Former Liberals

Jonathan writes:

I’m sure it’s happened to many people. They consider themselves mostly liberal in their leanings, but maybe have a contrarian streak. There are some ways of stating the liberal positions that are off-putting. Generally, these will be minor annoyances at first. These people consider themselves open minded, so they welcome the more intelligent commentary from the other side, and are willing to consider other points of view. We know the saying about a liberal not being able to take his own side in an argument.

At some point, the intelligent position on the other side starts to seem appealing, in some ways. The person starts a lot of sentences with, “I’m liberal, but…” For some people, there will a tipping point, where the old liberal positions don’t seem as appealing. They will be former liberals.

This is totally me. I was a very typical academic leftie simply because I never encountered any alternative. There was no opportunity for me to discover what “the other side” thought about anything. I simply accepted my side’s narrative about what the other side believed.

Then, my side went collectively nuts over Trump. I couldn’t watch any of my favorite TV shows or read any of my favorite periodicals or authors. I can’t quit all political reading and watching, though. It’s a great hobby of mine, and I feel deprived when I don’t get any.

So out of sheer desperation I decided to check out what “the other side” was saying. Mostly, I just wanted a confirmation that it was even crazier than “my side.”

And that’s when I discovered that the other side’s worldview was a lot more coherent and a lot deeper than my side’s. The biggest thing for me is that the other side’s explanation of the opponents wasn’t that they are all stupid, bigoted, racist haters. The idea that everybody who disagrees, even in some minuscule way, is beyond the pale and needs to be hounded out of existence wasn’t there. It’s a more nuanced worldview, and I’m all about that. Plus, there are no speech codes to observe, so the writing is a lot better.

Many people never get to hear the other side. They hear their own side’s fantasy of what the opponents believe. I guess, I feel like a person who grew up in an evangelical cult and was schooled to think that everybody outside the cult is a perverted evildoer. And then left the cult and found out that it was all a lie.

21 thoughts on “Former Liberals”

  1. cliff linked to a good post about the dangerous global dependency on China. I knew China produced lots of things, but was shocked to read

    “There were major problems with supplies of some medicines in Poland a few months ago because the existing pharmaceutical industry has largely been shut down and what’s left is dependent on Chinese ingredients.”
    https://cliffarroyo.wordpress.com/2020/02/15/bad-bets/

    Went to the Lion’s blog and saw a comment to an old post on the subject of “sides”:

    “liberal atheists do have a secular religion of sorts, and it’s the amalgam of feminism, environmentalism, ant-racism, etc. etc. This secular religion has all the features common to any other religion: things that are unprovable but are a matter of “faith” (all humans being equally capable learning), ostracism of non-believers, dietary restrictions (vegetarianism or veganism), end of the world scenarios (global warming or nuclear war), a holy text (Dreams From My Father), secular saints (single mothers), and so on. You get the idea.”

    https://lionoftheblogosphere.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/obama-the-muslim-todays-outrage-on-cnn/

    Then understood at last what “Obama is a Muslim” meant:

    “Wasn’t someone around here pointing out recently that according to the rules of Islam, you’re Muslim if your father was Muslim, plus once a Muslim you’re always considered a Muslim? So in the eyes of Islam, Obama is an apostate Muslim.”

    If I am a Jew because of my Jewish mother, why cannot the same logic be applied to Islam and fathers?
    Even if I started practicing Christianity, according to Judaism, I would’ve been an ex-Jew, not a non-Jew from birth.

    ( Of course, I do not think Obama is a Muslim. 🙂 )

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    1. Also, there’s a clear contrast between how John McCain immediately and stringently chastised a supporter who tried to name-call Obama during the 2008 election with how every Dem candidate eagerly and easily name-calls Trump.

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  2. To develop the idea of sides a bit further, I recently read on the importance of including unprovable statements or/and things demanding sacrifice in religions, so trans beliefs and the sacrifices demanded of women (f.e. in female sports) fit in.

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    1. I read today on a blog i followed and respected for years that “Trump is the worst person in the US.” This is clearly insane. There are mass murderers, child rapists, George W Bush in this country. I can’t be on the same side with these people because I don’t get them at all.

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    1. ” talked about having liked Thatcher and Reagan in their time?”

      I don’t know about Clarissa’s specific case, but I would guess that’s more about geopolitics in the 1980s… they (and the first Bush) were all extremely popular all across Eastern Europe into the early 1990s. They were perceived as enemies of the communist governments which made them very popular among those being oppressed by communism… which was almost everybody.

      In Poland even Nancy Reagan was popular and I remember how shocked people were when I said she wasn’t generally liked in the US. This wasn’t motivated by any special liberal/conservative or left/right thinking which didn’t exist in that time and place (since the local version of communism had largely destroyed political thinking which took years and years to start to develop again) it was mostly a version of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’.

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      1. Cliff explains it extremely well. Thatcher’s union-busting was incomprehensible to us because in our reality unions were horrible, evil things. We liked her because she was anti-Soviet.

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    2. In Thatcher’s and Reagan’s time I was a small kid. We all liked them in the USSR because they were against our regime. Everything else about them was incomprehensible to us.

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      1. Still, you’ve always seemed to lean right or have conservative instincts, despite liberal views on some issues. By conservative I don’t mean today’s ultra-right or nutty-right, “conservative” didn’t always mean that.

        (Today’s “conservatives” seem reckless to me in what they’re willing to destroy and how fast, and I often feel I am more conservative/traditional than they.)

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        1. It’s easy to find a position compared to which absolutely everybody on the planet would be very much to the right. Or very much to the left. I talked to somebody last week who won’t vote for Bernie because Bernie is too conservative.

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          1. Well there would be candidates several slots to the left him in Scandinavia, and they wouldn’t be fringe. But what I mean by leaning right is, if I remember correctly you were a genuine HRC supporter early on, and she’s an ex-Republican / very conservative Democrat, and you’ve been sympathetic or open to positions to the right of that on several issues. So, leaning right in that sense. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that I’m not surprised if you’re saying you’re not a liberal.

            I’m not, either. I feel as though the ideological world I inhabit is libertarian socialist although I’m not sure how this would be since I can’t fully imagine a non-capitalist world. And on the political compass test, the one with the four quadrants, I place with the anarcho-syndicalists, as libertarian and as left as you can get. It surprises me since I have difficulty imagining not having a state. Where do you fall in this test?

            Here’s the political compass readings of current US presidential candidates. https://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2020

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            1. I’m smack in the middle of the left- libertarian quadrant. Theoretically I should be more conservative.

              Only Hawkins, Sanders, and Gabbard are in the same quadrant. Interestingly enough Warren is the closest to the center out of all the candidates (a little past the center of the left-right axis, and a little past the middle of the libertarian-authoritarian axis). The rest of the candidates are further right, and except for Yang and Steyer, are more authoritarian.

              If you like authoritarianism, the Republicans have you covered!

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  3. I still find the trans debate and TERF wars so bizarre.
    Everyone seems to have collectively decided you can’t tell whether someone’s a man or a woman by looking at them and if you disagree you’re a bigot or obsessed with genitals. Apparantly secondary sex characteristics don’t exist anymore; it’s all gender performance.
    And someone in the Labour party has now said babies are born without a sex. Labour seems to be falling apart over the issue, guess Corbyn just wasn’t devisive enough.

    I swear I was a politically correct feminist a year ago. But the world has gone whirling on and now I’m a bigot. Thought I’d be an old lady before I reached the kids-these-days stage.

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    1. Totally! Me too! For me, as for you, and as for many people, the trans mania has become a hill where our progressivism died. For me, it’s not about trans people at all. It’s about the need to deny reality, deny science, deny physiology to be accepted as a non-bigot.

      I’m a feminist but if there are no women, there can’t be any feminism. This is very crazy and everybody is too scared to say it.

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      1. “the need to deny reality, deny science, deny physiology to be accepted as a non-bigot”

        Probably why the issue is being used as a litmus to weed out those with a trace of independent thought from those who will shamble off with the herd….

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        1. This is a very typical mechanism of totalitarianism. The goal is to weed out those who can’t sincerely bring themselves to believe what is obviously untrue and to create the super class of those who can. There always turns out to be a huge number of those who can.

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      2. It’s non-binary which I just can’t get my head round. Our bodies are either male or female. If what they mean not having a masculine or feminine personality then everyone’s non-binary because no-one is a walking stereotype.
        There’s just so many contradicting ideas. People say trans is about crippling dysphoria not gender stereotypes. But then people use this delightful phrase ‘truscum’ to describe those who say you need dysphoria to be trans.

        What’s that atheist quotation – “Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

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        1. The funny thing is that trans is all about reaffirming the binary. Gay does erode the binary but trans reaffirms it. Trans femininity is all about the hoariest stereotypes of what a woman is. I’m all about being kind and understanding to people with any sorts of issues but it all stops when I’m required to “believe” things I know are untrue. You can’t coerce belief. And all my good will stops when some dude with issues thinks it’s ok to teach me about womanhood.

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  4. OT: Aimee Terese has still got it:

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