Living La Vida Liberal

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Matt Labash, a senior writer for the right-leaning magazine The Weekly Standard, describes himself as a "vanilla, middle-of-the-road" conservative. Until, that is, he gets his hands on Justin Krebs's manifesto, 538 Ways to Live Work and Play Like a Liberal. In a cover story for the magazine, Labash undertakes the arduous task of "living liberally" for the next ten days: "Since politics, particularly liberal politics, bring people so much joy, wouldn't I be better off politicizing everything--the way I live and work and play?"

What follows is a humorous account of a week and a half spent navigating a 538-item checklist on working, eating, reading, shopping, parenting and drinking liberally (literally)."It's about living better than I was before, living better than I once thought possible, living better, if you'll forgive my candor, than do you," he begins. Some highlights of his anthropological experiment:


Liberals don't just need their food to come comestible or tasty or biodynamic or free-range or locally grown. They--rather, we--need it to come with a philosophy and a parable. We need our food to tell a story. Why else would I pay 17 bucks for 32 ounces of McLure's Pure Dark Amber Maple Syrup? Easy. Because it makes me feel better about my purchase to hear the story of how five generations of Granite State McLures have been overcharging for syrup that doesn't taste as good as Aunt Jemima's.


I go to my local branch, where the librarians know me, and ask them for the Nation or Mother Jones. They have neither, though one thinks they carry Mother Jones at the main branch. "No," disagrees a second librarian, "that's Mother Earth News." The first one shrugs, "I know it's something with 'mother' in it."


Following Krebs's advice, I seek out Fat Tire beer, which the New Belgium Brewery in Colorado makes with wind-generated electricity. The only problem is, nobody has it. I hit six liquor stores, before finally driving to a faraway liquor superstore, which also doesn't have it. I settle for Magic Hat, whose Vermont brewery Krebs visited, leaving him with the impression that it has a "cool, liberal feel" and is made by a "cool, liberal guy." Total distance: 60 miles. Elapsed time: two hours. Not cool or liberal at all.

Labash finishes his experiment with the conclusion that it's "hard work" to have politics overtake every aspect of one's life. And it must be true--after 8,300 words and ten days, even he can't quite check everything off his "liberal living" list.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.