Conservatives are the new radicals, liberals the new conservatives. Hell has frozen over.
This psychic polar shift began the day Barack Obama was elected president and, like melting of the ice caps, its momentum is gaining speed.
When that rookie senator from Arkansas got nearly every Republican colleague to sign a letter demanding Iran’s fundamentalist mullahs disregard the president of the United States in the midst of delicate nuclear negotiations, that’s radical.
When “conservatives” use the power of the state to impose their religion on everyone through so-called “religious freedom” laws, that’s radical.
When perpetually angry “conservatives” declare war on everything from our president and civic institutions down to locally elected officials, we hear the unmistakably seditious, staccato incitement to anarchy. That’s radical.
And that just scratches the surface of “conservative radicalism.” Beyond using government to promote religion-based bigotry, beyond usurping presidential authority to conduct a near-treasonous shadow foreign policy, the new radicals’ playbook includes:
Worshipping guns and promoting endless war.
Challenging the president’s citizenship, patriotism and faith at every turn.
Shutting down the government as a routine negotiating tactic. Casting mega-corporations as “people” holding religious beliefs.
Turning a blind eye to corporate manipulation of elections and foreigners “investing” in American political campaigns.
Making it harder for millions of Americans to vote. These radical “conservative” policies are new to American history. They’re not just unprecedented, they’re downright diabolical. And they’ve caused mainstream Americans — “liberals” and moderates alike — to recoil from their inherent evilness.
The word “conservative,” in the political context, historically has meant someone resistant to change — someone who holds “traditional” values of religion, family, country, patriotism and all that.
But in fact, so many of today’s “conservative” ideas are so nontraditional, so radical, they’re making liberals sound like Barry Goldwater, who famously warned against preachers taking over his beloved Republican Party.
This radical conservatism leaps so far from the organic political center — where most Americans reside — that now everyone but the extremists finds themselves in the position of defending “traditional” American values, meaning “love of country,” not the conservatives’ single-minded “love of party.”
Now liberals are the conservatives, holding similar values as Goldwater. Goldwater! No longer do conservatives hold the franchise on faith, love of family, loyalty and reverence for our Constitution and government institutions — if, as claimed, they ever did.
Before the election of “that black guy” as president — triggering the Republicans’ hard-right stampede — few would have dreamed that liberals would be defending the status quo and conservatives would be fomenting radical political upheaval.
The DNA of this psychic polar shift may be embedded in how conservatives and liberals view elections. To many conservatives, there’s no such thing as “losing” an election. Not convincing enough people to vote for their bad ideas is a mere inconvenience.
The clearest example of this was when the Republican minority in the Senate held the nation’s debt ceiling hostage until some unrelated political ransom was paid. It was about party, not country. That’s radical. And when Republican leaders, having lost the presidency, on the night Obama was inaugurated to his first term in 2009, conspired to ruin both his terms, colluding to block everything this popularly elected president did — no matter the negative impact on the nation. That’s radical.
And when local partisans relentlessly harass San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill, twice elected by wide margins. Hill’s despisers are like house dogs that get loose at night and form packs and kill cats. Bloodlust makes them crazy — and radical.
Their malevolence is abetted by their radical friends on the Board of Supervisors, who deliberately leave the dog door open.
A few weeks ago, the lobbyist for the Coalition of Labor Agriculture and Business was griping to the board about low-cost Internet access for poor people. Hill stated the obvious: the lobbyist’s remarks were “bloviating nonsense.”
Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton berated Hill for his comments, saying they were rude. Perhaps, but Hill was right: The lobbyist himself was rude and aggressive — and most certainly bloviating.
The only surprise is that it took Hill so long to call out from the dais the radical nonsense that masquerades as “public comment” by this lobbyist and like-minded cat killers who encamp at public meetings.
In reality, Hill’s remarks were another call for compassion, civility and a return to “traditional” American values of respect for our government and flag, and deference to the fairness and decency it represents.
So what we have is liberals, the new conservatives, trying to uphold traditional values. While conservatives, the new radicals, try to destroy them.
It is, indeed, a tectonic, psychic polar shift.
(Note — I do not now nor have I ever worked for Hill or advised his campaigns, contrary to what some local conspiracy peddlers claim.)