Saturday, September 25, 2010

Who's Left? Who's Right?

Lately I've endured a couple of rough weeks here on the Rollins Plantation, meaning I've had to attend endless committee meetings and face stacks of papers that require grading. If I could somehow eliminate grading and committee meetings altogether, I might keep this job forever, even without pay. (If an administrator happens to read this posting - JK.)

Anyway, I have a brief chance to write a few words this weekend, and I will use it to respond to a friendly note I received from my old pal Bob from Colorado who just discovered my blog. Bob said he would leave a comment sometime if I would "promise not to get mad at him or have Guido break his knee caps or something like that if he leaves a comment from a conservative perspective."

Of course I can make no such promise, Comrade Roberto. But please note that we liberals would obviously never use use Guido-type thugs in such a way. My own liberal sleeper cell, for example, uses elegantly dressed thugs with names like Arianna, Stephane and Daphne to kidnap our conservative archenemies and hold them in tastefully decorated, fern-garnished lofts where we break their resistance by forcing them to watch Jane Fonda work-out tapes round the clock. Most effective.

Alas, I won't have time to write a full-length item today since I'll soon be off on a road trip to visit Dear Old Dad. However, instead of posting something new, I'll put up a piece I wrote for the Fort Lauderdale newspaper (aka The South Florida Sun-Sentinel) eight years ago.

I came across this old forgotten column by accident. Last June an angry left-wing commentator (whose name I forget) responded to an article I had written about Afghanistan by accusing me of being a colonial anthropologist. I wanted to see if his attack was still up on the web, so I googled "Robert L. Moore" "Afghanistan" and lo and behold, one of my old moth-eaten pieces from the Sun-Sentinel came up. I think it's appropriate here, because it says something about what, even today, I see as significant differences between liberals and conservatives. So here it is:

Who's Left, Who's Right?
Robert L. Moore
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 10, 2002

Rush Limbaugh has moved to the left. At least that's what billboards all over Central Florida have been proclaiming ever since Limbaugh began appearing on a new radio station a few notches down on the FM dial. The joke hinges on our knowing right from left, politically speaking, and recognizing that Limbaugh always leans hard to the right.

Sometimes it's hard to tell left from right. In a recent article, Hong Kong writer Willy Wo-Lap Lam declared that "leftists" or "ultra-conservatives" in the Chinese Communist Party were blocking the admission of wealthy capitalists into the party ranks.

But Lam is confounding leftists and ultra-conservatives here. If these protectionist party leaders are "ultra-conservative," they lean to the right and cannot, by definition, be "leftists."

It's true that the Chinese Communist leaders used to be extreme leftists back when they fought to bring down the rich and lift up the poor. They no longer do this, but instead spend most of their energy defending their power base. This means they are no longer leftists. They are conservatives.

The backbone of conservatism is group loyalty, and most conservatives belong to some group -- racial, religious, moneyed or empowered -- that enjoys privileged status. There is no group in China more privileged than the members of the Communist Party, and by narrowing their mandate to the defense of their own privilege, they have redefined themselves as conservatives.

Left and right are often confused here in America, too. In her February speech to the Conservative Action Political Conference, Ann Coulter goofed when she said, to an appreciative audience, "We need to execute people like [American Taliban] John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals "

But Coulter would have a hard time making the case that the Taliban are liberals. The Taliban have an unshakable faith in the superiority of their own religion, and this kind of self-assurance in religious matters is a hallmark of conservatism.

Liberals tend to be more open-minded about these things. In fact, Robert Frost said that a liberal is a man who is too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.

Of course, being ostentatiously broad-minded has its drawbacks, too. The liberal's selfless appeals to justice and compassion strike some observers as hypocritical posturing, and it could be argued that this is just as nerve-grating as the stubborn selfishness of the conservative.

Recently I've noticed some cars sporting "Jesus was a Liberal" bumper stickers, a claim that can't be more than half-true. Certainly Jesus' single-mindedness on religion is conservative, while his compassion and sense of justice make him liberal on social issues. As a social liberal, it's unlikely he would look favorably on Enron-style capitalism, a point he vividly demonstrated with his Ralph Nader-style action against the moneychangers in the temple.

The liberal-conservative switch made by Republicans and Democrats since the Civil War has caused some confusion over the meanings of liberalism and conservatism here in America.

Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans were liberal in the 1860s, while Jeff Davis and his pro-slavery supporters were conservative Democrats. Abraham Lincoln, the liberal, expanded the power of the federal government in order to rescue the victims of slavery. Jeff Davis and Robert E. Lee, as conservatives, took up arms against the United States to fight on behalf of an entrenched and privileged group (which, by the way, is exactly what John Walker Lindh is accused of doing).

Jefferson Davis - Democrat and Die-Hard Conservative

For a hundred years the Democratic Party was closely identified with the slave-owning aristocracy of the Old South. It wasn't until the civil rights era that white Southerners began to vote GOP in large numbers. Richard Nixon promoted this trend with his Southern strategy in 1968, a strategy that saved the Republican Party from being marginalized.

In short, if Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis were alive today, each would have to switch parties in order to feel at home with his principles.

All this raises an important question. Should the Republican Party continue identifying itself with a raging liberal like Abraham Lincoln? Given its new conservative coloring and Nixon's success in winning over the old Confederacy, the time is ripe for the GOP to stop calling itself the Party of Lincoln, and begin referring to itself by a new and more accurate label: the Party of Nixon.


Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy made the GOP a kind of reborn Confederacy

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