Can an NPR talk-show host from lefty-liberal Seattle convert himself to conservatism by confining his news sources to the Washington Times and Fox News, his music to country and his interviews to habitués of rodeos and shooting ranges?
Probably not, but that’s the conceit behind Moe’s memoir of nine months spent trying to understand conservative America. The premise works well enough, though some readers may draw the line at the author performing “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” during “Country Karaoke Night” in a blue-collar bar. Much of the book consists of interviews with conservatives of various sorts, from the editors of the Weekly Standard and National Review to Michael Medved and the mayor of Rexburg, Idaho. The mayor’s pious good sense and devotion to effective government help crystallize Moe’s understanding that there is a distinction between conservatism and the Republican Party. Indeed, the only “conservatives” to whom he warms not at all are the pudgy participants at a conference of college Republicans, all of them political fixers in embryo. (The author likes some Republicans better than others: He contrasts the fatuity of the Reagan Museum with the sober substance of the Nixon Library and Birthplace.) The book does not produce insights so much as pop-culture commentary on its march to the conclusion that conservatives are people, too. Aside from a denunciation of Toby Keith for commercially exploiting patriotic country music in a time of war, the commentary is good-natured and amusing. Sometimes the humor is unintentional, as when the author’s encyclopedic knowledge of indie and alternative music is employed to explain country music, without further clarification for non-residents of Planet Seattle. Funniest of all are the interspersed film reviews, which assign a numerical score for the effectiveness of a movie’s conservative message.
Imagine P.J. O’Rourke describing the effects of chewing tobacco rather than doing drugs.