Thursday, September 29, 2005

Underhanded Politics in an Underground Bar 

It’s the middle of the week in the middle of the night in a subterranean bar aptly called the Cellar. I told myself I wouldn’t drink when I started working again. I’m very good at my job when I’m hungover but I’m superb when I’m sober. Somehow I’m on my fifth glass of Jameson's on the rocks and I’m talking to a girl with pretty blond curls who works for the Federal Reserve. I started talking to her because I wanted to watch her full lips move and her blue eyes open and close. On a rainy night in New York City, you take your beauty where you can get it. After I couple of whiskeys, however, I find myself ranting about politics. Usually I avoid talking politics with girls but she’s a Republican, which as close to being as dissident thinker as you can usually find in the city. That’s what lured me into trying to talk sense into her.

I confess to her that I’m mystified by conservative support for George W. Bush. What has this president done for conservatives? She mentions that he cut some taxes at some point, and has appointed a few good men to the federal judiciary. Fine, but what has he done for conservatives lately?

She brings up John Roberts. “His record from the Reagan administration seems pretty good,” she says. She’s just finished her third vodka and soda. I order her another, and try to convince myself not to pursue the politics any further. I fail.

“Please,” I tell her. “That man spent most of his confirmation hearing denying he had any judicial philosophy at all. What's worse, his time before the Senate judiciary committee damaged the argument for a conservative approach to judicial decision making by allowing the Democrats to portray conservatism as something shameful.”

I wonder if I’m slurring when I’m telling her this. I skipped the solid part of my dinner, deciding to engage myself only with the bottle of rioja.

She smiles. It’s a wonderful, inviting smile that reassures me either I don’t appear as drunk as I feel or that she enjoys chatting with drunk reactionaries. She takes the top off her drink and says, “I think he was just trying to get through his confirmation hearings with as little trouble as possible. What’s wrong with that?”

“My old professor Harvey C. Mansfield used to argue that one of the problems with affirmative action was that it was underhanded, attempting to accomplish its goals while remaining hidden from plain sight,” I say. “The Roberts hearings contributed to the perception that conservative judging is underhanded as well.”

Somehow I’ve gone through another glass of whiskey. I look to the bartender and he’s already got the bottle in his hand. I continue. “Now the President is preparing again to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and I’m still being told by conservatives that we can rely on Bush to appoint the right man. Or woman. Or Hispanic. Or something. Do you read Anne Coulter? You should. She sets the record straight on our President’s dismal record of supporting conservatives.”

She takes the bottom off her vodka and tonic. She puts the glass down and places her hand on my knee. Her fingers are chilled from the drink. The time for talking about politics is over so I don’t mention that there was a time when conservatives would have been out for the blood of a Republican establishment that treated them so shabbily. Now it’s just libertarians, realists, paleos and reactionary decadents like me who want to raise up the battle flag. God help us.