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Right or Wrong?

Two days ago, conservative blogger Charles Johnson posted “Why I Parted Ways With The Right” — a concise explanation of why he “won’t be going over the cliff” with the American right-wing-nuts. He names names, including a list of fascists, racists, bigots, white supremacists, homophobes, misogynists, anti-science luddites, anti-govermnent lunatics, conspiracy theorists, and promoters of violence and genocide who have escaped from the radical fringe loony bin and have largely become the mainstream right, including many of its leaders and major pundits. What passes for dialog in the right wing has become “universally dominated by raging hate speech”. Not surprisingly, the right-wing blogosphere responded to his post with more raging hate speech.

Then today, an even better-known conservative blogger, Andrew Sullivan, agreed in his post “Leaving the Right” that criticizes the “rhetorical septic system” of the “conservative degeneracy in front of us”. Sullivan gives even more specific reasons why he left the right, saying he cannot support a movement that:

  • disregards the rule of law
  • uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power
  • is deeply homophobic, regarding gay people as a threat to their own families
  • believes any tactic can and should be used to fight political warfare, including lies and deliberate misinformation
  • sees permanent war as compatible with the goal of limited government
  • criminalizes private behavior in the war on drugs
  • does not accept evolution as fact
  • sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as a core plank of an energy policy
  • embraces demagogues like Rush Limbaugh or nutjobs like Glenn Beck
  • sees violence as a primary tool for international relations and holds torture as a core value

These two stories struck a chord with me, and not because they were bashing the right. This blog has sometimes been accused of being left-wing, but I don’t feel like someone on the far left. I agree strongly with many things that (at least in the past) were associated with the right: limited government, fiscal conservatism, gun rights, free markets, and capitalism. On the other hand, I am a social liberal, like the libertarians (who are also considered to be right-wing).

Above all I am a pragmatist, which makes me a moderate. I supported (and still support) Obama because he is a moderate and a pragmatist. I support single-payer health insurance because it just works so much better than what we have (or what Congress is now proposing). I am pro-choice not because I think abortion is ok (it isn’t), but because it is none of the government’s damn business. The same thing goes for recreational drugs. Interestingly, even though these might be considered left-wing positions, the majority (or at least a plurality) of Americans agree with me on these issues.

What struck a chord was that the big problems with the conservative movement are hatred and stupidity. While I agree with many conservative principles, I abhor the intentional lies, hostility, and slavish devotion to power that now characterize the right. So while I may attack the hypocrisy of the right in this blog, I do so not to destroy the right. In fact, I fervently hope that the right can be saved.

But I don’t think this can happen while people such as Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Karl Rove, Michele Bachmann, Ann Coulter, and Fox News represent modern conservative thought. In fact, not only are they destroying the right, they just might destroy the rest of the country in the process.



  1. Sammy wrote:

    Maybe this is a sign that there is hope after all. That the “right” isn’t one, single entity full of stupidity and idiocy.

    Of course, this comes on the heels of a right wing forwarded email I received today that gives the “reasons” why one cannot be a Muslim and also a good, loyal American.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    The e-mail you received is correct. One word left out: “fundamentalist” You can not be a fundamentalist Muslim and also a good, loyal Amercan. You can not be a fundamentalist Christian and also a good, loyal Amercan. You can not be a fundamentalist Jew and also a good, loyal Amercan. You can not be a fundamentalist Mormon and also a good, loyal Amercan. You can not be a fundamentalist atheist and also a good, loyal Amercan. The fundamentalist Christians are trying to take over this country. That is unAmerican. Oh, and Sarah who knows all about everything is saying that Obama should send in more troops. I guess that is to wipe out the Muslims.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 7:34 am | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    I think you were very generous in stating that Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Karl Rove, Michele Bachmann, Ann Coulter, and Fox News have any coherent thoughts. Every time I see them (which is admittedly not often), all I hear is Charlie Brown’s teacher.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink
  4. Wow. I have never agreed more with anything ever published online than I agree with this post. “Right or Wrong?” is by far the best summation of exactly how I feel about everything political in 2009. I don’t even think I was absolutely sure about what the specifics of what I believe in until reading this. Thanks for running this site.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  5. How deeply insightful.

    It can be a slow, agonizing process for many of us former conservative Republicans to leave the Right because (as I know is partly the case with Andrew Sullivan) it’s like leaving the religion you grew up with.

    When I became a liberal-progressive, the first thing I noticed is that the lack of that fundamentalist element–of that self-reinforcing, insular world of Fox News propaganda has no counterpart among Democrats. They’re far more heterogenous. Like doubting God for the first time, it can leave you insecure and alone because now you’re in a world where it takes far more thought and more words to adequately explain what you stand for.

    A bit ironic that it took 8 years of modern conservative/Republican politics to turn so many people away. Makes me think that maybe it was good for the country for George W. Bush to have won in 2004. That way, we get more time to see how things play out as a result of his policies. For the reverse reason, I think this is one reason it was a tragic mistake that Jimmy Carter lost in 1980. He tells us the cold, hard truth about ourselves, and we vote him out just as his policies are taking effect and his Republican successor swoops in and blurs the line between taking credit for what’s deserved and what’s coincidental.

    You run an awesome blog. Thanks for running this site.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    Daniel – I’m not sure that there is not a fundamentalist element to the liberal progressives. Earlier this summer, when we were in the middle of the first real mayoral primary election in decades (here in Boston), I invited (separately) all of the candidates to my house for the neighbors to meet and ask questions. The rules were no fundraising pitches, only policy talk and questions and answers. Many of my progressive activist friends were very upset that I invited one candidate who they felt was really a conservative saying a few progressive things. There were plenty of good reasons not to vote for that individual, but it was an eye opening lesson in fundamentalism among the so called progressive crowd.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    There is fundamentalism everywhere. Nobody is immune.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  8. Daniel Habtemariam wrote:

    @Starluna – You make a valid point, but let’s not pretend that 1 equals 100 because 1 doesn’t equal 0 and 100 doesn’t equal 0.

    There is indeed fundamentalism everywhere, but we can all probably agree that fundamentalists form a stronger, more vocal voting bloc among conservatives than among progressives. I only meant to highlight this difference as a reason why it’s difficult for many fundies to leave the Right, and even more difficult to assimilate into the Left.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink