March 17th, 2015

Althouse asks: Have you ever taken a political position that was hard for you to take?

Well, you know my answer: constantly.

It’s been especially hard socially. Althouse writes:

It’s my hypothesis that people take the positions that are comfortable to them. Living in Madison, Wisconsin, I often wonder about the depth of the political opinions that seem to be everywhere. To express an opposing view would take some effort and maybe even injure your personal life, so it’s easiest to go along and get along, even to adopt the views of the people around you and to avoid exploring the possibility of thinking something else.

These beliefs, then, which seem so entrenched, are actually shallow beliefs. The behavior patterns and commitment to getting along may be deeply rooted, but the ideas themselves are fairly insubstantial. The engagement with politics itself is insubstantial. Why pay so much attention to politics when deviating from your comfortable point of view would only expose you to pain?

Ah, my favorite topic—political opinions, why we hold them, and what could make people change them. I agree that a great many people—perhaps the majority, and (from my observations, anyway) the majority of today’s liberals—take positions that are comfortable for them in the sense that they are surrounded by people who hold the same position. In other words, it’s very easy and pleasant to dance in a ring with the others.

But I would slightly amend Ann’s characterization of their beliefs as “shallow” and say that the amount and quality of the logical reasoning behind those beliefs may be shallow, but the beliefs themselves are extremely and deeply entrenched—and that’s because, as she writes, “The behavior patterns and commitment to getting along may be deeply rooted.” For people who hold beliefs mostly for that reason, it’s a very powerful motivation.

In other words, as in the old saying, it’s hard to reason people out of beliefs that they weren’t reasoned into in the first place. Sometimes these sorts of beliefs can be the most tenacious of all because they rest on emotion rather than reason, and abandoning them causes an extraordinary amount of stress and even a loss of identity for a while. And since I believe Ann is correct that most people are not interested in politics all that much—at least not in digging down deep into the details, rather than just the sound bites or the headlines—it’s really not hard for most people to ignore evidence that might derail their beliefs and therefore their pleasant world of group agreement.

Of course, the opposite is true for those who already are at variance politically with most people in the community in which they live and especially the group with which they socialize. I’d be curious to know what the statistics for political change are for people who move from a community where they espouse the majority view to one where they are going against the general consensus. Do they undergo political change more often than people who don’t make such a move? Perhaps; I don’t know. And then of course we all are aware of what happens to many young people when they go off to college and are exposed to the relentless propaganda there from the left. But young people are in an especially malleable and impressionable state, as well as one in which the opinion of their peers is of the utmost importance, so they are particularly ripe for the leftist picking.

My change of politics in the intellectual sense was somewhat hard to go through, but nowhere near as hard as the social “coming out” later. I underwent my political change mostly in private (read the story if you’re interested). I was living in a new place, had recently been divorced, and was undergoing a very lengthy recuperation from surgery, all of which made for a large degree of social isolation and meant I had a great deal of free time on my hands. Furthermore, I was motivated (starting with 9/11) to do much more reading about world events and politics than ever before, and for the first time I was getting my news from multiple newspapers online rather than one or two delivered at home. I was probably helped along in the journey by the fact that I didn’t even realize I was now reading papers on the left and the right, ant that this was something I’d never done before (previously I had thought my main sources—the Boston Globe and New Yorker—were unbiased).

All of these factors helped get me to the point where, although I’d never really been “reasoned” into my previous positions, I abandoned them when faced with enough evidence to the contrary. My change was helped along by two things in particular: (1) logic and rationality are very important to me; and (2) I had previously moved in such a liberal bubble that I was unaware of the harsh way many liberals treat those who differ from them politically.

The naivete of that last part may really surprise you. It’s not that I’d never noticed liberal attacks on conservatives in the news. But those were public figures; I was me. My friends and relatives knew me and liked me, knew I was intelligent, kind, thoughtful, etc. etc.—one of the them. At least, I thought they did. So why would they be angry at me? I don’t think the possibility even entered my mind, in part because I’d almost never seen anyone in my circle disagree with the prevailing liberalism.

Let’s just say I was in for a big, big, BIG surprise. By the time I realized I was in social hot water, there was no turning back—not that I would have considered it anyway. The only thing that could have made me turn back would have been for me to encounter a preponderance of convincing evidence to support the basic liberal argument, and so far that hasn’t happened at all. Au contraire.

I’m now used to my position. I’m used to not fitting in. I’ve made my accommodation and accepted the situation. I know it has affected a few of my relationships deeply and many slightly. Most have survived the cataclysm, although in somewhat altered form. But make no mistake about it—it was a cataclysm of sorts, although I never sought it out and never anticipated it. But it doesn’t surprise me that very few people would seek it out, and that most will run screaming from evidence that invalidates their previous belief system.

I’ll let John Updike have the last word. I am not Updike, nor are most people—not a literary light hobnobbing with the other literati in the Vineyard, sharing drinks and conversation and sun. But the sentiments and the sense of dislocation are not all that different from those Updike experienced back when he distanced himself from the others by writing a letter to the editor of the Times that was, if not exactly a defense of the Vietnam War, then just as certainly not an attack on it.

In this essay, Updike describes what ensued (and if you haven’t read it before, please do yourself a favor and read the whole thing) [emphasis mine]:

It pained and embarrassed me to be out of step with my magazine and literary colleagues, with the bronzed and almost universally “antiwar” summer denizens of Martha’s Vineyard (including Feiffer and the fiery Lillian Hellman), and with many of my dearest friends back home in Ipswich, including my wife. How had I come to such an awkward pass? In politics, my instinct had always been merely to stay out of harm’s way. My home town of Shillington, Pennsylvania, was peaceably shared by both parties, and by honorable double inheritance I was a Democrat…

I first voted, pulling the Democrat lever, in New York City, in 1956; naively I thought Stevenson might actually beat Ike this second time around. In 1960, transposed to Massachusetts, I was happy to vote with most of my fellow Bay Staters for our young native son, Jack Kennedy. And in 1964 I went to considerable trouble to vote inside the Soviet Union, casting at the American embassy in Moscow my absentee ballot for Lyndon Johnson…

The protest [against Johnson and the Vietnam War], from my perspective, was in large part a snobbish dismissal of Johnson by the Eastern establishment; Cambridge professors and Manhattan lawyers and their guitar-strumming children thought they could run the country and the world better than this lugubrious bohunk from Texas. These privileged members of a privileged nation believed that their pleasant position could be maintained without anything visibly ugly happening in the world. They were full of aesthetic disdain for their own defenders, the business-suited hirelings drearily pondering geopolitics and its bloody necessities down in Washington. The protesters were spitting on the cops who were trying to keep their property—the USA and its many amenities—intact…

At moments of suburban relaxation, in our circle of semi-bohemian homes…I was, perhaps, the most Vietnam-minded person I knew. Those who deplored the war fit what protesting they could into their suburban schedules and otherwise dismissed it with a gesture of automatic distaste; the technocrats of our acquaintance, the electronic engineers and stockbrokers and economics professors, tended to see the involvement as an administrative blunder, to which they could attach no passion. But I—I whose stock in trade as an American author included an intuition into the mass consciousness and an identification with our national fortunes—felt obliged to defend Johnson and Rusk and Rostow, and then Nixon and Kissinger, as they maneuvered, with many a solemn bluff and thunderous air raid, our quagmirish involvement and long extrication. My face would become hot, my voice high and tense and wildly stuttery; I could feel my heart race in a kind of panic whenever the subject came up, and my excitement threatened to suffocate me…

…it greatly distressed me, for example—it wasn’t fair—that American liberals could so blithely disown what was clearly a typically and historically liberal cause, foreign intervention against a Communist bully…I wanted to keep quiet, but could not. Something about it all made me very sore. I spoke up, blushing and hating my disruption of a post-liberal socioeconomic-cultural harmony I was pleased to be a part of.

Updike’s entire essay is one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject of how a person might feel who is, albeit reluctantly, forced by his/her convictions to step out of line and differ politically. No wonder so few people do it.

51 Responses to “Althouse asks: Have you ever taken a political position that was hard for you to take?”

  1. mizpants Says:

    I’ve read that Updike piece before, but it’s a (painful) thrill to read it again. The physiological symptoms associated with speaking up — the high, tense stuttery voice, the hot face, the racing heart — I know them all, and if I don’t speak up much anymore, it’s partly because I’m actually afraid of doing myself harm with a mammoth BP spike! Really!
    There was a time, I think, when it was possible to be apolitical, to go along with vaguely liberal views in good faith and therefore to be free to talk about important and subtle things with other people without declaring one’s political allegiance. Those days are long over, I’m afraid, and largely because the 60s the left has insisted on politicizing everything. Ideology has eaten its way into so much now.
    Mostly I keep quiet, and try to find what common ground I can with friends old and new, but it’s with considerable shame. I know many people now in the writing/academic world I live in who assume I’m like-minded and would be appalled to know my real views, and that makes me feel like some kind of duplicitous monster who rips off the mask in private.
    The only person I’m open with these days is my husband, who shares my views. I think sometimes that if he died, I would give it up and go over. It would be just too painful to maintain intellectual honesty in isolation.
    This may seem slightly off-topic, but actually I believe it’s relevant. I had an odd experience disembarking from a flight recently. A middle aged black man seated in front of me caught a suitcase falling from the overhead bins that would have hit me on the head. I thanked him profusely and he squeezed my hand. That brief, kind moment of contact made me come close to bursting into tears. The terrible divide between the races, which the current administration is taking care to keep raw and open, seemed for that moment to be miraculously healed.

  2. Eric Says:

    Updike via Neo: “…it greatly distressed me, for example—it wasn’t fair—that American liberals could so blithely disown what was clearly a typically and historically liberal cause, foreign intervention against a Communist bully…I wanted to keep quiet, but could not. Something about it all made me very sore. I spoke up, blushing and hating my disruption of a post-liberal socioeconomic-cultural harmony I was pleased to be a part of.”

    The Left’s false narrative of the Iraq mission is the anointed successor of their Vietnam War narrative.

    Switch out “Communist bully” for Saddam and Updike’s motivation compares well to my motivation to set the record straight on the ‘why‘ of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    I don’t share this part, though:
    “I spoke up, blushing and hating my disruption of a post-liberal socioeconomic-cultural harmony I was pleased to be a part of.”

    The grounds and character of OIF are often compared to the Korea mission. A formative part of my life was spent as a soldier in Korea upholding the mission that was the cornerstone (if WW2 was the foundation) of modern American leadership of the free world.

    All the fundamental principles of American leadership of the free world were invested in OIF, staked on the lives of American soldiers.

    There is no blushing or hating disruption to set the record straight on that point.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    mizpants:

    If my experience is any guide, it’s better to speak up than not. I don’t mean in every single circumstance, but in general. Which is worse, the cost of speaking up or of silence and inautheniticy? I wrote this previous post on the subject, but I’d add that (as I said in my post above), I’ve only lost a few relationships, although most have been slightly changed. I feel a very slight chill in the air from most, although not at all from some. In part, it depends on how politically-minded the person is.

    I do know people who have lost more friends than I have. But they had previously been very political and active, and most of their friends were likewise.

    I realize that you must make your own decision, and I can understand why you (or anyone, for that matter) might choose to make a different one than mine. But I have no regrets about speaking out to the extent that I do.

  4. mizpants Says:

    Well, Neo, if I had at my command all the facts and historical knowledge you have, I’d speak out! But I don’t, and the anxiety of these encounters makes my frontal cortex shut down and I end up forgetting what little I do know and sputtering and humiliating myself AND alienating people.
    I should add that I have friends who know my views and still remain close. I treasure them.

  5. Retail Lawyer Says:

    My answer is frequently, but I keep much more to myself than previously. People are VERY polarized these days, and are much more likely to banish a friend than now than a few years ago. I don’t blame the internet – I blame Obama. I think he is fundamentally dishonest, and citizens actively supporting his agenda rapidly find themselves misstating facts, leaving out the most important aspects of an argument, and are soon ignoring their previously cherished principles (due process, prohibition on bombing brown people, respect for the Constitution, income equality . . .) in any discussion. I imagine this is uncomfortable for them.

    There are two varieties of liberal I encounter. The “activists” are described above. What Ann is referring to as “shallow” are those who prefer changing the subject and are able to keep disagreements in what I would call proper perspective. They literally are able to be civil about disagreements.

    This cannot be assumed in the SF Bay Area, where I live.

  6. junior Says:

    Agree with Mizpants about arguing. I find it all too easy to dive in too far to easily back out. And if I’m not careful, I end up arguing purely for the sake of arguing.

    These days, I’m content with occasionally “vigorously discussing” something on Facebook, when someone posts something particularly obnoxious. And even some of the more mildly obnoxious posts don’t draw my ire. Fortunately, there aren’t as many of them as there once were. But it still happens from time to time.

    People don’t change political philosophies overnight. While it does sometimes happen that someone will switch sides because of single event, those occurrences are few and far between. More typically, it’s a long, slow, gradual thing that usually ends when the subject suddenly realizes that they’re now thinking in agreement with the other side.

    With that in mind, my primary focus these days is in showing what conservatives are not. i.e. we’re not racist. We’re not sexist. I’ve heard multiple stories about people who essentially had adopted conservative positions, but refused to admit it because they hold the deep, unconscious belief that causes a good chunk of the electorate to believe that conservatives are bigots. They “know” it in their souls, even if there’s not much evidence to support it.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Eric:

    Updike explains in his essay how hard-won his place among the literati was, and how he loved the life it helped him achieve, so comfortable and pleasant compared to the milieu from which he’d come. He also was apparently a very affable and social guy, and I think it pained him greatly to be the subject of so much enmity.

    Also, not only was opposition to the Iraq War rooted in opposition to the Vietnam War, to a certain extent the Iraq opposition was designed by the same people.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    mizpants:

    I understand. It’s not that I speak out so often; just sometimes, and virtually everyone who actually knows me at all well knows my position at this point. I don’t usually speak about politics to casual acquaintances unless I am cornered in some way.

    As for facts, they don’t really matter to most people. It’s not unusual for it to devolve quite quickly into a shouting match featuring ad hominem attacks on me, even though I try to stay (or at least appear to stay) calm.

    But I do think it’s important for most of the people who are close to you, even friends and not just family, to know your position. Sounds as though you’ve mostly done that.

  9. Ray Says:

    Liberals consider themselves intellectually and morally superior people. I joke that they have overdosed on self esteem. When you disagree with a liberal you are obviously stupid or evil.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    Retail Lawyer:

    The Bay Area is a rough neighborhood for conservatives.

  11. Nick Says:

    Mizpants – It can’t be good for your blood pressure to sit in silence and feel burdened. The ideal – and we’re far from it these days – would be to be able to have amiable conversations where you don’t have to attack or defend or provide footnotes and citations. Your luggage story, with a simple, “I don’t think we’re headed in the right direction”, would mean a lot.

  12. g6loq Says:

    If you can’t be you, you shouldn’t be with them …

    Imagine what Winston’s day to day life must have been before he came to the fore.

  13. mizpants Says:

    Thank you for your concerned words, Nick, but I agree we’re far from a climate where civil talk is the likely outcome. There is a bad craziness abroad in the land!
    If I were to tell my luggage story, along with your addendum about not heading in the right direction, I’d most likely be accused of racism.

  14. g6loq Says:

    There is a book on the matter:
    The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart

    I sorted myself out.

  15. Alan F Says:

    I just donated $200 to Neo. Thirteen years after the WTC 9/11 attacks I still wonder why I am still so troubled by my longtime liberal friends’ heads in the sand, now with beheadings and a nuclear Iran threatening. What makes me feel bad is why I can’t figure out how to have productive conversations with liberals. If brilliant, courageous people like Neo, Althouse and Updike are troubled, I shouldn’t feel so bad.

    In my case, I was drafted into the 101st Airborne during Vietnam and became a paratrooper. Not only did I learn a military perspective, I also learned riot control and prison guarding. When I got out of the Army (Airborne), after two years, I fell into the counterculture, liberal world of San Francisco and Berkeley. But I had already learned enough to have plenty of skepticism about liberal orthodoxies. Jimmy Carter’s pathetic bumbling of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis was a pivot for me. I refused to vote for him. I also refused to vote for Mondale/Ferraro and Dukakis, but it wasn’t until George W. Bush that I voted for my first Republican presidential candidate.

    I observe that my liberals friends and relatives have generous, good intentions. They don’t follow the details of politics and feel very good about their efforts and political stances. They don’t look deeper to see if their efforts and stances might be counter productive. Most I think are fools rather than knaves.

  16. vanderleun Says:

    I guess Ann’s warming herself up for a vote for Hillary.

  17. Eric Says:

    Neo: “Also, not only was opposition to the Iraq War rooted in opposition to the Vietnam War, to a certain extent the Iraq opposition was designed by the same people.”

    Yes. Even before OIF, I saw that on campus within a week of 9/11 in a radical left meeting where the speaker outright said with excitement that the 9/11 attacks were the opportunity they had been waiting for to restart the Revolution that had stalled when the Vietnam War protests had simmered down.

    Anyone who appreciates the deliberate, compounding, consequential impact of the Left’s Vietnam narrative understands or should understand the critical urgency to set the record straight on the Iraq mission in the zeitgeist ASAP.

    By association, if the Left’s Iraq narrative is countered, their Vietnam narrative will be drained, too, of its future effect.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Eric:

    I think you will be very interested in this interview I did in 2006.

  19. Gary Says:

    Mizpants wrote (about the black man who saved her from getting hit by a suitcase falling from an overhead bin on a plane):

    That brief, kind moment of contact made me come close to bursting into tears. The terrible divide between the races, which the current administration is taking care to keep raw and open, seemed for that moment to be miraculously healed.

    I know how you feel. I try to be open and friendly with black friends, acquaintances and others I deal with, and am touched by the warm response I receive most of the time.

    It seems to me there are 2 different “race relations” going on now:
    1) The day-to-day, ordinary interactions between whites and blacks. From what I see, this is mostly good.

    2) Big media events like Ferguson, led by troublemakers like Sharpton, Holder, King Barack–and the MSM of course. These things are unbearaby ugly, but unfortunately cannot be dismissed as phony staged events (even though they are to a large extent) because they stoke suspicion and animosity among many blacks–at least according to most polls I’ve seen.

    Absent the second type of race relations, I strongly suspect that blacks and whites would be getting along pretty damn well in most instances. But the left–backed up by the MSM–is so heavily invested in portraying blacks as victims, they repeatedly rip the scab off this wound so it’ll never heal.

  20. expat Says:

    Boy, I am lucky. I have never fit entirely into a group in my whole life. For my extended family, I was a townie, but among the friends in town, I was the only one who had ever seen a butchering or gone swimming in a creek. I was the only one in my neighborhood who attended Catholic school, although my parents were non-practicing. In college, I was one of the few from a working class small town background, although my best friends were very mixed. After college, I took off on my own to Philly and worked for the Welfare (and later, Health) Dept. I got to observe everything without any prescribed viewpoint. Then I went back to my hometown, where I was the only one with first-hand inner city experience. Then I married and moved to Germany. Here I associate with Profs and university presidents and with the village neighbors of my husband. I’ve explored almost everything, but I never felt the pressure to conform to a type of thinking.

    It was interesting during Obama’s first run for the presidency. I was at a party and was asked what I thought of him. I very discretely expresssed my doubts, which I think surprised quite a few. Now, I am always asked for my take on what he’s doing. It’s kind of fun not to fit in.

  21. roc scssrs Says:

    I grew up with Republican tendencies in Democratic Philly. I was probably the only kid in my Catholic school who thought Nixon would be a better President than Kennedy. What I’m saying is I learned to keep my mouth shut. Still, it was a shock to be called a racist, all the way back in the 80s, when I asked why it took the whole federal government to feed a kid a school lunch. Unless a person can be honest with themselves and think for themselves and criticize what they think and know enough to look at different angles and not have to worry about their ego or social standing, change doesn’t happen.

  22. Eric R Says:

    If you seek truth, don’t worship reason. These words of wisdom come from self-avowed liberal author Jonathan Haidt, he of The Righteous Mind. The morality each of us relies upon to make daily judgements about life are innate, and the reality is that conservatives rely on a much wider foundation of morality than do liberals; who always reach for the ‘fairness’ and ‘ending oppression’ cards.
    This book gave me the intelletual heft needed to gently move liberals to a new understanding of why the world doesn’t subscribe to their narrow viewpoints, and why over time…the people predisposed with those liberal genetic traits will not reproduce. Ultimately, we are ‘bees’ knowing that our role in the hive is unique and if we operate outside that role..the hive dies. Liberals think that any bee can be the Queen Bee, but are content to take over the next hive when theirs dies out.

  23. Eric Says:

    Neo,

    He should understand the urgency of setting the record straight on OIF.

    I wonder how much headway Beren has made training others to be competitive Marxist-method activists and, from there, building up social movements that are capable of competing in earnest against Left activists.

  24. Steve Says:

    I think some hold ‘liberal’ views because they are social climbers and being a dem is seen to be important for social status. What price do they pay for supporting policies that fail? Towing the line works for them. Arguing for contrary views would be crazy (no payoff).

    I think it is possible to change peoples’ minds if you argue against abuse of the poor and the abuser just happens to be gov’t:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/415462/ferguson-report-reminds-me-why-i-became-conservative-david-french

    Supporting jerks like Boehner will not win anyone over.

  25. Paul Says:

    Great post, Neo, and great comments as well.

    My basic comment is this: (and I don’t remember who said it first)…”Silence is assent.” Particularly in group-mode. Silence is what lets the bully run the playground, and the dictator run the country; that is why dictatorial rulers silence the opposition. If fear silences you, you’ve assented. Or at least, it appears that you have, which bolsters the position of the bully/dictator.

    I’m not suggesting that breaking silence (expressing one’s alternative views) is easy–it’s not. But you will be surprised at how often (and how many!) previously silent people will flock to your side, once someone–anyone–has summoned the courage to voice an alternative opinion. It is magical.

    Finally, Neo, I too look forward to the Holyfield-Romney match. What a hoot! And therein lies an analogy. People who regularly involve themselves in contact sports learn that they can take hits as well as give them.

    People who have never been really punched or taken to to the mat are at a real disadvantage when they engage someone who has been. It freezes them. Even a mediocre amateur boxer who has been punched in the face a few times will trounce a strip-mall blackbelt poseur who’s never been punched in the face. Which is what most of the cocktail party liberal blowhards are.

  26. Lester Says:

    I never feel conflicted. I have conservative opinions and express them. It bugs my liberal friends but so what.

  27. Sam L. Says:

    “…it greatly distressed me, for example—it wasn’t fair—that American liberals could so blithely disown what was clearly a typically and historically liberal cause, foreign intervention against a Communist bully…”

    It’s that “Communist bully” that got him in trouble; the Left loooooooooooves commies.

  28. T Says:

    Alan F., et. al.,

    The problem with arguing with liberals is that all to often we permit them to set the ground rules for the debate by simply responding to their talking points. One must pull the lefties onto our playing field where they have no defense from the facts. For example, many people respond to the Obamacare claim that former health care policies were substandard; a “no they weren’t” argument. The response for a conservative must be more like “who gave the government either the wisdom or the right to determine what is substandard?” Likewise the 47 senators who signed Tom Cotton’s letter; “they’re traitors.’ Avoid a “no they aren’t — yes they are” argument simply by noting that if dissent was patriotic when Bush was in office it’s still patriotic when Obama sits at the Resolute desk.

    Don’t ever respond to hissy fits with logic; it’s a waste of time and it serves no purpose except to validate the hissy fit. Newt Gingrich is exceptionally good at this; Scott Walker shows some of that same potential.

  29. T Says:

    I have never fit entirely into a group in my whole life.

    I never felt the pressure to conform to a type of thinking.

    It’s kind of fun not to fit in. [expat]

    You just described my own life and I must add that as I’ve aged I treasure this more with each passing day. No wonder you and I so often agree in our comments on this blog.

  30. Ann Says:

    Updike was in many ways a man apart from the usual member of the East Coast elite. Not least of which, to my mind, was that he actually wrote about God and religion. That alone must irritated them a lot. And then there was his great devotion to Doris Day.

  31. Paul Says:

    I was at a dinner party last year attended by six couples. The host and hostess are delightful company, although quite “liberal.” At some point the issue of “gun control” came up, and the host challenged my wife (a birth-right Quaker, as their self-description goes) about her assertion that private citizens should be “allowed” by the government to own firearms.

    She replied that the problem with “pacifism” was that, historically, people who don’t believe in pacifism just kill the pacifists. Our host called this hypocritical for a Quaker, and asked for a show of hands as to how many of his dinner guests owned guns (my wife was the only Quaker).

    Our host was the only man in the room who didn’t raise his hand, and half of the women rose theirs. It was one of the best gob-smacked moments I’ve ever witnessed. Speaking up has worth. It breaks the damn bubble.

  32. John Says:

    Great discussion. Wish I could have you all over for a bbq.

  33. Cornhead Says:

    My oldest daughter graduated from Carleton College in MN in 2014 and now lives in Madison.

    The average ACT score at Carleton is 32. It draws the best and the brightest from the entire country. And it is solidly liberal. Liberalism is the default position. I would guess less than 10% of alums and students are conservative. The school had a special trip to Cuba during the 2012 election and only about 10% voted for Mitt per a picture taken on the island during the election. And if the alums aren’t rich, they are solidly upper class.

    At the 2014 commencement, the college gave a honorary doctorate to an alum who had been a somewhat famous campus Vietnam war protestor. He had gone on to write theology books of a sort; an academic.

    His speech that day was about how global warming was the end of the world and yada yada. I’m rolling my eyes to my youngest and muttering under my breathe. I’m also composing my letter to the president about how inappropriate it was to have such an overtly political speech, but then I thought the better of it. I let it go. I enjoyed the ceremony and fine events thereafter.

    The reason? It would not make one bit of difference. The students, faculty and their parents are in a liberal bubble and no facts would change their minds; especially from a cretin from Creighton. Their wealth is astounding and it is a big part of their liberalism. That and groupthink.

    Liberalism is their religion at Carleton. They have a beautiful chapel on campus but it is only regularly used for weekly “convo” speeches by the likes of state senator Barack Obama and the gay, illegal alien journalist that worked for Time magazine. (That guy got arrested for no driver’s license and driving with ear buds. He missed his speech. Bully to the Rice County Sheriff!)

    I went to Jesuit schools and as Fr. John Schlegel, S.J. always said, “We don’t teach you what to think. We teach you how to think.” So maybe there is hope. I went from liberal to conservative due to my education and then life experience. Maybe some of those Carleton alums will too.

  34. Steve Says:

    Cornhead, so your moniker is because you’re from NE?

  35. n.n Says:

    Make love, not war; make abortion, not life; are irreconcilable. The cognitive dissonance must have been deafening.

    That said, there are two moral axioms: individual dignity and intrinsic value. The former precludes general redistributive change schemes. While the latter precludes treating human life as a clump of cells, interchangeable (e.g. “diversity”) and disposable (e.g. pro-choice). The American charter (i.e. Declaration of Independence) and The Constitution recognize both individual dignity and intrinsic value in their conservative philosophy.

  36. Cornhead Says:

    A Nebraskan who is no fan of the Big Red (but no animus to the Huskers) but Creighton blue. Proud of my city and state but way closer to my school.

    And Ginni Lamp Thomas (wife of Justice Clarence Thomas) was my classmate. You should have seen her in law school! She was a beauty queen. Clarence is a lucky guy and that unfair ambush of him was the tipping point for me.

  37. PD Quig Says:

    As a card-carrying an SF Bay Area native and UC Berkeley late 1960s-early 1970’s vintage former left-winger, all of this is all too familiar to me. Alone among all my high school and college peers, I managed to convert to conservatism in my thirties. Maybe it was reading the tendentious clap-trap of Time magazine articles about South American politics during my year and a half of driving around that continent in the late 1970s? Maybe it was working in a heavily government-regulated industry and being staggered by the inane, efficiency-destroying regulations? Maybe it was helping my children with their public school homework after they switched from parochial schools in middle school? Maybe it was running a business in CA and paying the annual minimum $800 LLC tax? Maybe it was the uphill fight that I had to wage to win custody of my children in a ludicrously biased family court?

    As my old progressive buddies assault me around the campfire on our still annual backpacking trips, I have experienced the strained vocal chords, heart rate increase, and flushed face. However, three or four progressives to one well-informed conservative is not an even match. None of them have any data or statistics to bring to bear. Their ‘argumentation’ is all viscerally- or genitally-based. I am accustomed to being labelled a reactionary troglodyte, but by shredding their assumptions and revealing to them their craven desire to be socially accepted–at the cost of their intellectual integrity–I often give as good as I get. And now it is a badge of pride. I still enjoy hanging with these guys, but there has been a wall between us since I “came out.” I am fine with that because my conservative friends are truly brothers and sisters.

  38. Mike O'Malley Says:

    Cornhead Says:
    March 17th, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    …that unfair ambush of (Clarence Thomas) was the tipping point for me.

    For me the tipping point was: 1) the fall of South Vietnam, 2) the plight of the Vietnamese Boat People, and 3) the Cambodian genocide, together with the Progressive-Left’s celebration of the first, dismal of the second and denial of the third. Before 1975 I was a radical leftist. Thereafter I gradually migrated into company with Neo-Conservatives.

  39. junior Says:

    3) the Cambodian genocide,
    ——————–

    It’s not so much that they deny that one (there was a famous film about it during the ’80s), as it is that they sweep it under the rug, and blame conservatives for the situation that allowed the Khmer Rouge to take power.

    See, if Nixon hadn’t helped to destabilize the legitimate government of Cambodia…

  40. blert Says:

    Sure…

    Even staying silent is brutal for me.

  41. Mike O'Malley Says:

    Yes this was an excellent insightful post with so many great comments. Thank you all.

    So good I copied the post and emailed it to the Mrs.

    We live not far from Washington DC (Frank Baum’s Emerald City) so we often need navigate uncivil behavior and social hot water.

    Neo, you observe:

    The behavior patterns and commitment to getting along may be deeply rooted.” For people who hold beliefs mostly for that reason, it’s a very powerful motivation.

    It seems often I am forced to live the life of an amateur anthropologist when I venture within the Beltway. Those on the left within the Beltway seem to use such customary and fashionable left-wing positions to signal to each other and to reaffirm each other that they are socially, intellectually and morally superior to the average American beyond commuting distance of DC. They make for a privileged sort of tribe.

    You may wish to consider Joseph Bottum’s insight that such deep commitment has a religious aspect.

    We may have lost faith in God and the devil, but believe tenaciously in other unseen forces such as globalization, racism and “prejudice” of various kinds. Not only in such forces, but behind many an Occupy Wall Street radical or fading hippie leftist is a belief in the healing power of crystals or some mysterious “flow” that determines the universe.

    I had an opportunity to discussion some of our Beltway experience with Mr. Bottum. He thinks that many on America’s left are true heirs of America’s old Mainline Protestant denominations. Mr. Bottum explains “They reject organized religion, but still cling fiercely to moral absolutes. Now drained of theological substance, “America’s metaphysical realm has been gradually repopulated with social and political ideas elevated to the status of strange divinities,”

    Bottum locates their origin in America’s early 20th-century Social Gospel movement and Protestant writer Rev. Walter Rauschenbusch. This Bottum believes movement has created a post-Protestant class:

    “Christian in the righteous timbre of its moral judgments, without any actual Christianity; middle class in social flavor, while ostensibly despising middle-class norms; American in cultural setting, even as [they believe] American history is a tale of tyranny.”

    My experience within the Beltway affirms Mr. Bottum’s view that contrary to many commentators, the Protestant elite is still in charge, but they simply are no longer Protestant. Their values, their sense of entitlement, their conviction that they have the most complete, progressive worldview, their anti-Catholicism, “however, remain the preserve of the heirs of the WASP establishment, even in its dissipation.”

    Here is a link to Joseph Bottum’s lecture on this topic at the AEI:
    An anxious age: The post-Protestant ethic and the spirit of America

    and for his book: An anxious age: The post-Protestant ethic and the spirit of America

  42. Mike O'Malley Says:

    oh, and happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  43. Beverly Says:

    Interesting that Updike ended his essay with one, solitary footnote:

    “For years I carried in my wallet, like a fortune-cookie slip somehow more than amusing, a statement from the underground Weathermen:

    “We are against everything that’s good and decent in honky America. We will loot, burn, and destroy. We are the incubation of your mother’s nightmare.”

    Now we have a president incubated by the Weathermen, and a creature of that malice. God help us.

  44. W B Krebs Says:

    Neo, you quoted that passage from Updike’s essay, and it’s been discussed in the comments.

    Another set of essays in the same vein would be Ex Friends by Norman Podhoretz.

  45. DaveindeSwamp Says:

    I really cannot post what I think of these walking bags of fertilizer , and have thought of them since 1964,

  46. Cricket Says:

    I love this post and the ensuing comments. Completely agree with John who wished he could have everyone over for a BBQ. Like another poster, I am behind enemy lines within the DC Beltway and it’s been a constant struggle to fit in. I grew up moving around all over the world and am constantly amazed by the dismissal of (if not outright attack on) any conservative minded individual as provincial. As a former liberal myself, I remember that mindset all too well and how surprised I was to find myself on the receiving end of it when I dared to express my irritation at a dinner party with the left’s obsession with Palin. I wasn’t a huge fan, but seeing the way the “tolerant” left reacted to her more or less cemented my conversion which had been underway since 9/11. I don’t speak up much around here, I’m embarrassed to say, but my husband and children know my views. I’m sure others suspect, if for no other reason that I sit quietly and refuse to “jump on the pile” when politics come up. I’m baffled by some of my friends’ views and I think Neo’s explanation is as good as any I’ve come across. It’s painful to be out of step with your peers, though every once in awhile I glimpse a ray of hope. Yesterday I walked with a Jewish friend who expressed her frustration with this administration’s approach to Israel and her concern about the elections there. She seemed surprised that I had watched Bibi’s speech to congress and asked what I thought. I offered that in my opinion he was magnificent. Baby steps…for both of us.

  47. Janetoo Says:

    Except for my immediate family, I have to say that while none of my “friends” – people who I formerly walked with regularly, spoke on the phone with frequently, attended events they hosted etc, have said outright that they repudiate me, they have all dumped me. The only form of contact they will engage in is liking kitten pictures I may post on Facebook. They hold me at arms length. It is noticable and was hurtful for a long time. I have been ostracized. But, I know I am better informed than all of them. To be informed is to be prepared. As far as my family goes, I am not allowed (I mean that, I am not ALLOWED) to discuss anything remotely political. I once explained that this was hard to do as I read so much and thought so much about these pressing world and societal concerns, that it was essentially a part of me. When asked, what did you do today? I sometimes could only answer, read blogs for hours about the current state of the world. This is deemed a political response. So, it is a dilemna for me. But, I don’t care anymore…

  48. neo-neocon Says:

    janetoo:

    There are many people to whom I’m close and with whom I never discuss politics. Not because I’m actively forbidden (although I have been that, too, with a few) but because I know it is not welcome and would only make things worse. I choose the places and people where there is some sort of possible receptivity and open-mindedness, and sometimes it just is lacking. With the ones who are not receptive to anything coming from the right (me, at this point), I say (like you do) something like, “I’m very concerned about all the difficult things going on in the world.” They nod. On that, we can agree.

    The other day a liberal friend of mine solicited my opinion on Iran, Israel, and Obama. She listened to me for quite a while. I’m not sure where it ended up in her mind, but I thought that was interesting. However, this particular person has never been one to forbid me to talk, or to argue with me, although I don’t usually talk to her about politics because she hates politics. She also has been one of the biggest Obama fans I know, but I detected some pulling away there.

  49. Tonawanda Says:

    Amazing article and delightful thread. A BBQ with the folks in this thread would be one to remember.

  50. ArmyMom Says:

    AlanF – My son was in the 101st as a Blackhawk Crew Chief during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Served 1 tour in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan. Thus my moniker. 🙂 Thank you for your service and bravery to be a paratrooper. Takes guts and a good bit of crazy to do that. Air Assault!!

    Mizpants – While I am in Texas, I work in a very liberal part of Dallas and have learned to keep my political opinions to myself as well. I am surrounded by people who want to “Turn Texas Blue” (over my dead body) and who have Coexist stickers on their cars. Ugh! I too feel that while I am pretty well politically informed that when in a heated political discussion my fight instinct comes out strong in me and pretty much will hijack my emotions making me sputtering and unable to coherently continue to “discuss” things. So, I tend to be silent and amused at the lo-fo people that I hear discussing current events just to keep my bp down and my sanity intact.

  51. Ymarsakar Says:

    But it doesn’t surprise me that very few people would seek it out, and that most will run screaming from evidence that invalidates their previous belief system.

    That is what makes you different from the many people you attempt to persuade. You weren’t persuaded by others, rather it was something internal motivating you.

    The idea that the vast majority of humans will be “persuaded” by stuff they normally runs away from, is false. The special rare few, the 3%, is not the majority.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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