Most "Conservatives" Are Secretly Neoconservatives

By:  Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.
Most "Conservatives" Are Secretly Neoconservatives

A response to Washington Post blogger and Georgetown University political scientist John Sides who claims that most "conservatives" are secretly "liberals." I argue that they are secretly neoconservatives.

A colleague of mine has drawn my attention to a Washington Post blog post — “Why Most Conservatives Are Secretly Liberals” — by a Professor John Sides, a political scientist at Georgetown University.

Sides agrees with fellow political scientists Christopher Ellis and James Stimson, co-authors of Ideology in America. Ellis and Stimson contend that America is, at bottom, a “center-left nation,” for while “30 percent” of self-described “liberals” are consistent in endorsing “liberal” policy prescriptions, the same sort of consistency can be ascribed to only “15 percent” of “conservatives.”  And another “30 percent” of “conservatives” actually advance “liberal” positions.

In short, Americans may talk the talk of “conservatism,” but they walk the walk of “liberalism.” That is, they favor Big Government.

Sides, Ellis, and Stimson, it seems clear to me, are “liberals.” It doesn’t require much reading between the lines to discern this. That they associate “liberals,” and “liberals” alone, with such virtues as “consistency” and such lofty ideals as “a cleaner environment” and “a stronger safety net” is enough to bear this out.  Yet in peddling the ridiculous, patently absurd notion that “conservatives” see the media as promoting “conservatism,” the verdict regarding their “liberalism” is seen for the no-brainer that it is.

There is, though, another clue that unveils Sides’, Ellis’, and Stimson’s ideological prejudices: They equate the term “liberalism” with a robust affirmation of Big Government. They treat “liberalism” synonymously with its modern, “Welfare-Statist” incarnation. There is no mention here of the fact that, originally, “liberalism” referred to a vision that attached supreme value to individual liberty, a vision in which government played, and had to play, a minimal role in the lives of its citizens.  And there is no mention of the fact that, if “liberalism” is now “an ugly word,” it is because the very same socialists who made “socialism” an ugly word hijacked “liberalism” when it enjoyed a favorable reception and visited upon it the same fate that they secured for “socialism.” 

In other words, if Sides himself wanted to be bluntly honest, he’d have to admit that “liberals” are secretly socialists.

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