“I know conservatives, and you, sir, are not a conservative.”
— (free after Lloyd Bentsen, 1988)
Some of my best friends are conservatives. Some of my former students are conservatives and I respect them tremendously. My mother was a political conservative (socially she was a radical liberal). These people who I see on the national Republican stage are not conservatives.
What is happening now , and not just with Donald Trump, is not about fear, as many seem to say. That is letting them off the hook. The fascist-sounding rhetoric is about class war and racial hatred. It’s about money, it’s the haves manipulating the chance-less. It’s about whipping up the mob with hatred so its members won’t pay attention to the fact that you are bleeding them until all they can do is shout with hatred at folks who have been left just about as empty-handed as they are.
The Republican Party is now a party of cowards in thrall to big money that is doing little to distance itself from demagoguery and rabble rousing. Some are leaving the party to join the Democratic Party. But that is not the answer. They need to take the party back. With the possible exception of the Wall Street Journal, there are no conservative institutions and publications that are less than rabidly right-wing anarchist, like the NRA, or groups focused on sexual mores to the exclusion off all moderation like the deranged and deceptive descendants of Operation Rescue. There is a great middle group of conservatives who I cant see any longer, who are letting the radical wing take the ball and run with it and destroy any possibilities for fruitful public debate and governance in this country.
Don’t talk to me about “leftist-extremists,” conflating Democratic candidates with the far right that would have all of us in thrall to a bunch of bible-thumping old men who wish to return to an imagined age when all women and non-whites were enslaved to them. Even at the left “fringe,” Bernie Sanders is not all that extreme —
he wishes for us to move to something like Eisenhower-republicanism; he wishes us to govern ourselves rationally rather than in high dudgeon over being attacked; he wishes to go to a place where Americans debate and believe in the Common Good (read the Declaration of Independence), rather than my good as the moral high ground and you better get out of town if you wish to have another way of thinking; he wishes to get to a respect for education and to educate us all so we can think well enough to turn our back on the NRAs and the Trumps and not give them the time of day for they know no decency among civilized people. ..
“Extreme Left ” is some serious communist-anarchism that you haven’t seen the likes of since the 1970’s. In this country we don’t even know what it looks like. What we have, though is an extreme right wing, an unholy alliance of fundamentalist Christian holier than thou-ists with lynch mob rabble that is now given free rein to say what it wishes on national TV. And they are getting people attacked who are just going about their own business not harming them any. That started with abortion clinic violence, graduated to the burning of churches, and has now escalated into a war of terror against any kind of reason– as opposed to an actual war on terrorism.
Who do I blame? I blame moderate conservatives and I plead to them: please, please, please, create an alternative so we can leave these folks out in the field shouting and move on to creating a public life that deserves the name, rather than the epithet, American.