The left used to love offensive speech.
Profanity and flag burning were an indication that the people were free, they argued. Of course its offensive, they told us, but we should all celebrate the fact that you have the right to do things that I find offensive.
Meanwhile, conservatives fought to keep books that were inappropriate for children off of classroom reading lists to the protest of liberals who accused them of being afraid of ideas different than their own.
Conservatives also fought to keep the Ten Commandments in public schools to the objection of liberals who opposed the use of public dollars to impose a specific moral code that not everyone shared.
Kind of ironic, isn’t it?
If you fell into a coma 40 years ago and just woke up, you’d have a hard time figuring out who was who.
Now the left is protesting speakers on college campuses because of their beliefs or associations, trying to keep children from reading certain books in public schools, and organizing to get people fired from their jobs because of what they believe (see Brendan Eich, Alrenes’ Flowers, the Benham Brothers, Sweet Cakes by Melissa etc, etc, etc…).
Wait, don’t the liberals hate Joe McCarthy?
The left used to resent dogmatism. They bristled at the assertion that any idea was impervious to critique.
They mocked absolute statements like “God said” and understandably resented attempts to shut down debate with labels like “God hater” or “pervert”. But now they employ the same tactics with labels like “denier” and “bigot” and seek to end debate with absolute statements like “the science is settled”.
The god may be different, but the sentiment is not.
Meanwhile, it is the conservatives who are now the proponents of laissez faire government. “Live and let live,” they argue. “You can have your same-sex relationships, just let us run our businesses the way we want.” “You can believe whatever you want, just don’t force your secular worldview onto our kids in school.”
Indeed, conservative is the new liberal.
The problem is, a lot people haven’t realized it yet.
Most liberals became liberals when liberalism was all about individual rights. They wanted to defend the minority from the oppression of the majority and objected to the idea that one person could tell another how they ought to live and what they ought to think.
However, in their zeal, they became so attached to their team they stopped thinking about what their team represented in the first place and just kept rooting for them, regardless of what they did.
As a result, they didn’t even blink when the liberal activism meant threatening people’s livelihood if they said or did something “intolerant”. They just kept cheering for the “good guys”.
The same phenomenon happens in sports. We’ll loudly cheer for a guy we booed only months before when he was on a different team. It’s a kind of irrational attachment to a jersey without much concern for what it actually represents.
In sports it’s pretty benign. But in policy, blind loyalty can be a problem.
Fortunately, many on the left are starting to acknowledge the problems with calling yourself a liberal while demanding conformity to specific perspective as a condition of making a living.
Because of that, I suspect there will be more opportunities to build coalitions that haven’t existed in quite some time; coalitions built around ideas rather than labels.
Hopefully our friends on the left who share our interest in individual liberty won’t be scared away by the realization that conservative is the new liberal.