17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2006
I could give this hilarious and honest book to my granola-chewing Bush-hating mom and my hunting-loving, tax-cutting enviromental advisor to Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Montana) uncle (I'm not kidding) and they would both love it. Not only would they laugh but they each could quote parts of the book to each other and say "See this part here? It proves i'm right!"
Moe doesn't take any cheap shots at either the left or right like I did in my opening sentence, but simply recounts what it was like to immerse oneself in a conservative lifestyle and ideology.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2008
First let me get this out of the way: I enjoyed Conservatize Me. It is well written, funny, and very entertaining.
That having been said, I have a bone to pick with this book. Had this been a book about an outsider looking into the world of conservatism, it would have been just about right. Unfortunately, it uses the ultimately unsuccessful conceit of a liberal trying to "become" conservative by indulging in what he believes, through some pretty shallow assumptions and an abiding faith in gross stereotyping, to be conservative activities. In order to get into the conservative mindset, his first step is to buy an expensive suit (to fit in with the neocons) and a bunch of clothes at Wal-Mart with American flags (to fit in with the common folk), his next step is to fill his Ipod with nothing but Kid Rock and country songs, then he rounds it all off by consuming apparently nothing more than beef jerky, Jelly Bellies, and chewing tobacco. This strikes me as something akin to trying to learn how the Chinese think by eating chop suey and watching Jackie Chan movies for a month.
Now maybe I'm taking John Moe's "Experiment" too seriously. But if so, I think Moe may also be taking his "Experiment" too seriously as well. Perhaps it was at the behest of his editor, but the last several chapters are taken up my Moe's apparently serious lamentations that he can't quite seem to get into the "Conservative" mentality. Ultimately, still buzzing on beef jerky apparently, Moe has an epiphany that conservatives and liberals both really want to do what is right, and they simply have different perspectives on how to get there, and that we're all basically the same under the skin. While I suppose that's largely true, I was left wondering why Moe needed to spend a month wearing Rustler jeans to figure this out when simply talking to people without the conceit of the "Experiment" would almost certainly have brought him to the exact same conclusion.
I don't want to be too harsh. I really did enjoy Conservatize Me, and I don't regret buying it. The first few chapters, in which he talks to well-known conservative theorists and pundits, and sits in on the College Republicans national convention, are very entertaining. However in the end, unfortunately, I don't think that John Moe ultimately understood what his goal was in either conducting his "Experiment" or in writing Conservatize Me.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2006
John Moe strikes a balance in this work that allows him to be quite funny and yet remarkably insightful. He's able to poke fun at both conservatives and liberals in a way that encourages those of us who care about politics to lighten up a little and realized that the world is not as polarized as portrayed on TV.
A copy of this book should be mandatory reading for legislators at all levels of government.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2006
When I first heard about this title, it sparked my interest. Anyone who pays any attention to politics always wants to know where the other side is coming from. Some like George Lakoff (Moral Politics) will look at the other side through a social psychological framework while others like Bill O'Reilly (Culture Warrior) will use a demonizing framework of the other side (traditional-conservatives are good, secular-progressives are bad). John Moe on the other hand wants to know where the other side is coming from by trying to become one of them. In a one month period, he reads only conservative literature and newspapers, and listens only to conservative talk shows and music like Tobe Keith, Kid Rock, and Lee Greenwood. He also talks to conservative heavyweights like Rich Lowery, William Kristol, Michael Medved (who by the way doesnt even like Fox News, gets a little embarassed by Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, and prefers to listen to NPR), and talks with the mayor of the most conservative district in the United States.
Two things struck out to me while reading this book. One is that there no single archtype of conservative. Paleocons, Neocons, Christian Conservatives, National Defense Conservatives, etc. The other thing that struck out, and Moe mentioned this on Weekday on KUOW, is that the best way to get to learn the other side is to just listen. It is hard to get an understanding of the other side if you wont even give that person a chance to state their case. Even after listening to them, you may not agree with them but hopefully you have more respect as to where they are coming from. Something I think everyone needs to work on.
P.S. I still dont understand how beef jerky is conservative. I am liberal as hell and love beef jerky!
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A self proclaimed leftist, NPR talk-show host John Moe spent nine months limiting himself to known acceptable conservative groups for news such as the Washington Times, Fox News, Russ Limbaugh, Weekly Standard and National Review; country music stations only, and roving "Krystal Klear" milieus like rodeos and NASCAR. He visited the Reagan and Nixon Presidential Libraries (Nixon's contains his key scandal while Reagan's ignores his in spite of convictions and confessions with Bush senior pardons). Finally his objective was to better understand conservative thinking especially in America's Heartland.
Though anecdotal and often amusing, Mr. Moe concludes there are two types of conservatives in this country. On the one hand he disdains those he met at a college conference who in his mind are offspring of Machiavelli and Lady MacBeth, as power is everything (consider that war reelects presidents) or ignore negatives re their "heroes". On the other side, Mr. Moe admires Mayor Shawn Larsen of Rexburg, Idaho who is a devoted logical person wanting to make government effective and efficient. He admits being from liberal Seattle making the trek through the Red states at times felt like Frodo seeking to rid himself of the ring as the conservative take on movies make for an overall delightfully funny exposé on those who are right.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2006
I went in for the funny on this book but discovered it also had some interesting insights, and helps folks to step out of their "right/left" boxes a little bit. Seems in the end we all have a fair bit in common, much as I hate to say that about Sean Hannity.
You know the brother-in-law, Dad, uncle... that you already bought all the baseball books for and need to get something this xmas? No matter where they are, left or right, they will get a kick out of this read. Enjoy!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2010
So, Seattle resident John Moe wants to immerse himself in conservative culture. Not tepid, lukewarm conservatism, but true, red-blooded conservatism. He does it all- shopping at Wal-Mart, wearing Americana, listening to Michael W. Smith, reading and meeting conservative authors, and visiting conservative cities. He's funny. He's a good writer. And he's fair to all involved. He learns that liberalism and conservatism aren't black and white- they can come in shades of gray. When you immerse yourself in everything conservative or liberal, you might just be unhappy.
I don't agree with all of Moe's views, but I'm not critiquing his like or dislike of high taxes. I'm praising his writing style. He's good at what he does. And if he writes about more of his Experiments, I'll definitely be reading.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2007
I would recommend this book as a fun read but not as a serious look at what it means to be conservative. The attempts to understand conservatives are silly and stereotypical, no conservative I know dresses or acts the way the author does in the book. The opposite equivalent would be burning a flag, huffing paint to lose brain cells, dating other men and going on welfare in order to experience the liberal lifestyle. It may be funny but it's not reality. That said, I like the way John Moe writes and his conversations with serious conservative think tank types during the first week of the experiment were enlightening
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John Moe is a public radio commentator from very liberal Seattle, who tells the story in this 2006 book of "The Experiment": how (inspired by Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me) he immersed himself in conservative culture for 30 days, visited various organizations and met with leading spokespeople for conservatism, to see "is it possible to change your own mind? Could I pull off artificial conversion?"
He changed his hairstyle; bought a suit; read and listened to only conservative magazines, TV, and other media (including only watching movies such as Red Dawn ('84)); even listened only to music by artists such as Toby Keith and Christian artist Michael W. Smith. He visited conservative think tanks such as the Family Research Council, talked with people like William Kristol (who said that neoconservatism "is much friendlier to bold government action than traditional neoconservatism"; pg. 65), stayed in Idaho for a week or so, and ate lots of beef jerky.
Along the way he makes some incisive observations (e.g., that both Nancy Reagan and her son support stem cell research, pg. 81; and that Michael Medved listens "every day" to NPR's "All Things Considered," pg. 198), and even admits that "There was a lot of the world of conservatism that I had become fond of" (Pg. 185).
His "Experiment" might have been more convincing if he had engaged in a more sustained (e.g., 1-2 years, rather than 30 days) study, and if he had interacted INTELLECTUALLY with conservative arguments more vigorously (he admitted toward the end of the 30 days that "I might as well shove a few more books into my head... as the shot clock wound down," pg. 298). Still, the book is a very interesting excusion into "enemy territory," and as he concludes, "I had proved that you can blast yourself out of your comfort zone and get, if not a smarter brain, at least a wider one." (Pg. 307)
14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
`Conservatize Me' asks a question that has plagued me for years. What is the allure of Conservativism and why does it completely bypass some people like myself? But more importantly, is it possible to transform yourself into a Conservative true believer by immersing yourself in Conservativism? Does Conservativism bloom from nature or nurture? In the spirit of `Super Size Me' John Moe decides to become a Conservative for 30 days to see the effects.
The author's quest to become a Conservative is consistently entertaining, generally engaging, often thought provoking and occasionally poignant. For the most part, the book remains dignified in its approach to Conservativism. Sure he turns himself into a walking stereotype with a mix of stuffy business suits and cheap, patriotic t-shirts, surviving on beef jerky and Coors beer while listening to Charlie Daniels. But the author shows a fair amount respect for the views of the high profile Conservatives he meets including Rich Lowry, Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg and Michael Medved. Jeff Gannon on the other hand... not so much. Of course he missed meeting the even more popular and truly toxic Conservative voices like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. One thing I noticed was how dramatically different the Conservative message is when explained to `liberal' John Moe than when spoken to an audience of true believers. At one point the author turns off Limbaugh's program because he finds it more repellant than alluring as a siren for Conservativism. On the other hand his visit to Rexberg, Idaho, a city that had the highest percentage (92) of voters voting for Bush in 2004 was an extremely pleasant experience and the author was left wondering why the residence of his hometown of Seattle couldn't be so nice.
A few things stuck with me after I read the book. Most striking was Conservative blogger Jonah Goldberg's insistence that the left obsesses too much over hypocrisy. Goldberg stated that, "[to become a Conservative] you're going to have to give up this weird mainline addiction to pointing out hypocrisy. It's funny because hypocrisy is perhaps the most distasteful aspects of high moral, pro-family Republicans and fundamentalist Christians and here was Goldberg shamelessly embracing it. Goldberg was also quoted as saying, "I have no great pride in being a Republican". Understandable.
Being a shameless Conservative comes in handy, for instance, when the author visited the College Republican's National Convention. Despite being filled with military age males who support the `defining conflict of our generation' there seemed to be little talk of the Iraqi conflict and certainly no interest in joining it. The Convention was meeting in order to elect a new chairman. For John Moe the race pitted a charismatic, well spoken young Republican against a much less dynamic but more Karl Rovish candidate. In the end Karl Rove jr. won. "He was tainted with scandal but his loyalists disregarded that history". Why wait for Washington cynicism to corrupt you when you can be unscrupulous right out of the box?
In the end the author seems to reach a state of détente with Conservativism describing himself as a "mishmash of neo-Nixonian-quasi-Libertarianism". The funny thing is that it's very much a quality of Liberalism that permits the author to try and understand both sides of the political spectrum. John Moe says to his young son, "I don't think I love him [George W. Bush]. But I don't think I hate him either. He's just doing what he thinks he should do" There is a certain amount of naivety in his statement. By that standard Hitler and Stalin could be defended. Still, I found `Conservatize Me' to be one of the most readable books I've picked up in quite some time and I recommend it without reservation.