It ain't easy going from dittohead to Democrat in the space of only a few years. Case in point: Jim Derych of Germantown, whose writing career started as a political diarist on the progressive Web site Daily Kos and whose Confessions of a Former Dittohead hits bookstores this week. Derych's opening confession? "It's high time," he writes in Chapter One, sentence one, "I finally confront the chubby, drug-addicted, matrimonially challenged elephant that resides in the living room of my political past: Rush Limbaugh."
"Political past"? According to Derych, there wasn't much of one growing up -- save for his conviction, upon graduating from Germantown High School, that the solution to the global AIDS crisis was to quarantine the afflicted on an island somewhere, air-drop medicine from time to time (to ease the suffering), and simply wait for the last of them to die.
No, the real politics started in 1991 on I-40 heading east. Derych was 18 years old and on the way to UT-Knoxville. His parents drove. His father tuned to Rush on the radio. And Derych was "hooked," because Rush (a "harmless loveable little fuzzball," according to Derych's father) was right -- far right: The "liberal media" did indeed distort the news. Gays did indeed have an "agenda." Pro-choice did indeed count as pro-murder. And the Godless U.S.A. was indeed going to hell in a handbasket.
Derych became, by his own admission, a God-fearing theo-con. That's "theo-conservative," and what an insufferable blowhard he must have been as an undergrad. (UT's loss was, however, the U of M's gain. After Derych, in his last semester in Knoxville, earned one B, one C, and four F's, he transferred.)
By September 11, 2001, though, realpolitik set in, and, for Derych dittodom took a nose dive. So he became (reading right to left) a neo-con, then an oppressed-majority conservative, then a social conservative, then a fiscal conservative, until ... bingo! By 2004, Derych became a Democrat, Rush the fuzzball became Rush the sleazeball, and dittoheads became "dittiots."
Wanna know how to talk to one without the two of you coming to blows -- you a dread Democrat (which, admittedly, isn't saying much) or worse, a liberal; your opponent a fan of all things marked "Rush," "Hannity," or "Coulter"? Quit calling Bush a liar. It goes without saying. So don't say it. According to the author, why not start with something we can all agree on? Like, Bush is a lousy boss. Or, Bush's brand of "big-government" conservatism isn't by definition conservatism at all. Or, Bush's cronyism rubs anybody (except said cronys) the wrong way. In the optimistic words of Derych, "You'll be surprised to find that most dittoheads will agree with you!" (Except for maybe Memphis' Mike Fleming, who got into it with Derych on Fleming's radio talk show in 2004.)
Derych writes in a conversational style that's tailor-made for the Web, but if scrolling political blogs bores you to hell, go to Hell in a Handbasket (Tarcher/Penguin) by Tom Tomorrow (aka Daniel Perkins), the syndicated, award-winning cartoonist you know from the Flyer. He's subtitled his latest collection of satirical cartoons (covering 2003-05, more than 140 in all, and his first full-color compilation) "Dispatches From the Country Formerly Known as America," and I don't have to tell you how dead-on right Tomorrow is. I mean left.