. As a playwright, he probably knows that’s we’re all works in progress, anyway.