Tuesday, December 2, 2008

From there to here: The short version

I’ve been thinking for a while about doing a post documenting my journey from a (mostly) liberal to a (mostly) conservative state of mind. I figured my narrative would be logical, structured, insightful, and so on. Then a relatively new and totally apolitical friend mentioned in an email that she'd been reading the Jezebel website. I replied that I’d pretend not to have heard that given Jezebel’s ugliness toward Sarah Palin. My friend replied that she only read the non-political stuff on Jezebel. As she put it, “if I had to choose between a headline that said ‘Migration habits of slugs’ and 'Latest from the campaign trail', it would be slugs all the way.” She then went on to ask:

But -- does this mean you are a Republican??? I would have thought you were a Democrat.

I explained myself to her and realized I had just written the short version of my journey post. Here’s what I wrote (cleaned up a little for spelling and grammar and with links added):

I'm in transition. A year ago I would have described myself as a Democrat and I pretty much would have described myself that way for my entire adult life. There were always cracks in the facade. I never quite bought the whole "police are the enemy" idea that liberals liked so much in the 60s and 70s. The bumper sticker "The next time you need help call a hippie" really resonated. I've always thought a strong military was a Very Good Thing and most Democrats are ambivalent about that. I just never bought the idea that really, really bad countries would love to have peace if only we'd stop spending so much money on weapons. I hated the Vietnam War but never felt really good about abandoning the South Vietnamese to the tender mercies of the North. And so on. So, a Democrat, but with Republican tendencies.

Then, for a very long time, feminism became virtually synonymous with being liberal and therefore Democratic. So that was another thing that made me think of myself as a Democrat/liberal and that identification stuck with me even as I thought less and less about feminism on a regular basis. And although I am not convinced the Iraq War was necessarily a bad idea, I do think torture and listening to phone calls without warrants and stuff like that is incredibly dangerous to the Constitution. And since I think the Constitution IS the United States, I didn't much care for George W. Bush.

Somewhere along the line, probably about two years ago, a very anti-Bush blog I read (Andrew Sullivan; nope, not linking) linked to a story from a pro-Bush blog (The Anchoress). It was on a non-political topic, probably something to do with religion. I read the story on the pro-Bush blog and then poked around a little and read some of her political stuff and, holy Toledo, it actually made sense. It didn't make me think that the damage Bush was doing to the Constitution was acceptable by a long shot but it did make me stop and think about stuff like, "How would I react if I was President and the US was subjected to a vicious sneak attack? Would I, for example, inter all Japanese-Americans in desert camps?"

Then Obama and his minions started treating Hillary Clinton like "a vicious lying bitch who ought to be killed" and my feminist radar, forged in the heat of the 70s, sprang to attention. This was misogyny of a kind and intensity not openly displayed in 30 years. The more the ”Boyz” attacked Hillary with sexist rhetoric, the more I hated Obama and his lying, skanky friends. And the more I realized this type of vicious sexism was becoming the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. My side, the side that was supposed to be synonymous with feminism.

So I started taking a closer look at some of the links in the pro-Bush blog and found all kinds of interesting bloggers. First I got referred to some blogs with military connections. Not the real milblogs - I simply can't understand them - but a wonderful blog written by a woman whose husband is career Marine but blogs little about the military and lots about social issues and what America means (Villainous Company). She did a blog on Hillary Clinton and sexism that literally made me cry. From her I got to a blog written by a guy who writes for the milblogs but also has his own more accessible blog (Grim’s Hall). From there to Rachel Lucas who is filthy-mouthed and hysterical; then TigerHawk who warns you if he is going to use bad language in a post and is very smart and very financial; then neo-neocon whom I adore (she's a therapist who writes a political blog with side trips into ballet); then The Corner at National Review Online, the veritable bastion of mainstream conservative writing, founded by William F. Buckley himself. For variety, I also read two super-liberal blogs both written by women who loathe Obama's misogyny and both of whom are far more liberal than I am and probably than I ever was (Anglachel’s Journal and Reclusive Leftist). And I worship at the feet of Greg Mankiw's economic blog.

Then Sarah Palin happened and virtually all of the Democratic/liberal feminists treated her like dirt. It's not that they hated her politics or thought she was too inexperienced; they went after her on sexist grounds. That was it. My one litmus test for being a feminist is that you don't attack other women in sexist terms. Almost the entire female membership of the Democratic Party failed that test. And the Obama machine just cranked up the misogynist weaponry it had used against Hillary Clinton - including the media - and aimed it at Sarah Palin. By the time the Democrats and the media got through with Palin, I'd have voted for her if she swore on a stack of Bibles that she thought Sacramento was a small country in Africa.

All of which is probably more than you want to know and a terribly roundabout way of saying what I started out with: I'm in transition. Republicans believe in free-market capitalism (me, too); in a strong military (me,too); in doing away with racial, ethnic, sexual, etc preferences (me, too, but I kind of like Title IX); in free trade (I'm really waffley on this one). They also generally oppose abortion (I'm for it but not unrestricted and never in the 3rd trimester) and gay marriage (I have real problems with forbidding some type of gay civil union partly because it becomes an economic burden for gays not to be able to marry). So economically I'm a Republican; socially I'm not a Republican but I'm certainly not a Democrat, at least not where the Democrats are now on abortion - ugh!

On the other hand, I'm all for protecting our national security but torture, warrant-less wiretapping, over-extension of Executive power? Nope. Too much of that and we'll save the country physically while destroying it ideologically. At the same time, I have no problem with ethnic profiling and while I think non-US citizens should have clearly defined rights in our legal system I don't insist they have the same rights US citizens do. I oppose illegal immigration (neither Presidential candidate did); I think English should be the official language and see no reason ballots need to be printed in any other language while also believing that in legal proceedings and medical situations interpreters are essential. I don't believe in Apocalyptic Anthropogenic Global Warming but even if I did Obama's cap-and-trade policies would scare the bejeesus out of me. Somehow freezing in the dark doesn't seem to me to be a good way to save civilization.

So not only am I in transition, I also don't fit neatly anywhere.

What’s not in that stream of consciousness explanation is the exact mechanism by which I was converted: the realization that the sources I trusted to tell me the straight story were so biased that no hint of even-handedness existed; how that realization freed me to think about everything differently; and what I began to believe once I did that different thinking. But those parts of my journey are for another post - or posts.


Beard said...

Hi again, Elise,

I appreciate the "my journey" post. I most likely wouldn't have taken the same journey, but I approve of many of things you approve of, and contrarywise.

There are idiots in every village, and a favorite argument is to quote the other side's idiot, and then spend a bunch of time trashing them. It is also certainly disconcerting to discover that a trusted source on your own side is in fact an idiot (or seriously lacking in integrity), so my condolences.

My current favorite source on the Left is Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. I'm not nominating them for sainthood, but they seem to have journalistic integrity. It will be disappointing if I am proved wrong, but I don't think it will push me into the Republican party.

At the same time, I tend to enjoy David Brooks, and I appreciated his recent column trashing the Limbaugh/Beck crowd, and appealing to the Republican party to find some better standard-bearers.



Elise said...

I had to chuckle a little at Josh Marshall. I'm quite fond of Anglachel's Journal and she in turn is quite fond of Bob Somersby's phrase: Who Kidnapped Josh Marshall.

As for David Brooks, I do usually enjoy him and certainly agree that the Republican Party leadership would do better to step outside the parameters laid down by Limbaugh and Beck. (I do not think Brooks was arguing that Limbaugh and Beck are standard-bearers.) However, I've never quite recovered from his giddiness over Obama and Niebuhr. I find his enthusiasm particularly puzzling since to me Obama looks clearly like a facile but shallow intellect.