I have told this story a few times, but I felt repeating it to begin with was important to provide context.
The year was 1967. There was a campaign in Nyack, NY, to elect a mayor and three trustees. One of the candidates on the Conservative ticket was my father: William E. Carman, better known as “Bill,” or “Willie” when he was real young.
At 12 I had followed my father into politics because I had expressed an interest. So Dad gave me a copy of The Conscience of a Conservative. When he quizzed me after reading it apparently he was happy with my answers. One year later: 67, Conservative Party leaders came to our house to invite my father to join the ticket because they were familiar Dad’s interest in the 64 Goldwater campaign.
We knew we were going to lose in 67. In fact my father said he was amazed so many people voted for him. In 67 an incident happened right after the election that started to slowly shift me more leftward politically. Our mayoral candidate, Paul, approached the group that had funded us, a local fundamentalist church, and told them, “Thanks, but I think next time we’ll be going our own way.”
I admit: I probably had something to do with that because after a few meetings I asked our leader, “…who the hell are these people?” …when meeting after meeting members of the church showed up, interrupted us after almost every sentence with, “Praise the LORD!” and “AMEN!” Paul told me, “Don’t worry Ken, after the campaign I will tell them we’re going our own way.” The next day after he told them Paul was stopped by a cop who was a member of the church and kiddie porn was “found” in the trunk of his car. Dad and I both knew it had to be bogus. There were more incidents over the years that kept shifting me. Always more. The party of Goldwater and Buckley was changing, and not in a good way. Among other problems: fundamentalists started getting their claws into the movement. as well as racists, misogynists… the beginnings of what we have now. And like Paul’s stop, in deceptive ways. They were learning not to say “amen” every sentence, to speak in politically correct ways to achieve their goals.
So I am probably more qualified than most on the left in regard to where all this came from. It always amazed me as it got worse and worse that those who proclaimed how Christian they are, as loud and as obnoxious as they can, act less Christian than some atheists. Might have tossed Doubting Thomas out on his ass. Would have eagerly stoned women. Would have sided with Judas.
I started watching Joe Scarborough a few years ago and over those years I could see the wheels turning in his head too; kind of like they started turning in mine so many years ago. His right wing guests seem to be having the same shifts in perspective. Most are no longer conservatives, though some consider themselves such. I can’t promise they will skew as far to the left as I eventually did many years ago, but I see the shift. When Joe talks these days he’s more prochoice, not as anti gun regulation, and his guests from the former right seem to be shifting too.
The question to the Left that I have regarding this is should we welcome them? I know some who consider themselves more of the Sanders left seem eager to toss the less than perfectly PC out. Or if they haven’t always been “progressive.” Anyone who doesn’t satisfy their sense of purity. To me this seems just a different flavor of the same kind of deadly poison the extreme right pushes. A way to hand wins to the worst of the worst. Typical catch phrase “less evil is still evil” has to be the most inane, self destructive, right wing-like concept ever. Who separates the world into nothing more than evil or good? The “Reich,” as I call them.
Other than by sabotaging the vote, how does any movement gain strength, momentum, this way? I’m NOT saying 100% trust, but I would trust them more than the Manchins and the Kyrsten Sinemas.
Again, the question being, “Do we want possible converts helping us, or should we chase them away?” Arguable Lincoln Project helped save us from a second term in 2020. Maybe just a little, but still… “Why the hell not have them help?” Finding common ground is a GOOD THING.
We ALL come from somewhere. Isn’t meeting at a more common destination, no matter how still uncommon, better than more apart?
Blessed be the converts. And let’s help them head even more down the path.
“Inspection” is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 50 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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