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Sep 22 2012

Layer After Layer of Myth

This article has been around for a little bit, so you may have already seen it. I don’t usually read The American Conservative, so I hadn’t. I must admit, I’m a little surprised to see them run something with the title “Confessions of a Former Republican“.

This isn’t one of those conversions that starts with someone being only nominally of the faith they abandon, either.

We believed in competition and the free market, in bootstraps and personal responsibility, in equality of opportunity, not outcomes. We were financial conservatives who wanted less government. We believed in noblesse oblige, for we saw ourselves as part of a natural aristocracy, even if we hadn’t been born into it. We sided with management over labor and saw unions as a scourge. We hated racism and loved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., particularly his dream that his children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” We worried about the rise of the Religious Right and its social-conservative litmus tests. We were tough on crime, tough on national enemies. We believed in business, full stop.

I intended to run for office on just such a platform someday. In the meantime, I founded the Republican club at my high school, knocked on doors and collected signatures with my father, volunteered on campaigns, socialized at fundraisers, and interned for Senator John McCain and Congressman Denny Hastert when he was House Majority Whip Tom DeLay’s chief deputy.

That’s entrenchment. So what causes someone like this to leave their politics behind? If you’re thinking it’s because the party moved and abandoned him, think again. There was some displeasure over hypocrisies, but that was just the wedge it took for…well, for reality to come barging in.

One of my roommates wasn’t surprised. He worked at a local bank branch that required two forms of ID to open an account. Lots of people came in who had only one or none at all.

I was flooded with questions: There are adults who have no ID? And no bank accounts? Who are these people? How do they vote? How do they live? Is there an entire off-the-grid alternate universe out there?

From then on, I started to notice a lot more reality. I noticed that the criminal justice system treats minorities differently in subtle as well as not-so-subtle ways, and that many of the people who were getting swept up by the system came from this underclass that I knew so little about. Lingering for months in lock-up for misdemeanors, getting pressed against the hood and frisked during routine traffic stops, being pulled over in white neighborhoods for “driving while black”: these are things that never happen to people in my world. Not having experienced it, I had always assumed that government force was only used against guilty people. (Maybe that’s why we middle-class white people collectively freak out at TSA airport pat-downs.)

This is a fascinating read. It’s also frustrating as hell. All of the information that finally got through to the author is well-known. It’s been available for ages. It’s been featured in national news. It’s raised when these arguments start.

Yet, still, people manage to consistently avoid that information. It is to headdesk.

(Thanks to Mike the Mad Biologist for the pointer to this article. You could do worse than to just follow his daily links and read.)

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Lou Doench

    As Driftglass is fond of pointing out, all of that information has been readily available for decades. The problem is that the people who have that information are LIBERALS… and we all know whats wrong with them…

  2. 2
    had3

    Much of the disconnect is the recognition that the police et al treat members of the underclass poorly, but it’s rationalized by the belief that this only occurs in other neighborhoods, towns, cities, and states. This is why we should require all police interaction with non-police should be recorded. It’s also why many police organizations oppose recording those interactions.

  3. 3
    hotshoe, now with more boltcutters

    Thank you for the hattip to Mike the Mad Biologist.

    If I didn’t love the personalities of so many FtB commenters and bloggers, I would read Mike’s site, click through his links, and feel that nothing else on the internet would be needed.

    It’s interesting that one of Goulka’s little awakenings was the example of those who are cut off from having a bank account when the bank requires two forms of ID.

    Being a poor person is a constant sink. It’s not just the crappy food, crappy housing, criminal neighborhoods … it’s also all the little barriers which add up to an unclimbable wall.

    You can’t even get an ID without an ID – that is, you have to have a copy of your birth certificate to get a gov’t ID like a driver’s license (or that non-drivers photo ID the DMV issues). And if you’ve lose the birth certificate you got from the hospital when you were born, the replacement costs money. It probably costs you money just to find out how to get a replacement, because of course the office doesn’t answer the phone, so you’ll take a bus to City Hall to ask in person only to be told that County Records handles that, two blocks down the street, but the Records office is closed between noon and 1PM every day, and furloughed on alternate Fridays …

  4. 4
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Lou Doench #1:

    As Driftglass is fond of pointing out, all of that information has been readily available for decades. The problem is that the people who have that information are LIBERALS… and we all know whats wrong with them…

    Indeed. And FSM forbid that you allude to conservatives’ consistent pro-privilege and anti-SJ history and rhetoric, much less suggest that conservatism is wrong, unless you want to hear a lot of screaming and crying about how conservatism really isn’t about all the anti-SJ stuff that conservatives propagate.

  5. 5
    M can help you with that.

    Of course, conservatives never actually believed in most of that. They supported management over unions, sure — and they wanted more government interference to help them bust unions. They hated MLK — at least when he talked about equality, justice, etc. in ways that weren’t focused purely on race (i.e. all the time)*. Hell, even racism wasn’t a problem — whiteness was just, like being born into the right (upper-middle-class Protestant) type of family, part of that “natural aristocracy”.

    And “bootstraps and personal responsibility”? Those have never meant anything coming from a conservative other than “my wealth is proof of my moral superiority and inherent right to rule over you lesser people.”

    *I mean, seriously — how much cognitive dissonance does it take to praise MLK and condemn unions (and labor generally) in the same paragraph?

  6. 6
    stevendorst

    I’m mad at myself because I can’t find the source, but in the last 24 hours I read a thoughtful piece on why people are far more open to change their minds because of traitors and turncoats.

    The essential points are that:
    A) People tend to trust people who confirm their own biases
    B) People tend to tune out the “opposition” and ignore their arguments. But…
    C) When someone you trust BECOMES the opposition, there is a chance that you might break free of your own biases because you still might trust the turncoat!

    With that in mind, I’m grateful for posts such as these. FORMER conservatives have more credibility TO the conservative than we do!

  7. 7
    Jeremy Shaffer

    stevendorst at 6- There was an article in the New York Times about that. I found the article from a, now broken, link in this blog post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2012/09/its-all-about-the-source/

  8. 8
    stevendorst

    Jeremy Shaffer at 7 – Thanks! That’s the one I saw.

  9. 9
    Amphigorey

    Because all conservatives know or want to acknowledge about MLK is the “content of their character” line. That’s it. They don’t even listen to the rest of that one speech, let alone pay attention to what else he had to say.

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