“How can I like you, you’re a Conservative?”

I have heard the phrase repeated to me a few times by stunned liberals…”I don’t understand it, you’re a Conservative, but I still find I like you…”

Last week my best pal, who works within the public school system, encountered the same remark from a Social Studies teacher – “I shouldn’t like you; you’re a conservative. And yet, I do like you a lot.”

My pal was taken aback. “He ‘shouldn’t’ like me because I’m a conservative? What sort of bigotry is that? No one would ever dream of saying, ‘I shouldn’t like you; you’re black, or I shouldn’t like you, you’re French’- what a sad way to live. Whatever happened to judging people on the content of their character, not on the externals of gender, race, or IDEOLOGY? ‘I like you even though you’re a conservative!‘” she fumed, “that’s like saying, ‘if the fascists ever come for you, I’ll hide you in my attic because you’re one of the good ones – you know, just like Archie Bunker occassionally liked a ‘good’ black person!”

After the rant she calmed down a bit and got philosophical. “I was glad I made his list of admirable people, but I was also a little annoyed that the folks who never stop preaching about ‘tolerance’ are so embedded in their bigotry they cannot even see how they come off. But I guess it’s the same on both sides, when it comes to the extremists. I’m sure there are conservatives out there who would be stunned to find themselves actually ‘liking’ a liberal. But, you know, I blame the Clintons for this. Things were never this bad until they got into office.”

My pal is more of a centrist than I am, and she is usually quicker to give someone the benefit of a doubt, but I thought her rant was justified, and her conclusion right-on. I’d been a Democrat and a liberal all my life and never heard Republicans described, in my family or in my neighborhood, or by my fellow Dems as “evil” until the Clinton campaign of 1992, where all of a sudden right and left no longer denoted differences of opinion, but became absolute, moral judgments. Suddenly, if one did not believe what you believed one was not simply in disagreement, one was “evil.”

I remember the exact moment I knew I could not vote for Al Gore in the 2000 campaign. Beyond his annoying personal manner during all three debates (I still laugh to think of how he seemed to approach Bush threateningly at the “townhall” debate and Dubya just looked at him, said “how ya doin’?’ and walked on) I knew I could not pull the lever for him when he, working a crowd, sweating up a shirt and panting cried out, “this is not just an election, this is a battle between good and evil!”

As time has past, I have come to think perhaps Gore was on to something. But his idea of what defines evil is very different from mine. At the time I was simply appalled at his mad over-the-top rhetoric, and the Democrat party to which I devoted years of money and service has simply seemed, since that time, ever more mad.

I’m no fan of Ann Coulter, I find her just too abrasive – so much so that she undercuts her own points – but just because she’s not my cuppa doesn’t mean she should be subjected to a shutting down of her right to free speech and the hysteria and venom we see unleashed toward her in this video. Funny, I never see the Bushhitler-supporting “nazis” on the right do this to people, but on the left we’re constantly seeing people throw pies (or salad dressing) at a conservative who is trying to speak. A black conservative will have Oreos thrown at him for daring to be a Republican. In the 2004 election, Democrats slashed Republican tires to keep people from voting, or invaded local Republican election offices. It is in the “liberal” districts that we find 105% turnouts, or polls opened “late” or graveyards full of voters. Good heavens, in Washington State, the sitting Democrat Governor got there via a close election during which recount after recount of “found votes” after “found votes” were performed.

To be clear – there are extremists and bigots on both sides, and it is easy to fall into the trap of simply seeing people as “liberals” or “conservatives” and then judging them against the reigning template – but it is never pretty to see folks succumb to it (and I admit, I’ve fallen, too, from time to time). And when you’ve reached the point where you cannot conceive of possibly liking someone simply because of their ideology – then you have reached the danger point, the point where you have stopped seeing someone as a human being worthy of respect and regard and basic liberties. You have reached what another friend once called “The Clintonian Core of Certitude.” The one that says that politically, there is only one correct way to think, dissenting thought is “evil.”

My friend and I should not have to put up with being condescended to as “the rare, ‘good’ Conservatives” any more than any black person should have to tolerate being told he or she is a “good” black. Any more than any woman should have to hear she is smart, “for a woman.” Any more than any gay guy should have to hear he’s a good person, “for a queer.” Any more than any liberal should have to hear they are likable “for a liberal.”

And no one should have to put up with feeling unsafe because they are working on a political campaign. And no one invited to speak at a college – especially at college – those so-called bastions of “free thought” only to be shouted down.

And you should not become a pariah in your party simply because you agree with the president. That’s not how “free thinking” people are supposed to behave. At least not as I was taught it.

Really, it’s pretty basic. We’re supposed to treat others as we would like to be treated.

See also: Cooper’s kids are alright – are Roves?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://bookwormroom.blogspot.com Bookworm

    To blow my own horn a bit, what you’re writing about strikes me as part of the same problem that’s resulted in me keeping utterly silent about my conservatism, something I wrote about for The American Thinker. Being a conservative is considered so ugly, I’m simply able to risk the sense of betrayal people will feel if I “out” myself. “But you seemed so nice….” I have this strong feeling that people will believe I ingratiated myself in the community through trickery, hiding my true colors as a genuinely evil person.

  • http://kmaru.blogspot.com KMaru

    Brilliant. You’ve captured my life. Not being “out” in most of my day-to-day activities and relationships I often feel under siege in a zip code that went for Kerry by almost a 5:1 margin.

    Not that long ago I had a remarkably similar experience that left my friend’s head spinning… “does… not… compute… must keep smiling.

    I suspect it’s harder for those finding us… out of place in their view of what conservatives “are” than it is for us – who knew the friendly confrontation was coming eventually. Ironically, it was only after I became a conservative that I was able to empathize better with gay friends and their ‘outing’ struggles. Not an entirely fair comparison, but I knew a little more about how they felt.

  • http://maxedoutmama.blogspot.com MaxedOutMama

    Excellent points, dear Anchoress. I was fascinated by your point that the good vs. evil entered the political world during 1992, because I’ve been totally mystified by this syndrome. People treat politics as if it is a religion, and as if voting the right way is the ticket to heaven. It’s a strange social phenomenon to me. (And it must be to the large group of Americans who ticket-split.)

    Kobayashi Maru, your comment about understanding gays better since you became a conservative made me laugh, but I do understand it.

  • stephanie

    Ann Coulter certainly is abrasive. I’m not sure I support people thowing things at her, but when she’s telling them that they should be jailed and/or hanged for what they believe, that anyone who doesn’t agree with her is a traitor, etc…well I can see why she evokes the strong emotional response she does.

  • JMC

    I was raised as something that today’s political atmosphere simply would not be able to compute: A conservative Democrat. Our family were Democrats because we were working-class poor, and, at that time, the Democrats were very active in programs helping out those kinds of people, and they backed policies that gave the “little guy” a bit of an advantage. Then came the Clinton administration. The Democrats were supposed to be for the little guy, but I absolutely could not back the lifestyle they seemed to want to force on everyone. I could not vote for people who stood for things I believed were (here’s that no-no word) sinful. So I became a Republican. But I never believed that Democrats, as a class, were “evil.” That’s just plain ridiculous. I find it hard to believe that there are people out there who do feel that way. But then, I find a lot of things in this topsy-turvy world of ours hard to believe.

  • Sal

    I may have mentioned the other worker at my volunteer job at our emergency assistance agency who, when I mentioned that I was very conservative politically, asked me “Then why are you here?”

    I guess I was supposed to be out grinding the neck of the poor beneath my heel or raping the environment or something. Did not compute in her cosmos.

  • Joseph

    You’re a Conservative, Anchoress. How could I not like you.
    -However, the phenomenon is quite real, though there are perhaps more shades of opinion over here on the left than are apparent at first glance.
    -I, myself, would trace it to three causes. First, whatever private face Conservatism may have, it’s public face is not all that prepossessing, and it includes Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh, none of whom, at least, I find very likeable.
    -If, in the ordinary culture you encounter Conservatism as a philosophical stance, you are most likely to encounter it from these fine folks, than the excellent writers, of, say, The Weekly Standard.
    -Most of us on the other side have a second major encounter with Conservatism’s public face: the highly successful slash-and-bash paid political advertising of the Republican election winning machine.
    -This is also, frankly, not very prepossessing. I think, perhaps, that out where I live, in Ohio, we are more familiar with it than you may be.
    -The second reason for what is certainly a base predjudice, is that we really do live in different worlds and have radically different narratives about them.
    -It is not easy for anybody to understand that what they think of as the “real world” is, in fact, their own private narrative about it. But it actually requires that sort of self-skepticism to get beyond those narratives, which can be quite lurid.
    -Finally, there is something very subtle at work which I can’t pretend to fully understand, and it has to do with fact that the center of gravity of secularism rests largely on the Left side of the political fence.
    -I think if we looked a little more carefully at the various, and highly conflicted, public responses to Jimmy Carter we might begin to get a better grip on it.

  • http://none Darrell

    Would the Left controlling all media(entertainment, news, music) and the education system have anything to do with it? Get real! Do you know that those TV plots you are watching, where the ‘bad guy’ always turns out to be the ‘evil’ corporation or the government agency, are fictional? Don’t just smirk and write that you don’t watch these things. You know full well that hundreds of millions are watching these things around the globe! Can’t one movie villian be an Arab terrorist even in movies based on a book where the villain was exactly that? Satan may be “The Great Deceiver,” but the Left isn’t very far behind! Who are Conservatives? Your neighbor, your doctor, the guy on the street corner, the woman welcoming neighbors with a gift basket. If you think differently, you got your information from the Left. And ask yourself why you would listen to the Left to find out why people think the way they do?

  • Lyle

    Ok Darrell, “Who are Conservatives?” You state, “Your neighbor, your doctor, the guy on the street corner, the woman welcoming neighbors with a gift basket”. You mean, you didn’t know Darrell? That your description for what conservatives are, are the same for liberals. And here you have been thinking all along that liberals are evil. Well now you know, they are just like you and me.

  • http://none Darrell

    Lyle, Huh?

    As I said, why would I listen to the Left to find out why people think the things they do about Conservatives?

    I know the Left well. They are the people that use terms like “Liberal” to disguise who they really are, to confuse the issue.

  • Lyle

    Darrell, I find you very hard to follow sometimes. I don’t know what the “left” is supposed to mean. Does it mean bad or something? I am not one who thinks people are all the way liberal or all the way conservative. You seem see liberals as if they are the enemy of God and country. That is such a ridiculous thought to me. I have no problem with your conservatism as long as you don’t tell me conservatives are more Christian and more patriotic.

  • http://none Darrell

    I can keep on repeating it until the cows come home, but I can’t make you comprehend. Politically, you are a Leftist. There is only left, center, and right politically. By the accepted definition of Liberal(as used throughout the world), most Americans(including me) are liberals, meaning social liberals. The left–Socialists and Communists–highjacked the term “liberal” for their own use because they could not win elections in the US with “Socialist” or “Communist” after their name. And before you tell me that you believe in private property ownership, you have to get with your own program. So do the new Euro-Socialists. You guys are on the new “socialist-lite” agenda. I suggest you learn more about the people and the party you are supporting.

  • Lyle

    I suggest you learn that I don’t belong nor do I support any party. I would also suggest that you learn that labels don’t tell much.

  • http://none Darrell

    Oh, a true independent! Another whopper, Lyle!

  • TheAnchoress

    Can you two play a little nicer for Advent, please?

  • Lyle

    I would like to ne nice Anchoress, but he won’t let me. :-)

  • Lyle

    Actually Darrell, I am independent. I don’t believe in us vs, them. I don’t view those who disagree with my politics as evil. I don’t see those who ctiticise President Bush’s policies as un-American and un-Christian. I’m sorry, but that’s is how it is with me.

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  • OBloodyHell

    > when she’s telling them that they should be jailed and/or hanged for what they believe, that anyone who doesn’t agree with her is a traitor, etc…

    Uh, stephanie, I might have missed some statements but, for the most part, while I concur Coulter can be abrasive to the point of self-undermining (as can the excellent pit-bull of a libertarian Vin suprynowicz), I would say that you aren’t reading Coulter correctly — for the most part, she does not decry expressions or ideas as the issue, but the actions (or sometimes the context in which they are expressed) as the problem.

    Certainly the people who lie and misportray the events in Iraq, or equate American misactions like Abu-Ghirab as indistinguishably equivalent to 50 years of Soviet Gulags and Castro’s Prison system are, at the least, being overtly disingenuous to the point of slander, were a specific private individual the target. In wartime, this does skirt perilously close to treason — not because of the expression but because of the simple and obvious fact that it does “give aid and comfort to the enemy”… it certainly encourages those who believe, as Mao did, that America is a “paper tiger” — because nowadays too many of our populace won’t let us fight for anything… even if they don’t have to do the fighting… again, bordering on treason for the effect, not the belief. If the media of the 40s had given the same sort of voice to whatever stalwart pacifists remained after Pearl, then the situation would have been the same — as it was, they were (wisely) ignored and the problem was dealt with, such that their beliefs were not taken seriously by anyone and not thus treasonous.

    It’s the context. Since the modern anti-war Left is determined to promote their cause, and has far more voice than they did in the 40s, the acts they perform are orders of magnitude more damaging, to the point where the terrorists in Iraq cannot possibly fail to hope that we will do as the Full-Tilt Boogie Brigade wants us to, and abandon Iraq like we did Vietnam. That might, perhaps (highly arguable) have been appropriate with regards to Vietnam — it certainly is not so in Iraq. We have, so far, succeeded (or are succeeding) at everything we aimed to accomplish there, and leaving before it is done — at the cost of a small number of volunteer servicemen’s lives — is clearly worth the cost, most critically in the estimation of those who are there doing the job.

    If there is ANYONE on this planet with the “moral authority” to say “Stay the course” it is the men and women whose bodies are on the front line — and by re-enlisting in large numbers, as well as their own words, they have said this loud and clear.

    By endlessly whining about the war, these detractors make the jobs of those men and women tougher, not better. They cause the enemy to “stay the course” because they give them hope that they may yet thus snatch victory from the jaws of utter defeat (and two elections bordering on a third, as well as massive attrition on their leaders IS utter defeat). This behavior certainly borders on treason, if it is not overtly treason. So Coulter does not mince words. She does not need to, she is not a politician, but a pundit and a supporter.

  • Lyle

    OBloodyHell wrote, “If the media of the 40s had given the same sort of voice to whatever stalwart pacifists remained after Pearl, then the situation would have been the same — as it was, they were (wisely) ignored and the problem was dealt with, such that their beliefs were not taken seriously by anyone and not thus treasonous.”
    -
    I disagree. There is no comparison with world war 11 and the war in Iraq. You further state, “Since the modern anti-war Left is determined to promote their cause, and has far more voice than they did in the 40s, the acts they perform are orders of magnitude more damaging, to the point where the terrorists in Iraq cannot possibly fail to hope that we will do as the Full-Tilt Boogie Brigade wants us to, and abandon Iraq like we did Vietnam
    -
    This kind of thinking from supporter’s of the war is dumbfounding. If I remember right, Bush had all the support he wanted when we went to Afghanistan right after 9-11. I for one am not sorry to see the Taliban ousted there. The “modern anti-war left” is just more divisive rhetoric that distorts the truth. A perfect example is, I know many conservatives who think the Iraq war is the wrong way to fight against terrorism. To hear many here tell it, only conservatives (real Americans) were shook up on September 11th. That’s sad.

  • http://none Darrell

    Lyle,

    FYI: This is an hole in the ground…
    http://www.ctio.noao.edu/~marcel/personal/MEXICO/dscf3982_l.jpg

  • Lyle

    meaning?

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