Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Open Minds

According to Conservapedia,[1] a true conservative engages in "a never-ending quest for the truth," and is characterized by "a willingness to debate openly on all aspects of an issue or problem, without being tramelled by ideological preconceptions."[2] This is in stark contrast to your typical liberal, who "refuses to admit the truth in debate" and "ignore[s] any evidence that shows their position to be false."

In other words, if you value being open-minded, conservatism is the ideology for you. Sure, it's an ideology better known for its resistance to change, but the two concepts aren't necessarily incompatible. Respect for tradition is a great thing—as long as it doesn't reach the point where tradition is blindly adhered to in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Conservatives understand this, and they firmly believe they never reach that point, which is why they're so eager to proclaim that they—not liberals—are the ones who are truly open-minded.

As a matter of fact, an excellent illustration of this happened just recently. Charlie Crist, as part of his ongoing effort to swap one Florida statewide elected office for another, declared his support for a number of gay rights issues he once opposed. No one would expect Crist's announcement to immediately inspire hordes of conservatives to follow suit, but, in keeping with their stated principles, they've at least been respectful of Crist's positions and interested to learn more about what led him to this change of heart. Right?
Charlie Crist needs Democrats. Badly. So he is going through his entire inventory of “beliefs” and changing whatever principles he needs to in order to appeal to the left.
Ok, maybe that's not the best example, but Crist didn't exactly have a surplus of credibility among conservatives to begin with. What if a similar reversal came from a more revered source? Say, a life-long Republican who served in the Reagan and Bush II administrations. An early member of the Federalist Society. A prominent lawyer who has not only argued in support of numerous conservative causes, but once played a major role, as counsel for the Republican candidate, in deciding a presidential election.

Yeah, you know where I'm going with this. Here's Rush Limbaugh:
I don't know what's happened to Ted Olson…Ted Olson used to be one of us. He used to be anti-judicial activism.
And, as usual, Rush is not alone:
I am sad to report that Ted Olson is no longer worth listening to on legal matters or worth hiring by anyone who respects the Constitution.
[T]he position that the Constitution can and should be interpreted to invalidate traditional marriage laws can’t possibly be reconciled with the conservative legal principles that Olson used to purport to stand for.
I'm not saying conservatives should join Olson on the gay marriage bandwagon.[3] I'm saying the backlash against Olson (and, to a lesser extent, Crist) shows that a lot of conservatives see their belief system not as a broad philosophy, but as a simple list of opinions. Once someone un-checks an item on the list, that's it—they're out.

The obvious question, then, is this: When these people claim that theirs is the ideology of open-minded debate, why the hell should anyone take them seriously?

1. In terms of establishing a foundation for a legitimate point, is there a worse way to start than "According to Conservapedia..."? At least I didn't go with "According to the deranged wall-scribblings in my local gas station's bathroom..."
2. Trammel: a hindrance or impediment to free action; restraint. The double-m spelling seems to be more accepted, but, in keeping with my anything-goes liberal attitude, I see nothing wrong with "tramelled." Anyway, this footnote is here primarily because Conservapedia forced me to look up a word, and I think that's funny.
3. They totally should, though.


  1. "According to Conservapedia" is even worse than "In this article on World Net Daily..."

  2. "A true conservative engages in 'a never-ending quest for the truth,' and is characterized by 'a willingness to debate openly on all aspects of an issue or problem, without being tramelled by ideological preconceptions.'

    Except, apparently, with regards to liberalism.

  3. Funny that you mention WorldNetDaily—I completely forgot about Joseph Farah's crusade against Ann Coulter:

    "Ultimately, as a matter of principle, it would not make sense for us to have Ann speak to a conference about 'taking America back' when she clearly does not recognize that the ideals to be espoused there simply do not include the radical and very 'unconservative' agenda represented by GOProud."

    Yet another paragon of open-mindedness.

  4. respect for tradition is almost never a good thing. "because we always do it" is amongst the silliest type of reasoning. as a rule i only follow traditions that involve me drinking.