Uniting Liberalism’s Discontents

Thoughts on the Emerging International Conservative Movement Paranoid. Anti-Intellectual. Discontent. This is how prominent critics have imagined those of us gathered here today. From Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”[1] to Alan Brinkley’s Liberalism and its Discontents[2] to self-professed arbiters of acceptable opinion today like the Southern Poverty Law Center, they are united in claiming that there is something profoundly wrong with us. We know better. But it is worth taking the time to think about their claims and also the larger question of why these particular epithets—Paranoid, Anti-Intellectual, Discontent—are repeatedly hurled at us. First, why do those committed to redefining marriage and family seek not to engage our arguments but to discredit and demean? The purpose of demeaning conservatism or the pro-family movement or whatever else you wish to call our common cause—I will simply call it conservatism—serves one simple goal: to make us members of a caste outside the pale of contemporary society. And a quick path to removing us from the realm of acceptable discourse is to introduce the idea that we are unstable—“paranoid.” But to be paranoid is to falsely believe in some threat to yourself or your society. How can people of goodwill not see that the collapse of moral norms, of an acceptance of objective reality, has led to disastrous consequences for all of us; that the threat is real, not imaginary? Even some leaders of the movement to transform the family now see that their revolution has gone too far. When radical feminist Germaine Greer openly mocks the idea that a man can simply become a woman by believing it is so, we should sit up and take notice.[3] When Christians and members of other faiths are told that they can no longer live out the gospel call because it is “discrimination,” when girls cannot maintain their privacy in restrooms, when major scholars on the left advocat
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