I have been asked to give a speech at the Roanoke Conference — an important meeting of Washington State Republicans – on January 24. They want me to talk about my personal story — my evolution from standard issue Hollywood lefty to the reviled right-wing co-founder of PJ Media I am today.
I have already discussed this at length in my book Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown, but it’s been a few years since I wrote it and this speech will give me an opportunity to reexamine the subject of political change. Indeed, I haven’t ever really deserted it because that is partly the theme of The Party Line, the just-published play by Sheryl Longin and me. The topic fascinates me.
One of the most interesting aspects of political change is that most of us who have experienced it don’t feel as if we have changed. We still see ourselves as the same person, live in the same skin. To us, it is the world that has changed — at least to some degree.
As an illustration, a significant number of people changed their views of global affairs immediately after September 11, 2001. Our country was attacked by an ideology that was misogynistic, homophobic, anti-democratic, racist, xenophobic, and religiously intolerant and that sought world domination — in short was the enemy of all classically liberal society since the Enlightenment.
The majority of our people recognized this and sought to push back, asserting the values of our culture — for a year or two. Then — as political correctness reasserted itself — the majority of that majority reverted to type and we had the election of Barack Obama… twice.
A few of us remained changed, now open to ideas we once thought anathema, or reactionary, when we were younger. How did that happen and why was I among them?
To be honest, despite having written a book and a play about it, I don’t really know. Political change remains a mystery to me, although I think it one of the most important topics, perhaps the crucial topic, we need to examine, because without political change, what’s the point of democracy? If people can’t be persuaded to switch sides, why bother?
The reasons for resistance to change are clear to me, however. Those who change risk losing friends, family, and livelihood. Even more importantly, they face personality disintegration, the loss of self-image. Who wants to deal with that?
I did apparently. But it was largely accidental. I was part of that majority reaction after 9/11, but, unlike others, I never looked back, was not recidivist. Part of the reason for that was my vocation. As a writer, I found it difficult to lie. I couldn’t write well what I no longer believed.
Yet all around me I saw split personalities, still do. The prototypical Hollywood (and DC) liberal lives two disparate lives, one public and one private. In public he or she is the greatest of altruists, in private the greediest and most ambitious of persons. The former acts as a cover for the latter, to the self and to others.