It's worth checking out:
Broadly, a "liberal' subscribes to some or all of the following: progressive income taxation; universal health care of some kind; opposition to the war in Iraq, and a certain queasiness about the war on terror; an instinctive preference for international diplomacy; the right to gay marriage; a woman's right to an abortion; environmentalism in some Kyoto Protocol-friendly form; and a rejection of the McCain-Palin ticket.
I'm included on the list. For the record, I support a flat tax and, as my liberal readers know, find progressive taxation unjust and counter-productive; I'm skeptical of universal healthcare on European lines and have long defended a free market in healthcare and pharmaceuticals; I have no queasiness in fighting a war against Jihadist terror - in fact I have long been one of the most passionate supporters of it. I just oppose the illegal use of torture, the creation of a de facto protectorate in violation of the Constitution, and war-making without prudence, strategy, foresight or any conception of winning the long war of ideas. I have long supported marriage equality - because I think the conservative values of family and responsibility should not be withheld from a small section of society and because I know that gay people are as human and as worthy of respect as anyone else; I believe all abortion to be morally wrong, but would support legal abortion in the first trimester as a concession to genuine disagreement in a multicultural society and to the rights of women to control over their own bodies; I am skeptical of cap-and-trade and Kyoto-style approaches to climate change and favor a much higher tax on gas, balanced by a cut in payroll tax, to help innovate new energy sources. Not many liberals, I wager to say, endorsed Ron Paul for president for the GOP in the primaries. Not many liberals, I dare to say, have written books on conservatism which rest on a reading of key conservative thinkers such as Burke and Oakeshott and Montaigne and Hobbes. And the conservatism I adhere to, as any reader can tell, has remained very constant for twenty years. There is very little shift in tone or argument from my first book, "Intimations Pursued," to my last, "The Conservative Soul." It spans twenty years.
Sure, I opposed the McCain-Palin ticket, although I made McCain a close second as my favorite in the primaries. No sane person, in my judgment, could have supported the farcical inclusion of an absurdly under-qualified and delusional crackpot like Palin as a potential president of the United States. That decision had nothing to do with left or right. She has no business being governor of Alaska, let alone president of the United States, as the leadership of the Alaskan GOP will tell you and a subscription to the Anchorage Daily News will prove.
None of these positions is in any way a mystery - every single one is in the public record multiple times. So why am I a liberal to these people, to someone smart and decent like Tunku Varadarajan? Why do I earn the prize of "most annoying liberal" out of countless others whose liberalism is avowed and long and uncomplicated, and none of whom supported Reagan and Thatcher and Bush in '88 and Dole and Bush in 2000? I mean: I'm more liberal than Michael Moore?
The answer, I think, is two-fold. The first is that I am openly and proudly gay - another fact that spans the last twenty years. Forbes writes the following:
His advocacy for gay marriage rights and his tendency to view virtually everything through a "gay" prism puts him at odds with many on the right.
I can see that my advocacy for marriage equality puts me at odds with Republican religious doctrine, even though, for example, I edited an anthology on the subject that took great pains to include many right-wing voices against marriage equality from Bill Bennett to Stanley Kurtz. I can see that being gay allows me a perspective sometimes not available to others. But how is my view of the Iraq war or torture or the environment or Obama or the debt or drug legalization viewed through a gay prism? Any reader of this blog or my Sunday column will instantly realize that this is absurd - "virtually everything" I write is put through a gay prism?
The real truth is that many on the Republican right just read everything I write through an anti-gay prism, because their homophobia - benign or not-so-benign, conscious or unconscious - is so overwhelming it occludes any genuine assessment of a person's thoughts outside this fact. See how Forbes cannot even keep the word gay out of quote marks. Just imagine the same sentence with the word "Jewish" replacing the word gay. It tells you everything you need to know about the moral core of conservatism today. It's sad and will one day be seen as embarrassing.
The second reason I am now labeled a "liberal" is that conservatism has become a religious movement. Although I am a religious person, I do not believe that any specific form of religion has a veto in determining who is or is not a political conservative in a secular society. I think non-believers can be conservatives - and Hindus and Muslims and Jews and Christians. The conservative political temperament is not a theological position that belongs to any denomination or God. The fact that I have been relentless and impolite in pointing this out - as the GOP has collapsed for these very reasons - suggests to me that the GOP is still more interested in persecuting critics, especially the more effective ones, than reforming for the future.
For the record: self-confident political groupings seek converts - look at Obama. Failed and failing political groupings seek to punish and list heretics. I'm resigned to being a heretic given the state of the current conservative movement. And as an independent writer, it mercifully can't hurt me much. I just don't think conservatism will revive until it stops thinking that way.
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