Big Conservatives Don't Cry

You know what I enjoyed most about last night's presidential debate?  How calm Governor Romney stayed throughout the whole thing.  I know, I know, that was his plan, but nevertheless, it was his plan, while President Obama's seems to have been to be as aggressive and sarcastic as possible so as to discredit his opponent.  In contrast, Mr. Romney didn't even bring up the whole thing about the video.*

I wish that I could be more like Mr. Romney.  Let me tell you, if you haven't already guessed, it's been a hard past few months.  Some of my family members will barely talk to me.  I've been accused of being a racist; of "doing it on purpose" so as to hurt them; of being stupid, shallow, and selfish.  I've been laughed at, belittled, and patronized, all for trying to learn something about the history of liberalism and what, practically, it means.  And you know what I've learned?  Liberalism is evil.

Okay, not quite, but it is the party of evil, the party of the mob, the party of blaming and name-calling.  It is the party of scare tactics and apocalypticism.  It shares its ideals and mentality ("The State is the answer") with totalitarianism; it is a religion of the State that considers anything other than faith in the State as a heresy.  Have I got your attention yet?  So just so you know, this is why next time I see you, I'll be wearing that scarlet "R."

*You can go check the comments on the National Review's The Corner if you're not convinced that I saw the same debate you did.


  1. I think one reason why some of your loved ones might be reacting negatively to your transformation is because you have become, not just a questioner of liberalism, or a republican, but an extremist. When you state things like "liberalism is evil and totalitarian," it's not exactly an invitation to dialogue now, is it? And as someone (a different anon) commented on your multiculturalism post, your arguments in favor of your new stances seem reactionary and ill-conceived, and often attack straw-men. (For example: no one has asked anyone to apologize for Dante and Goethe -- indeed, the chief attacks on intellectuals and the Humanities come from the right, not the left !)
    I suspect, from the respectful comments you have received so far, that people want to engage with your new conservative ideas politely, even if in disagreement. However, your extremist rhetoric does not extend the same courtesy to liberals.
    When you began to publicly explore your transformation, you sardonically complained that everyone would publicly pillory you and call you a heretic. Yet you are the one who is using the word "evil."

    [Not by me, but I accidentally deleted this comment when I was on my iPad.]

  2. I don't know about the attacks on the Humanities coming from the right, but the attacks on me came from people who actually know and love me. Which seems to suggest to me that even suggesting that I am no longer in sympathy with liberalism as a philosophy means that I might as well join the right-wing lunatic fringe (the gist of my family's response). I do think that liberalism has deep roots in mob psychology, a.k.a. the ideals of the French Revolution (see link to Ann Coulter's book) and that it share ideals with totalitarianism, a.k.a. fascism (see link to Jonah Goldberg's book), but even saying these things seems to excite all of the worst name-calling in which liberals specialize (see Coulter's Slander). Yes, it is hard to stay calm under such attacks, thus my admiration for Governor Romney. I'm only a little conservative right now and not very good at taking the heat.

    The multiculturalism post was a quotation from Diana West's book on being an adult; I agreed with the sentiment, so wanted to share. I recommend reading her whole book to get a sense of why it resonated so strongly with me.

    And, for the record, I don't think liberals are evil (see post: "Okay, not quite"--and there I was specifically talking about liberalism as an ideology, not those who hold to it); but I do think that it is extraordinarily hard to hold a polite conversation about it without being labeled a heretic. Funny how nobody reacted until I put the shoe on the other foot.

  3. Oh, wait, you meant attacks on the Humanities as taught through the liberal lenses of race, gender, class and so forth. Yes, of course, those attacks come from the right. I'll let you guess where I stand on that.

  4. Could you say more about the Coulter book, particularly from an academic perspective (what sources does she draw on, what sorts of interpretive frameworks does she use, that sort of grad-school stuff)? I am having trouble finding philosophically advanced reviews of it.

  5. Coutler purposefully writes to stir up her audience, so she is unlikely to be reviewed in academic journals, but having taught many of the events in the French Revolution to which she refers, I can vouch for her ability to get the facts straight. All you need to do is read Robespierre's speech on the principles of public morality to know that she isn't making this stuff up. One of the reasons that I am having difficulty discussing a lot of this stuff on my blog is that it depends on so much of the reading that I have done over the years in order to teach European Cilvilization in our undergraduate core, and I don't quite know where to start.

  6. I wanted to share an observation with you and see what you think about it. It seems to me that your recent political blog posts are actually engaging in two different conversations at the same time. The first is why you no longer consider yourself a liberal; the second is why you are voting for Mitt Romney. It seems that you are using the same argumentation and evidence for both, but I’m not sure that’s possible, because these are two entirely different conversations, in my view.

    In the first conversation, it is perfectly acceptable to take ideas to their logical extreme (e.g., liberalism can lead to totalitarianism). In the second conversation, it is considerably less so. For example, would you say that a vote for Obama equals a vote for totalitarianism? Many conservative voices would say yes, which is absurd. At the same time, I find liberals who think Romney will bring about a legalized economic caste system equally absurd. Politics, after all, takes place in the real world, while taking things to their logical extreme does not. Moreover, the central political act for me is compromise, which is impossible in the context of warring ideologies. More often than not, these extremes don't factor into real policy. Liberals support Obama, but his administration has been centrist for the most part.

    Many people can’t or won’t make that distinction between ideology and policy, which I think might lead to the polemical discussions you’ve been having recently. From my perspective, the former can certainly inform and drive the latter, but the former does not equal the latter. So in the hopes of understanding you better, I’d like to pose a new question to you: are you voting for Romney because you consider yourself a conservative, or do you consider yourself a conservative because you are voting for Romney?

  7. Excellent question. And you're right, my posts in aggregate conflate two different conversations. I am much clearer in my mind about being conservative (now that I understand the terms of the conversation--I really need to start writing about this stuff more fully) than I am about voting for or against anybody. I have heard Romney say things in the debates (especially the first one) that I hear as coming from a conservative perspective (e.g. my post "What Mitt Said"), but I am of course skeptical about how much what we hear from either candidate expresses what he fundamentally believes. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing: we all need to make compromises in order to get along and sometimes we change our minds because we learn things, even politicians.

    When I first started getting into the literature this summer (see "Summer Reading"), I was much clearer that I was going to be voting against Obama than I was enthusiastic about voting for Romney. After the first debate, which was the first time I actually ever heard Romney speak (I don't watch TV, so I don't see the ads; I streamed the debates on my laptop), I was actively voting for Romney--at least, for the Romney whom I saw in the debate, thus my blurts in his favor on the blog. But I did not want to get into what I feared was the inevitable tit-for-tat that would ensue if I started writing explicitly about what I see in each candidate. For starters, I have only the same sources of information as everybody else so all I have to go on otherwise is my gut.

    I wish that I were a Noble-prize-winning economist so that I could understand the implications of the policies that we're arguing over, but, again, I'm not. I'm voting on the basis of the way each of the candidates has expressed his ideals about our country, and I find Romney's language more appealing. I also believe that he is right about how to get the economy going, but (as I have asserted time and again in conversation with my family) I know about as much about how the economy works as I do about nuclear fission, so I am hardly in a position to made definite statements about who is going to do a better job for us as president. Thus my reticence, I suspect, in weighing in on this whole issue in the first place.

    Does this answer your question?


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