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Jewish World Review June 23, 2000/ 20 Sivan, 5760

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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The liberal conversion -- JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH once said that a conservative is a liberal who was mugged the night before. By the looks of things, the criminal element is part of the vast right wing conspiracy for liberals' conversions over the past few years have been numerous and enormously public in their epiphanies. These high-level defections are distressing the nanny state proponents.

Liberals can tolerate retiring Senator Moynihan's detached rhetoric and admonitions for their sole independent thinker always votes their way after appeasing his conscience with a smattering of wit. But, conversions to conservatism, even the compassionate type, are more than Moynihan's rambles and the hand-wringing among the blue bloods over these insurrections in the ranks has been exceeded only by that over the NRA threatening Times Square occupation with a theme restaurant. The super models from the Fashion Cafe, when informed of their new neighbor, stood slouched and pouty-lipped in their doorway, hand on hip uttering, "Gross!" Wayne LaPierre, NRA spokesman, has caused more ruckus than Moses (Charlton Heston).

Ironically, even conservatives try to explain these liberal defections with analyses and histories of liberalism. The conversions are neither that deep nor complex. The defectors have grown weary from the mental gymnastics required to retain and sustain the tenets of modern liberalism. Liberalism's hypocrisy is laughable and its results indefensible. How does one claim Rosie O'Donnell as a comrade when she condemns guns while shilling for K-Mart, gun vendor extraordinarius, and while fully arming her own body guards? How can you demand Section 8 housing in the name of the poor living in squalor when your own VP, Al Gore, is a slumlord even by Appalachian standards? How can you support the father of the Internet for president when he can't locate his own e-mails?

These former liberals/neo-conservatives have either had their liberalism hit home, hearth and/or pocketbook or have come to grips with the inherent inconsistencies of liberalism. Annette Bening, married to Reds himself, Warren Beatty, is disgusted with the Clintons' transparent lies. Christopher Hitchens, one-time friend of Sidney Blumenthal, wrote a damning book on Mr. Clinton, No One Left To Lie To.

Among those whose conversion rests on personal hit is author John Irving (The World According to Garp) of Vermont abode and self-described liberal persuasion. Vermont, like most states, was having a bit of difficulty with its school funding -- the classic have- and have-nots warfare, with some locales, filled with yuppies like Irving, spending as much as $11,000 per pupil while other towns raised taxes to exorbitant rates for half that. Vermont's supreme court struck down this nonsense, noting that those who pay the highest property taxes had the best schools, and ordered centralized equality (Arizona suffered a similar judicial fate). All Vermont towns now send their money to a state pot for statewide distribution on a per pupil basis. Irving responded by calling them "Marxists," starting a private school and avoiding the press because "I don't want to make my child a target of trailer-park envy." He's still got the Carville sting of liberal disdain for mobile homes, but he's come around. A conservative is an egalitarian whose child's school was mugged.

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Then there is Harry Stein. For years, Mr. Stein wrote an ethics column for Esquire magazine. He also had a book, Ethics and Other Liabilities, which was a typical liberal's look at ethics, to wit, cheating on your wife is wrong, but who am I to judge? Harry has a new book: How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace). His wife started him down the path by bringing Norm Pohoretz's Commentary into the house which Stein hid from the children. Then he read it and is now among us. His nuanced view of the religious right is "a bunch of crazed zealots who pretty much kept to themselves until 'progressive' zealots starting imposing their values on them and theirs via popular culture and the schools."

Andrew Sullivan sat incognito at Pat Robertson's 70th birthday party, noting that there were more "African-Americans" there than at "the White House Correspondents' Dinner and a dinner for the human rights campaign." He described his table companions as "charming" and wrestled for days with the question, " . . . can one attribute good motives to people with whom one disagrees?" He noted Robertson's "Operation Blessing" and its contributions of food, medicine and health care in the poorest countries. Robertson may not support Sullivan's agenda on gay legislation, but Sullivan acknowledges being touched by Robertson's speech.

Regardless of the motivation, the converts have one thing in common. They had all fallen for the simplistic portrait of "mean conservatives" and liberalism's caring. When the truth made its way through the barriers of hype and platitudes, they understood from whence conservatives came. The sophistry of liberalism got to them. Some just got there without a mugging.

Ah, enlightened conservatism. Ah, blessed philosophical consistency. Welcome to freedom and the ease of intellectual honesty. Safe journeys along our paths of free thought. And one more thing liberals haven't permitted us to say since John Glenn orbited the earth, G-d speed.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
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10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
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10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
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08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
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07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
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07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings