The Journey (pictures, long af)

(OK, so I’m writing this after about ½ of this is done – peeps, this is long. As in “I had to end it with a photo montage or risk hitting 7,000 words” long. (Oh, yeah, there are pictures.) I break it up into multiple posts, though, so it’s not just one Wall O’ Text.

Go ahead, grab a drink, hit the bathroom, come back, and sink in. SORRY!)

In another thread, @zostersanderman and I had the following exchange:

ZS quoted the 2nd sentence in the above, saying:

(BTW, am I in the clique? Really? When did this happen? Where’s my badge? I didn’t even get a PM!)

Now, please: I am not quoting ZS here because I want to continue the debate, or even this interaction, so when you respond, do not respond to the above, but to the below. I think I was topic-banned from that thread, probably for good reasons, and as such I do not wish to continue that topic (worthiness of the Pit) here. Thx!

I bring this interaction up, however, as I wanted to… I don’t know… tell my story as I think that it may be more typical, and vastly different, as characterized above. I used to be quite the Republican, ZS, as you will see. But while I changed (and, to be honest, I would hope I’m not the same person at 54 that I was at 27), conservatism… and especially Republicanism… has also changed, embracing the ugly tendencies always at the heart of the movement, making the subtext, text. Even if I believed in the same things I believed in back in 1992 (small government, the Laffer curve, a moral prudency compared to the overall society) in the same manner… it wouldn’t matter, as the modern “conservative” party believes, and behaves as if they don’t believe, any of that stuff as well. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

It was even the very first thing @ion1 mentioned when she reached out to me on OKCupid:

Imgur

Given that I have been politically active on both sides of the spectrum, I thought an explanation may be in order. This is one I have given a fair amount of thought to over the years, so much that I’ve taken to calling this…

THE JOURNEY

Pre-Flight Checklist
“God helps those who help themselves”, Ruth Skeen Bossie (“Grammy”)
Imgur
My maternal grandparents, Ruth and James Bossie

Demographically speaking, being a conservative was not a choice in my life. Born into a family of classic American strivers, especially on my mother’s side, growing up in northeast Atlanta, fertile ground from which came Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, and other key figures in the conservative movement, and, of course, being white and male, pretty much sealed the deal as to where my head would be politically come my 25th birthday.

In our world, which always had some sort of financial success (always on my mother’s side, my father’s fortunes cresting, ebbing, and then cresting again), this success was spun as being the result of two things:

  1. It was part of God’s blessings for my grandparent’s belief in him

  2. It was earned as being part and parcel of the Gospel of Wealth

Such was the narrative spun by my maternal grandparents, especially Grammy, quoted above. A woman who preached Calvinism with the tenacity of a boot camp drill instructor, to Grammy everything was a teaching moment, and what was being taught was the Gospel of Thrift and how God financially rewarded them for living a good life. Even though Grammy was a converted Catholic (to marry Grampy), she was a true fire and brimstone Protestant at heart who could quote Andrew Carnegie and was absolutely certain God was looking down, picking winners and losers.

I was taught bookkeeping at the age of 8. By 10, my grandfather and I would go over stock reports, tracking his holdings (he had a thing for conglomerates, which weren’t doing so hot in the late ‘70s, IIRC), learning to read balance sheets and income statements. By the time I was coming into awareness, my grandparents had long retired – early, leaving for Florida at the age of 55, Grammy just despising West Virginia and the people there, holy Hell she hated that place – but even retired in Florida, they still owned about 10 homes and a 1/3rd interest in a campground, all in the greater Daytona Beach area, and when my grandfather died, he was worth around $5m. Not bad for a man who’s greatest station in life was the store manager of a sporting goods retail establishment in Charleston, WV.

On my father’s side, it was more turbulent. In a five-year span, he went from a successful JC Penney’s executive with a beautiful second wife to a man with his ass in jail, having lost his second job (and that 2nd wife) to theft. He was able to get his shit together by marrying a woman who had zero problem kicking my father’s ass, starting a business which took off immediately. 4 years after being in jail, he was President of a $6 million firm which specialized in telephone book delivery.

Do not tell me white privilege doesn’t exist people: I’ll just throw my father at ya’. He was able to do this because he looked competent, in that Midwestern executive way:

Imgur
Dad, 1971, aged 39

Even my grandparents, who detested my father as much as they detested West Virginia, allowed that Bob had straightened himself out.

This was the milieu in which I was raised. We were conservative because conservatism worked, conservatism worked because we were conservative. My grandparents saved their money, they invested, and they became wealthy. My father was a successful entrepreneur in the Time of Reagan, thereby validating both my grandparent’s vision as well as the spirit of the new, conservative age.

Takeoff
“A is A”, Aristotle, by way of John Galt, “Atlas Shrugged”

And so I enter the scene, immersed in this atmosphere for about 15 years before I start becoming politically aware myself. Now I’m not going to bore you with details of my conservative beliefs for they really just boiled down to My family is getting wealthier, therefore what Reagan and Rush and Grammy are saying works, and will always work. I began to proselytize at this time, just as I do now, but this time for the Reagan revolution, smaller government, lower taxes, more. Unlike my grandparents, I did not care a whit about abortion so was comfortable with the moniker of being “socially liberal, fiscally conservative”, a early-90s way of saying “I’m a conservative who is OK with abortion” without saying “I’m a conservative who is OK with abortion”. But I knew that “we”, the Rationals (for I was about tax and economic policy) still needed the religious people on our side to get the votes, so “we” held our nose whenever abortion came up and let them have their say so we could have their votes. And, it didn’t matter, we would always outnumber them.

Right?

As mentioned, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, from 1971 to 2000 effectively (I did go to college in Statesboro and Athens, GA). I believe that the influence of the north Atlanta suburbs on the 1990s conservative movement cannot be overstated… well, it can, but it’s definitely being understated now, that is for sure. It was where Rush Limbaugh had his first top-10 market breakout. It was where Neil Boortz got his start, going up against an even younger Sean Hannity in the hotly competitive 9am-noon talk radio slot, before Hannity was poached by Fox News. Tales of the “New South” were so dominant and persuasive, no less a figure than Tom Wolfe followed up his scathing indictment of New York City, The Bonfire of the Vanities with a withering treatment of what he called ‘the most underappreciated city in America’, Atlanta, in A Man In Full.

And it was where Newt Gingrich came to power.

To me, a political movement which mouthed the same values which my family espoused, those very values which obviously were validated by my family’s own success, was like flies to honey. I drank that shit up. I preached the gospel of small government, lower taxes, the Laffer curve, frugality and thrift, the wasteful Democrats who created dependency because of government handouts, the fight against Communism… but not for long, to be fair, Communism ceasing to be a threat when I was in my early 20s (Thanks, Reagan!). I celebrated the Contract With America in 1994, talking to its worthiness on whatever dial-up Prodigy forum I was on at the time. I volunteered for Gingrich, Dole, Steve Forbes, George HW Bush, Bush 2. I adored Rand, read Friedman, Hayek, some book called The True State of the Planet which argued against environmental measures, Sowell, others. I studied economics at the University of Georgia. I became more vocal, learning to debate with Scott and Gary, constantly arguing and honing our shared conservative positions. I would time my lunches to catch the best parts of the Limbaugh show. I converted my (now ex) wife, a New Deal Democrat when we met, to being a conservative…

Again, it worked. Just look at my family: we were living proof that the now-dominant capital-C Conservative movement… for by 1996, post-war liberalism was in full retreat… was the better way for all of America. And, coming to the end of 1995 or so, I was 100%, absolutely, convinced that America was on the right path with our new Conservative viewpoint.

A, after all, is A.

Turbulence
“To be frank, we make millions off the back of people poor and desperate enough to deliver phone books”, Robert Laird Thornton (“Dad”)

It is the small things which cause big changes for most people, I truly believe that. One may be in an abusive relationship for years, but only commit to leaving because a pitying, knowing, look was cast by a co-worker.

I mentioned this in his memorial thread, that it was when Rush Limbaugh lied about a character in the movie “Independence Day", that the questions began. First of him and his accuracy. Yeah, it was a dumb mistake, but easily corrected… and I knew that he was being told that he was wrong about this one thing… but he never corrected it. And then I started asking myself, “well, what else is this guy wrong/dishonest about?”

So… a lot of things. But let me boil it down to two:

  1. The conservative position was axiomatic. For example, the belief that “lowering tax rates increases tax revenues” was not a debatable position. It was, in fact, the axiomatic foundation from which a lot of 1980-2020 tax policy was constructed. Is it true? Does it sound true?* It doesn’t matter, it is true.

  2. The conservative position, at least as expressed by Rush Limbaugh, was whiny. Now… this is personal. May not convince a single one of you who have made it this far (thanks), but to me, nothing… NOTHING… is more irritating than a whiny man. And Rush was a whiner who complained about everything, even though he was speaking to the “rugged individualists” (using one of his favorite phrases, at least in the 90s) of the conservative movement. But he just whined. Liberals were doing this. Democrats were doing that. Ebonics (as much a non-controversy as I’ve witnessed in my life). Political Correctness. Monica. Clinton was having donors sleep at the White House. Hillary was female and doing stuff. Just constant, non-stop, whining. Not complaining, not explaining… whining.

But, that was just Limbaugh, right? Surely this didn’t extend into my own family?

Interlude

Having had a bad 1996, her marriage troubled, Catherine is now worried about having enough money for the boys’ Christmas. She looks in the classified ads of her local newspaper and sees a possible answer for her problem: She can deliver phone books for extra cash!

Excited, Catherine calls the number and is scheduled for a meeting. She goes to the meeting, meets the nice manager with the really thick copy of Atlas Shrugged on the desk, and he tells her about the job of delivering phone books. He makes it sound so simple, she can do a couple of routes, make $150-200, problem solved. And she can do it in her spare time.

Signs the contract w/o reading it. Gets the route envelope, drives to the back to load 576 telephone directories into her Toyota Corolla. Welp, she can only get 350 in there, so Catherine gives an embarrassed chuckle and asks if she can deliver these and get the rest later. Of course you can, Catherine! Just get those damn things out of my warehouse!

She immediately drives to the delivery area, her car behaving completely different now that it has 600 pounds of phone books in the trunk and back seat. ‘This can’t be good on my brakes’, Catherine thinks, stopping in a nice neighborhood. Too late, she remembers that the books have to be bagged. So she stands by her car and bags some, and starts walking, taking each book to the door step. And she walks back to the car, bags some more books, and then walk some more in the other way, again to the door step. And after about 30 minutes, tired and more than a little irked, Catherine tells herself she needs to get home to get dinner on the table.

She heads home. Her kids are there. She has them unload the books. She drives back for the rest of them. Goes home, kids unload, makes dinner, and her kids get a nasty surprise: They get to help mom bag up 500 damn phone books. So that’s what the three of them do for 2 hours, putting the books in Catherine’s car when done.

She goes out the next morning, 300 books loaded. All residential books have to go to the door, all businesses need to be walked in, people who advertised in the book need to sign for it (no, you don’t get extra money for signatures, don’t be silly), this takes about 6 hours for her to do. Kids, dinner, sleep, and it is the next day.

She does the remaining 200 books on day 3, returning to the office around noon with 13 books remaining in her car, the car which is now making some weird noises and just this morning developed a slight shudder as the brakes were pressed.

Goes to the nice manager, telling him the route is done.

“Great! You took out 576 books, came back with 13, that gives you 563 delivered. At $.13/book, that will be $73.19!”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“I worked 3 days on this. My car has been run ragged, and all I get is $73? Don’t you even have a gas allowance?”

“No, we do not.”

Catherine signs the completed contract, bitterly complaining the entire time. What else is she going to do? She’s not going to do another route, but that doesn’t matter to the manager, the kid with the Atlas Shrugged book – she did one, got 563 books delivered. It wasn’t his fault she earned herself $73.19 on 18 hours of work (including her kids bagging the books), or $4.06/hour.

And the company? Well, we made $365.95 in revenue, paid Catherine $73.19 of that, netting… prior to all other expenses of course… $292.76. And given our profit margins tended to hover around 12-14%, my parents made $43.92 by paying Catherine $72.19 to do their physical labor for them.

A is A, Catherine! You should have read that contract – it exists! Caveat Emptor! After all: God helps those who help themselves, right? Well, reading the contract would’ve helped, that’s for sure!

At our peak (2006) we delivered about 30,000,000 books a year via this manner, profited about $.08/book, raking in about $2.4 million in profits. And we went through approximately 10,000 Catherine’s… and their cars… every year. For 30 years.

Conservatism works, guys. Unless you’re Catherine. For her, a belief system where she has little value beyond the monetary, one that even tells her that her poverty is the result of her personal failures (“Why did she have kids if she can’t afford them?” “She could have asked for help. Fact that she didn’t, eh, that’s on her.” “Hey, she signed an agreement. She should’ve read it.”) provides cold comfort for her giftless kids.

Anyway, if she can’t afford food, she shouldn’t be wasting money on toys. Right, Grammy?

But!

Good news is coming for people, like Catherine, who may start to wonder about the economic structure ruining their lives! FOX News is coming online to tell the Catherine’s of the world that their poverty isn’t caused by exploitative people like my family and I, no, God no, that would be silly! Why, their poverty is caused by all those others who were also delivering our phone books! Immigrant others. Islamic others. Mexican others. Black others. Welfare others. And, eventually, Liberal Others.

But not rich others. Not conservative others. Not the wealthy, white others who have enslaved you to years of debt, Catherine, just to have a car that breaks while doing work for other wealthy, white others delivering their dumb phone books. Not them, Catherine, they’re not to blame. The other others are to blame.

You know who they are.

Imgur
No, Catherine, not THESE guys! This chart has NOTHING to do with why you can’t get ahead. Now turn on Fox News and… USA! USA! USA!

Out of Control
“When reality does not match your assumptions, check your assumptions.”, Long-forgotten University of Georgia philosophy professor, 1989.

My ex-wife told me a number of times that the thing which bothered me the most is when things weren’t “fair”. Now, I’m perfectly fine with lopsided battles – Michael Spinks got paid well for his 91 seconds against Mike Tyson, for example – but unsportsmanlike conduct? No. Changing the rules of the game in the middle of it? Fuck that, the rules are the rules. Even changing the very nature of the game in your pursuit of winning? No.

There was something troubling about how easy Dubya won the 2000 Republican nomination. He was anointed, anointed early, and that was that. Being full-on team Conservative, I, too, was outraged by the unfairness of Al Gore withdrawing his concession, and eagerly awaited the recounting of the votes to determine the real winner.

And what I saw, on my side, was just… disgusting. Limbaugh ramps up the hate to levels where I effectively turn him off for good, only listening when major events occurred like 9/11, Obama’s 2008 win, etc. The lawsuits to stop the recount and just declare Dubya the winner. The actual design of the “butterfly ballot” itself, obviously designed to confuse the voters for the purpose of drawing off Al Gore votes, giving them to Pat Buchanan. Not many voters, but maybe enough, and in 2000, enough people were, (imho), purposely confused by this design to throw the national election.

Imgur

Not that it mattered because the Bush team committed the gravest sin of all: They stopped the vote count and had the Supreme Court of the United States declare him the victor. At the time I was OK with this… it was ugly, but the nation needed to “move on” (lol, sound familiar?) When the FL Supreme Court ordered a recount (there were up to 61k uncounted votes), the Bush team immediately petitioned Scalia, who strongarmed the USSC into stopping the count, with Stephens dissenting, noting that “counting every legally cast vote cannot constitute irreparable harm.”

But it does if you’re a Republican. Which, of course, is the point.

Well, that’s just great. My guy won, but under shitty circumstances, with the courts showing me they are willing to overturn democracy for the technocratic demands of the law. The principle is to count every vote, but technically, the law says votes have to be certified by THIS SPECIFIC date, so principles be damned – there’s a deadline! It’s right there! In paper, and everything!

Hopefully, this was an aberration and Bush and his team of crack, experienced advisors will be able to continue the 90s record of peace and prosperity, right?

Imgur

I do not need to go into the problems of the Bush Presidency, they are well documented, having occurred in the Internet age. 9/11. Iraq, where thousands of American troops were introduced to PTSD’s and crippling injuries, all while destroying a functioning society by the means of killing over 100,000 civilians, in revenge for an attack Iraq did not plan, in search of weapons of mass destruction which never existed, this madness supported by the conservative, Republican establishment. The Great Recession. The growing reliance on whipping up social and cultural issues to drive civic engagement, like the insane debate re: Terry Schiavo.

And all this I watched, with growing disillusionment and a dawning sense of horror - Is this who we are? It seemed as if the worst elements of the party, the ones I thought we “rationals” could control, were infecting otherwise solid men and women. The whining of Rush became the party platform as people who listened to him for a decade + started getting into office, echoing his grievance politics.

And the intellectual underpinnings I relied on began to buckle. Bush’s economy sputtered at best, then crashed, causing me to wonder about the efficacy of those conservative solutions put into place– perhaps getting rid of Glass-Steagall wasn’t the greatest idea in the world?

Perhaps deregulated financial markets are not necessarily self-correcting?

Perhaps capitalism, despite the arguments of Ayn Rand, Hayek, and others… perhaps it really isn’t a moral system which demands honesty in all transactions, but… maybe it’s just another con?

Maybe Selfishness isn’t a virtue?

Perhaps the United States… rapidly turning into a post-industrial Hyperstate… perhaps it really can’t be run like a New England town hall, no matter how romantic the notion sounds?

And, holy shit, if you look around the country, it really is falling apart, with a lot of people suffering and a bunch of infrastructure looking old and worn out – maybe we could address this obvious problem?

(And, ZS, to the question of opinions which were “entirely uncontroversial or even liberal 20 years ago”… the people responsible for promulgating those positions have been found not to even have believed in them, and the positions themselves fall apart under scrutiny. Perhaps if we could be told of one of these beliefs which has befallen your description, I may be able to address it directly.)

The Crash
“We’re going to do everything… and I mean everything… to kill it.”, Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner discussing President Obama’s first-term agenda, 2010.

The conservatism I grew up with died on November 4th, 2008.

I didn’t realize it then despite having cast my first vote ever for a Democratic candidate, and I don’t think most Americans understood it either. And, of course, ‘old time conservatism’ – that of small government, low regulation, fiscal and personal responsibility, and a dedication to fairness – it didn’t die immediately, no, it stumbled around for a few years akin to an Opera diva who caterwauls for 20 minutes after having been stabbed in the chest.

For a week or two, I was actually intrigued by the Tea Party. I had deluded myself that it was a reaction to Bush’s handling of the economy (it hurts to admit I was this stupid, but it may be good to get it off my chest), but it did not take long to realize that the party had nothing to do with economic justice, the organization existing solely so the Republican establishment could wipe their ass with TP’d Obama hate.

To me, the Great Recession is when conservative economics lost any pretense to validity. Not only had this problem been caused by policies reflecting the conservative viewpoint, the solutions… or lack of… proposed by the GOP did nothing but inflict pain on the very people they were to elected to help.

And it was obvious that, despite conservative opposition, the Obama programs did work, at least, as much as they were allowed to work. GM didn’t go under. We didn’t enter a vast, long Depression ala 1929-1935 or 1873-1878 though there was every expectation we were about to do so. (I lost a job because of that PowerPoint presentation!) Obamacare did not have any of the problems forecast by conservatives – job losses, productivity losses, losses in US competitiveness, inflation – and, while problematic, did achieve goals it set out to achieve, and all for the general betterment of America, not the specific betterment of some Americans.

Imgur

The conservatives? They did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Spent the entire period from 2009-onward without forwarding a single policy idea other than hating Obama, tax cuts, and voter suppression. Regardless of the issue, regardless of the need, regardless of the pain, their answer was always “no”.

And then the inevitable happened: Fueled by a growing disassociation from the main society via the creation of internet bubbles, in a country where structural racism is in our very framework, every person to whom racial animus is their #1 issue… every one of them started going to the Republicans.

Slowly, at first, brought in by the Tea Party, whose supporters understood the underlying racial message better than I did, these new conservatives were not interested in traditional economic conservatism but in the anger fueled by their TP congressman, with Limbaugh, always Limbaugh, but now buttressed by Boortz, Savage, Hannity, Carlson, more, all talking in the background fueling the white cultural grievance machine, aided and abetted by the internet and social media.

And this was when the GOP officially left me. While I voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, there were tons of R votes on my down-ballot. But the people I voted for didn’t care about any of that old time conservatism and, by now, I didn’t either. It was bullshit. We weren’t going to get rid of any departments. We weren’t going to get any term limits. We even went to war with the wrong people after 9/11! Hell, you could build arguments showing the Repubs sucked at economic policy compared to the Democrats and have done so since 1869.

In the end, it was a philosophy which overlooked cruelty for profits – you can ask my Dad: just read his quote above.

This is where things stood in 2014: The conservatives/Republicans had largely shed any pretense of Reagan-era conservatism, except to mouth them at rallies and speeches, and were quickly pivoting to a political party focused on cultural grievance and white identity politics.

The Wreckage
“I don’t take responsibility at all.”, Donald Trump, March 13th, 2020.

I do not think I need to waste a lot of words about the last five years, its impact on the Republican party, and the complete and utter rejection of Reagan-era principles for white-grievance nationalism, a rejection so acute the United States is in the greatest danger of breaking up since 1860, another banner year in American white-grievance nationalism.

A photo montage will do the trick nicely…

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

* *NTSB Summary**

“We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us”, Pogo, Walt Kelley

In my life I have seen the Republican party, the party which defines conservatism in this country, go from exhibiting some of the best qualities of the American identity to embracing the worst qualities of Americanism. The purposeful, malicious cruelty. Their nihilistic, helpless approach to life. The open racism. The subjugation of the country to the financialization of everything, from mortgages to minerals to even housing stock. Societal control via the imposition of debt. And all of this overlaid with a philosophy which claims that failing in an obviously rigged game is a moral fault of the person, not of the society, all this driven by people still making arguments recognizable, and morally acceptable, to the slavers of 1860.

To me, it wasn’t that conservatism changed. I mean, it did, but what happened is conservatives have shed all pretense about what they want and what their philosophy truly stands for: domination of people via economic subjugation and cultural disillusionment.

And my grandparents? What about their teachings? Well, yes, saving money helped. Do you know what helped more? Having a mentor who was the third richest man in town. Do you know what helped even more?

Imgur
Conversely, you don’t want to be the person who started saving in 1965 and died in 2010. Ouch!

A political party with no moral principle other than power is not a political party: It is a mob. And I regret every argument I made, every person I may have converted, for the purposes of promoting conservative ideals, and I will continue to regret it to my dying day.

And, so, I’m not a Democrat, ZS. I’m a conservative who remembered the world exists, morals matter, and we may have to answer for our lives. Too bad the rest of the party, hell, the entire ideology, forgot this.

The Journey was not just me moving to the left, but the Right moving to authoritarianism. Were it not for the latter, the former likely would not have occurred.

JT

Fantastic writeup. I just read through the whole thing, and it was eerily familiar. Thank you for sharing your experience.

My journey from Young Republican was different but similar. I was more of a hawk, never really socially conservative but very much fiscally conservative. I started shifting parties earlier, though in 2000 I voted Green and not Gore. I had serious issues with Gore & Cheney. I would have voted for McCain or Bradley in a heartbeat and campaigned for either one in 2000.

I joined the Navy out of the sense of the US wearing the White Hat in the Cold War. I was very anti-communist. But even at that age I was basically Green and anti-Church. So the seeds of my leaving the party that Reagan brought the Dixiecrats into were already in place.

Really, really excellent essay JohnT; mad props, eh.

There’s a lot here, and a lot that can’t be said regarding the original discussion since we are not in ATMB. I do appreciate the effort you went to type all of this out and I’ll try to return and engage with more of it later. Since you brought up, my point is that I am not a conservative by any useful definition of the word.

*The only Republican I voted for in the last 20 years was Marco Rubio in the 2016 primary. I live in a state where you do not have to register by party and you may choose whichever party’s primary ballot you wish each cycle. I perceived that Trump was an existential threat to the United States, knew I would vote for either Clinton or Sanders over him in the general so didn’t have a particular investment in that race, and thought that any sane person should try to take the additional chance to stop Trump by voting the Republican primary ballot and picking the most viable-seeming alternative instead of worrying about the slapfight on the other side. I think I may have voted for the Republican candidate in a Senate race in 2000, which I sorely regretted upon seeing his job performance. I estimate that I have voted for about 80 Democrats and 5 Libertarians in my life so the ratio is about 16:1 in favor of non-“conservative” candidates.

*I support open borders, police oversight, criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, the teaching of established science such as evolution and climate change in schools, the right to birth control and abortion, and protection of voting rights. I think people who fly the Confederate flag are racists and we need to take the statues down. I think that most of the Trump administration and the leaders of the 1/6 riots need to be in prison for a good long while, and Congress should have expelled the members who refused to certify the election results when it had the chance. Joe Biden and Andrew Yang are probably the national-level politicians with whom I agree on the most things, let’s say 70% or so.

I also happen to think that the 20th-century model of the American family and the values it aspired to are good things. I think that kids have better outcomes with two attentive parents than with single moms or people who are still trying to sexually “find themselves” in adulthood. I think that equality of opportunity for races means just that, equality of opportunity, not engineering equality of outcomes. I think that the notion of “biological” race or “genetic” differences in intelligence are pseudoscience, but that culture matters and that some cultures produce better outcomes than others.

The point regarding the current political environment is - because I differ from CRT orthodoxy on these latter points, I am automatically labeled a “conservative” and every possible “conservative” belief is then attributed to me. This definition of “conservative” that includes the vast majority of the Democratic Party and self-identified liberals is obviously incompatible with the notion that “conservative” stances are so absurd as to be ipso facto trolling or worthy of a double standard in treatment.

I shouldn’t have to give my whole personal philosophical history to “prove” that I am not e.g. a homophobe or an anti-abortion crusader when I have never posted on those topics. I should be able to argue from foundational liberal premises (that race is not a biological reality and people should be treated equally) to make points about current issues without constantly being accused of being a secret Nazi. But neither I nor anyone else actually can do those things, because a vocal minority of far-left absolutists sees 99% of the world as being part of a “conservative” conspiracy against them and wants to simultaneously believe they have the one final and correct answer to all issues, yet at the same time participate in a “debates” forum.

It’s not tenable.

Appreciate the well thought out response.

To me, part of the journey was in learning that the intellectual reasons for doing things are almost always subservient to the emotional and social reasons we do them, and that without a standard base of morality and societal expectations of betterment, the world just sinks into nihilism and despair.

Modern day conservatism is just nihilistic as fuck: There is nothing that can, or should, be done to improve lives, excepting transactional relationships. The government is evil. The others are out to get you. Our country is being invaded. Your lives are being threatened. We only have violence, punishment, and retribution as solutions to most of our ills. Pofit uber alles.

Fuck the above. I cannot live with a philosophy, even one ingrained into me since birth, if those are the above conclusions. I can’t stand before Grammy’s Jesus and say “Sorry about all those dead COVID victims, but my right not to wear a mask was threatened. At least I got my tax breaks!”

No. Just… no.

Oh, btw, I wrote most of the above as my latest Substack article. When I realized it was also an answer to you, I decided to add the OP, some parenthetical statements, and re-pub it here.

Cool thread. Thanks.