This coming Sunday’s New York Times Book Review features a review of Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle Their Political Journeys, by Stephen Metcalf of Slate. You won’t find anything thoughtful in it, just the usual hack-job tactic of assembling isolated quotes and casting them in the worst possible light. Still, the review is worth a look. Metcalf’s default assumption that anyone at a “corporate backed think tank” must be cynically attacking liberalism, strictly for the money, was evidently shaken by the book. Metcalf’s one concession is a surprised admission that public conservatives are actually “sincere.” This sincerity, Metcalf concludes, allows public conservatives to bond with the “culturally dispossessed” (i.e. ignorant yahoos like you).
Metcalf’s review had a kind of mirror-image effect on me. I find it hard to believe that any serious liberal could think that conservative writers don’t believe their own ideas, but simply do it for “corporate money,” although I know liberals say this all the time. I’ve also wondered whether conservative put downs of liberals as “elitists” who despise the masses are quite fair. I must admit, however, after reading Metcalf, that liberals can be completely sincere in such beliefs.
Why I Turned Right does seem to bend folks out of shape, as in the fellow who attacked the book for being well written. But thoughtful reflection on the well-springs of political conviction is not exactly the sign of our era. These days, just believing the other side means what it says is an achievement.