As a conservative though, I can’t help remembering that we’re not all that many years beyond the time when that particular shoe was on the foot of conservatives and Republicans. The Right was dominated by the extremes of the anti-abortion movement, complicated by the ultra-religious conservatives who saw the opportunity to marry together their faith and their politics, and to tie it all onto an important platform plank of the conservative agenda. I recall quite vividly the ‘90′s Summer of Love protests of abortion clinics — I lived in Wichita at the time — when the late late-term abortionist George Tiller was established as one of the key lightning rods for pro-life protests and anti-abortion ecstatic fervor.
But I mostly remember cringing at how the nuts the left were laughing at, and that the media was so gleefully portraying, had effectively become the face of the conservative ideology. No discussion of conservative ideals could occur without conservatives first having to acknowledge and tap-dance around the worst of whatever the worst extremist’s latest rant or action happened to be. Being pro-life meant you had to explain why you didn’t support bombing abortion clinics. Being Christian meant you had to explain how you didn’t really want a theocracy in our government. It was pretty awful, made worse by the simple fact that the blogosphere hadn’t even begun to make inroads into the monopoly that the mainstream media held over the narratives.
Times have changed. That we even have Crying Man to smirk at or that the Occupy movement collapsed so quickly are markers illustrating just how different things are compared to just a couple decades ago. With the power of the internet, conservatives are now in the unique, and ironic, position of being able to capitalize on the newly turned tables. For this election cycle, it’s liberals who are being defined by the left’s craziest of the crazies. It’s liberals who have to explain why the trespassing, violence, drug use, rape, and rioting of the Occupy movement don’t really represent their socioeconomic viewpoints. It’s liberals who have to explain whether or not they really believe that “democracy has ended,” like their unstable Crying Man.
As much as I love the irony of seeing liberals squirm with the same problems they have for years inflicted upon conservatives, I feel that we conservatives ought to be cautious. It’s way too easy to get complacent and lazy watching liberals implode, foisted on their own petards as the seeds of their self-imposed ideological isolationism have finally taken root to grow a bumper crop of weeds. It’s way too easy to convince ourselves that, given the recent decline in liberalism’s shining star, we don’t really have to push ourselves and stay engaged in our own ideals and values.
The mainstream media still carries the power to offset much of the damage that the left has inflicted upon itself. And yes, the blogosphere and internet are providing a baseline connectivity that conservatives have never really had before, a Fifth Estate to balance against the biases that seem to be so inherent in the Fourth. But it’s important to recognize the notion that as Americans, conservatives and liberals, we should be able to express our ideals without having to resort to mocking the misguided or insane. Remember that fortunes and misfortunes can trade places easily, especially when we choose to ignore important issues in order to laugh at the other side’s buffoons.
Conservatives may be up in this election cycle, but we will only stay up as long as we stay focused on the big picture. And if that means that we can’t wallow in the giddiness of the damage Crying Man and Occupy have inflicted on liberals, well then, so be it. We’ll just have to be satisfied with the knowledge that we don’t have to paint clown faces on our opponents to win our arguments.