How Can We Tell The Difference

News & SocietyPolitics

  • Author Larry Farmer
  • Published November 3, 2022
  • Word count 1,285

How Can We Tell The Difference

In the book Animal Farm, the revolutionary animals conducted a successful uprising. Afterwards they begin to adopt the culture and lifestyle of their human opponents. At the end of the book, one of the lowly animals looks in a window as his leaders meet with their enemies. He does a double take and rubs his eyes; he can’t tell the difference between the animals and the humans.

The movie F.I.S.T. is loosely based on the life of Jimmy Hoffa. In order to add muscle to his movement, the lead character makes a deal with organized crime. The two sides both agree to help each other in various ways. As Johnny, the labor organizer and lead character, tells his plans to one of his subordinates, the aide asks a basic question, “How do we tell the difference?” Johnny responds, “Between what?” The aide then says, “Between them and us?”

Williams F. Buckley, Jr. defined the modern conservative movement that developed after World War II. Buckley and his people decided to fight fire with fire. They would adopt the intellectualism, academic credentials, and urbane sophistication of the liberal establishment. The strategy worked to a degree but kept coming up a bit short. In the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s, a group of liberals called neoconservatives defected to the conservative cause. They brought with them everything Buckley desired. They had advanced degrees, intellectual sophistication, and a suave persona. The conservative movement was now respectable.

As Buckley faded from the scene; one of his disciples, George Will, emerged to more or less lead the movement. Will was carried away with the scholarly transformation of conservatism, so much so that it is hard to understand some of his writings. His use of complex words, phrases and arguments many times makes it impossible to comprehend what he is saying. Not only was Will preoccupied with the “good,” he wanted to purge the “bad.” President Richard Nixon was his first casualty. To Will; Nixon was too obscene, too vulgar, and too crude to be defended. He would later apply the same criteria to Donald Trump, and conservatism be damned. It became style over principle.

Will became a media sensation on the ABC program “This Week.” Originally hosted by David Brinkley, the show featured Will as the conservative voice. He was obviously respected by Brinkley who was himself moving rightward, and the liberal panelists often found it difficult to counter his arguments. George left “This Week” in 2013 and became a contributor for Fox News. At the time I was still one of his fans and was excited that he would be balancing the neocons who were dominating Fox at that time. However, it never happened. He didn’t present an alternative viewpoint; he was either a neocon himself or too afraid to challenge them. It was all very disappointing.

During the second Obama administration; Conservative, Inc. showed itself to be warm milk. The first thing it did was cave on immigration. Marco Rubio worked to pass a law providing a pathway to citizenship, and Charles Krauthammer (the leading neocon at Fox) said immigrants were conservative at heart and Republicans should try to win their votes. The next issue to be gutted was gay marriage opposition. George Will proclaimed that the opposition to gay marriage was dying literally, and Charles Krauthammer said that in ten years gay marriage would not be an issue. One of the two men who argued the case for gay marriage before the Supreme Court was Ted Olson, a former Solicitor General of the George W. Bush administration. No mainstream Republican pundit defended traditional marriage; it was left to some unheard of off the wall lightweights to make the case.

Then there was the issue of the confederate flag and the “Lost Cause.” After a slaughter of African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church Dylan Roof, a deranged racist, the confederate flag all but disappeared from the American landscape. Afterwards, statue after statue of confederate and Southern heroes began to fall like dominos. A full throated war was then launched on The “Lost Cause” which held that even though Southerners may have been wrong in their thinking according to today’s standards; they fought heroically, honorably, and courageously. The “Lost Cause.” which for years had been accepted as mainstream thought, suddenly became depicted as misinformation used by sinister forces to fool ordinary Americans. All of these development occurred at lightning speed with many conservatives taking the lead. Krauthammer was in the forefront, Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell advocated removing the statue of Jefferson Davis from the Kentucky capital building, and the lead writers of the American Conservative joined the bandwagon. One liberal host of a National Public Radio quiz show quipped that the second Appomattox surrender occurred at a much faster rate than the first one.

Conservatives during this same time period began to accept the inevitability of marijuana legalization. State after state passed some type of legal status for the noxious weed. Conservative, Inc. was nowhere to be seen in this nonexistent battle. While running for President in 2012, Mitt Romney literally begged a Colorado newswoman to stop asking him questions about marijuana.

Abortion, one the cornerstone issues for many on the right, also took a hit. At the heart of the abortion issue is the matter of rape. Most Americans feel abortion is justified in rape cases, but what is rape? It is extremely rare for a woman to get pregnant when violently raped by a stranger. The rape that abortionists are talking about is date rape. Date rape is when a woman says “No, no, no, yes!!” to her boyfriend. Todd Akin, a Republican Senate candidate in Missouri in 2012, used the term “legitimate rape” while being interviewed by a member of the media. Mitt Romney and many members of the Republican establishment as well as Conservative, Inc. called on him to withdraw from the race. He became a total pariah. Another Republican Senate candidate in 2012, Richard Mourdock of Indiana, ruled out rape as grounds for abortion. He was roundly criticized by Republicans and conservatives, and he joined Akin in the pariah category.

When Donald Trump arrived on the scene in 2015, he began talking about issues conservatives used to hold dear. Rather than being welcomed as a breath of fresh air, about half of Conservative, Inc. became enraged and went so far as to desert the Republican Party. At the risk of being over dramatic; the phrase, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not,” could apply to the way Trump was treated by the conservative establishment. One issue stands out in the way the elders of the conservative movement reacted to Trump. When Trump advocated building a wall on America’s southern border, Krauthammer and other conservatives said he was crazy. But, they were saying the same thing he was just four years previous. I distinctly remember these same people raking Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul over the coals in 2012 for being against a wall.

There are several lessons to be drawn from the way conservatism has evolved over the years, and they are not good. By accepting those of dubious loyalty into the movement, bad things can happen. It seems obvious today that the neoconservatives were simply “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Buckley, for all his good points, was probably wrong in trying to imitate his opponents. When one tries to do so, he runs the risk of becoming a clone. We appear to have arrived at the point where it is difficult to tell the difference. The only hope is for people like Tucker Carlson to ‘Make Conservatism Great Again.’

I received a bachelors degree in 1967 and a masters degree in 1971 from Western Kentucky University. I taught school for 44 years. One year was spent at Fordsville High School, 17 at Ohio County High School, and 26 at Trinity High School in Whitesville. The subjects I taught were government, history, and English. At Trinity I also served as coach, athletic director, and dean of students. I fancy myself a fairly good writer, and my main interests are sports and politics.

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