There was a time when I was invited by a well-known conservative magazine to speak on cruises that the magazine organized. Conservatives from all over America paid good money to visit far away places and listen to the likes of me talk about how corrupt the liberal media had become. But one evening, while cruising the Caribbean, I said there was also a problem with conservative bias in the media. The crowd literally hissed and booed and I was never invited on another cruise.
There was also a time when I was a regular at a yearly conference of conservatives at a fancy hotel in Florida. When I talked about the excesses of liberalism the crowd cheered. But one time I talked about the insanity of the “Birthers,” those geniuses who think Barack Obama was born someplace outside the United States. Turns out a “Birther,” who was a big contributor to this conservative conclave, was in the audience. I never got invited back.
When I’m on the O’Reilly show I get two kinds of reaction from my conservative friends: love emails and hate emails. When I talk about liberal dopiness I get the love kind. When I say conservatives at times can be just as bad as the lefties, I get hate mail.
Let me be very clear … conservative groups can invite anyone they want to be part of their events. I have no constitutional right to speak to people who don’t want to hear what I have to say. And truth be told, I was never comfortable being in the same place at the same time with so many like-minded people. And people who watch Fox can like me or hate me. That comes with the territory.
Conservatives complain about liberal orthodoxy all the time. When liberals call some black conservative an Uncle Tom, we bristle and say liberals can’t stand it when a black man “strays from the liberal plantation.” We talk about how close-minded liberals can be.
Well, my friends, conservatives can be, and too often are, just as orthodox — and it’s starting to really annoy me.
As some of you may know I used to be a liberal Democrat. I grew up in a blue-collar family so the Democrat part was a given. The liberal part came with age. Most young people are liberals.
Then when I got older I realized how crazy liberals had gotten. Being for civil rights wasn’t good enough. You had to also be for affirmative action, even if the kid getting the advantage was the son or daughter of a well-to-do black professional. How was that fair to poor white kids, I wondered. Did a white coal miner’s kid have more advantages that the son of a black lawyer?
And being a supporter of women’s rights wasn’t enough, either. You also had to support a woman’s right to be a firefighter even if she wasn’t strong enough to carry a man out of a burning building.
And abortion? Being pro-choice is one thing; supporting late term abortion in the name of “choice” is something else all together.
So I moved right. Or more accurately, the left moved so far left that they left me, not the other way around.
Now I find myself more and more uncomfortable on the other side. I don’t like conservative orthodoxy any more than I like liberal orthodoxy. I’m no fan of President Obama, but the constant, non-stop bashing from conservatives in the media is getting downright boring. I’ve never been a fan of one-note sambas.
I mean, is Mr. Obama really responsible for what some left-wing minister says about social conservatives on Easter Sunday … just because the president was in his church at the time?
There are those on the Right, as Peter Wehner describes them in a piece for Commentary magazine, who seem “to be in a near-constant state of agitation, ever alert to identify and excommunicate from the ranks those they perceive as apostates. One day it is Chris Christie; the next day it is Bob McDonnell, or Jeb Bush, or Mitch Daniels, or Eric Cantor, or Lindsay Graham, or Mitch McConnell, or someone somewhere who has gone crosswise of those who view themselves as prefects of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
That kind of conservatism leaves me cold. But if I sit home on Election Day because I’ve had it with the right-wing purists, I’m in effect voting for the Democrats … and I can’t do that, not as long as they think we don’t have a spending problem and taxing the “rich” is a sensible policy.
So what to do? I’m not sure at this point. But if conservatives demand purity, if they don’t want to hear from anyone who doesn’t toe the conservative line, if they see social moderates as wimps or sell-outs, they will lose election after election and they will have only themselves to blame.
That’s one more thing the purists on the right don’t want to hear.