Doug Vanderweide's Reviews > Don't Vote, it Just Encourages the Bastards

Don't Vote, it Just Encourages the Bastards by P.J. O'Rourke
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Nov 14, 10

bookshelves: history, politics, in-my-library, essays
Recommended for: Conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Party members who can read
Read from November 10 to 14, 2010, read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** For those, worried by recent P.J. O'Rourke missives, who thought he has strayed completely from Holidays in Hell / Parliament of Whores roots, this book will ease many of your concerns.

He's back to his "one-third history, one-third explanation, one-third snark" formula, and while this version is a bit rusty -- it's been a while since he's written these kinds of essays -- it's a considerable improvement over Peace Kills or, even worse, The CEO of the Sofa.

Speaking of thirds, that's how this volume is set up: Part 1, in which O'Rourke attempts to establish the basis of his current thought; Part 2, in which he takes pot shots at current political issues; and Part 3, in which he offers a road map for conservatives.

I believe O'Rourke is at his best when he's taking apart a complex issue, primarily explaining it and occasionally jabbing it with a stick. He's exceptionally well-read and he knows how to use others' ideas to form his own. In this case, he puts together the first cogent and intellectually appealing argument for core Tea Party beliefs I've read yet, even as he notes that the Tea Party is just the other side of the coin that gave us the current administration.

The second part of the book is, unfortunately, flaccid. His one-page assessment of climate change (as long as China and India continue to grow, there's nothing we can do about it) is as right-on as it is succinct. His point that trade imbalance cannot, by definition, exist --or better yet, that a current accounts deficit, which we really mean, is actually good for America -- is the kind of frank policy analysis that government can never give us.

Conversely, his section on terrorism is a muddled disaster that borders on insulting the reader with its oversimplified, pointless nattering. The same is true of O'Rourke's takes on foreign policy, in which he does a fair amount of name-calling and very little solution-offering.

The third part is a mixed bag of Part 1's pithy wisdom and Part 2's often difficult-to-fathom, stream-of-consciousness babble.

O'Rourke's take on right-wing talking heads -- they're shouting to the converted, like Jeremiah Wright -- is a brilliant insight, and he does an adequate job of illustrating how that means the discord many point to as damaging today's politics isn't really all that harmful.

His assessment of the conservative mistakes that put Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid into leadership could not be more accurate or more damning, and not surprisingly, they're about to be repeated.

That said, he concludes with typical "the Democrats are childish ninnies" inanities, this time leveraging Somali pirates, and the Disney version of storybook pirates, to suggest a way to bring Washington to consensus. It's as cheap and silly as it sounds here.

This isn't O'Rourke's best work. It's on par with On The Wealth of Nations, but in the form of a return to his glory days. And for that, I am pleased.
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