Ask two people — one a conservative, one a liberal — what it means to be a Republican and you’re likely to get two different answers.
The conservative will likely mention opposition to big government, a stance against the use of taxation or laws to implement social change, the importance of national security and adherence to traditional values. The liberal is likely to claim being a conservative means supporting war, being both racist and homophobic as well as opposing women’s rights, and promoting the interests of the rich over the needs of the poor.
It’s the liberal’s definition of conservatives that prevails in just about every form of media, from television shows and movies to the self-proclaimed “objective” print newpapers, and it’s these sources to which liberal individuals turn as “proof” to support claims that Republican conservatives are all cut from the same cloth.
Recently I mentioned that I’ve been reading Why You’re Wrong About The Right: Behind the Myths (The Surprising Truth About Conservatives) by by S. E. Cupp and Brett Joshpe, a book which addresses point-by-point many of the misperceptions of conservative thought. Let me just tell you, it’s been illuminating for me, which is surprising since I already consider myself a conservative.
Written by a California-born employee of The New York Times, S.E. Cupp, and a New York native attorney and Met fan, Brett Josphe — both formerly closet conservatives surrounded by some of the nation’s most rabid blue-state liberals — Why You’re Wrong About the Right tackles some of the most pervasive stereotypes of conservatives.
In doing so, the authors shatter many myths about the right in a way that even liberal readers have found informative and a helpful guide to understanding conservative thought without the typical name-calling that marks most such discussions.
The premise of the book, in Cupp’s own words, is simple: “We’d try to convince readers that Republicans are not necessarily what you’d expect them to be.” If there is a common thread among Republicans — and, indeed, among the many leading conservative thinkers and pundits interviewed by the authors — it is this: we favor individual rights over collective ones, and we distrust government policies that don’t mirror this belief.
Conservatives, the authors argue, are not racist and chauvinistic rednecked religious fanatics bent on growing rich at the expense of others while conquering the world. That’s the stereotype which Why You’re Wrong About The Right debunks point by point with well-researched arguments that show Joshpe’s deft legal skills in a humorous and intelligently-written style that bears Cupp’s literary touch.
•On racism – In addition to the first Republican president Abraham Lincoln leading the Union to defeat the slave-owning Confederacy, Republicans also passed the first Civil Rights Act after the Civil War and the Fourteenth Amendment which granted all persons, regardless of color, due process and equal protection. Every Democrat in Congress at the time opposed it. Moreover, the authors remind us, it was the Democratic party who gave us the Confederate flag-raising George Wallace; former KKK clansman and Supreme Court justice Hugo Black and his senatorial counterpart Robert Byrd.
• On sexism – Until Sarah Palin’s nomination as Vice President — which has ironically been met with cries from the Left that a working woman can’t be a good mother — one of the more common slurs against Republicans painted the party’s support of “traditional family values” as chauvinistic and sexist. In fact, DailyKos.com defines ‘family values’ as oppression of women! Yet, as the authors note, Republican senator Harry Burn was the pivotal vote in passing the Ninteenth Amendment and it was Republicans who first introduced the Equal Rights Act in 1923 — both were met with opposition from Democrats. Likewise, the first female elected to the House of Representatives was Republican, as were the first majority leaders of both the House and Senate and the first female appointed to the Supreme Court.
• On religious fanaticism – No U.S. president (Democrat or Republican) has ever been an atheist, and even though a 2008 Pew Forum poll indicates that 92% of Americans believe (with varying levels of certainty) that there is a God and 72% attend church at least a few times a year. Meanwhile, according to the Pew poll, Democrats and those who lean toward being Democrats constitute 47% of those who consider themselves religious, while Republicans and those leaning that direction amount to ony 36%. Yet it’s Republicans who are regularly portrayed as Bible-thumpers, while Democrats paint themselves as “too enlightened” for such things.
On and on, point by point, the authors don’t just shake but utterly obliterate the stereotypes and slurs against Republicans being elitist WASPs (yet simultaneously also rednecked hicks), anti-Semites (despite George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan being two of the most staunch pro-Israeli presidents in U.S. history), anti-environment (even though Republican president Theodore Roosevelt established the national park system and Republicans established the EPA, introduced the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and Al Gore himself recognized Reagan’s accomplishments in protecting the ozone), and that they’re uncharitable (when, in fact, economic analysts have found that even though Republican-headed households typically make less money than their Democratic counterparts they give nearly 30 percent more to charity).
If you’ve been looking, as I have, for a way to respond to all of those accusations leveled against your conservative beliefs by those of the liberal persuasion, Why You’re Wrong About The Right: Behind the Myths (The Surprising Truth About Conservatives) is the book for you.
Read it, highlight it, and keep it handy. The next time some brainwashed leftie accuses you of being “one of those greedy, racist, war-mongering Republicans responsible for ruining the country” you’ll be prepared to counter their arguments, and maybe even educate them in the process.
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