But isn’t it interesting how so many conversion stories are sparked by this particular revelation? I was reading Tammy Bruce in the Guardian the other day, and she had the exact same experience: “I thought we leftists were the open-minded ones; I was wrong” (that’s a paraphrase).
My own conversion experience was hardly as dramatic as hers, because I was never really a hard leftist. I hated politics and considered myself an anarchist, because that’s an easy way to float by in college. You don’t have to think anything through and you get to be cool. I did nonetheless have a soft spot for some of the harsher Marxist critiques of “the system,” but I would never have voted for a Democrat - I never would have voted for anyone.
Lets just say I felt very “at home” with leftists - far, far leftists - culturally and intellectually (I liked French postmodernism and Foucault and crap like that).
But my turning point, when I started to become both politically aware and conservative, was when a friend of mine tried to hold a debate between the three Republicans on campus and about 35 of the 3,000 socialists (my college was extremely leftist).
After the debate - which I sat through in utter disgust, listening to the crowd boo and hoot and hiss and curse every time the Republicans tried to speak - one of the Republicans had the tires on his car slashed and “fascist” carved in his car with a knife. He left the school not long after.
I remember realizing at that point that my options had been whittled down fairly cleanly.
I wasn’t an anarchist, because I had this sense of propriety and good form. Somebody, I thought, should have made the crowd shut-up. I realized then that my respect for human decency was far more essential to me than my disrespect for ALL authority. Tying those two thoughts together - cultivating human decency by having a cultivated sense for genuinely oppressive authority - is essential to conservatism.
I also realized I wasn’t a leftist because no ideas that had to be defended LIKE THAT could be worth defending. So by default I said, “OK, if I’m going to learn about politicsl, then I’m going to start with the people who deplore displays like the one I just saw.”
And then I read Thomas Sowell and David Horowitz. They explained very well what I saw. And that was that.
I had thought these people were just nice hippie communist buddhists. Individually they often were. But when the locusts brushed wings… I’d seen no fury like it.
So inasmuch as I had a “conversion”, it was the same thing - realizing how unbelievably intolerant the very people who claimed to be the world-historical champions of Tolerance, forever and ever, amen, were. It’s sort of like Obama himself - the messianic pretense sets you up for both vicious behavior and a certain blindness to how vicious you can be. The flip side is that it’s much easier for adherents to get disillusioned with such a vision than with the somewhat somber vision of conservatism, which takes fallenness for granted.
And I can’t resist a final observation: Isn’t it intriguing that, while liberalism is such an “optimistic” doctrine, liberals themselves are nonetheless (statistically speaking) angrier and less happy than conservatives, who themselves adhere to a doctrine that, by comparison to the sunny utopian progressivism of the left, seems bleak and cold by comparison?
The same commenter follows up again further down thread.