I Used To Be A Conservative, But I’m Not Anymore

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I hereby disavow my conservatism, which I disavowed after disavowing my liberalism, which I disavowed after being conservative after being liberal. While I realize my many readers, who have followed me faithfully throughout my tortured ideological voyage, will find this latest about-face disappointing, I have no choice given our current political climate.

As I write in my new book, “I Used To Be Conservative: Confessions Of A Conservative Who Used To Be A Conservative Who Used To Be A Liberal,” “I could no longer be a conservative, because being a conservative could no longer be an option.” How true that is.

Sometimes you reach a point—usually when you have something to promote—when what you once thought no longer is what you think now. That point has arrived for me. It’s quite painful, as I’ve said on several CNN programs and YouTube interviews.

The conservatism of today is not the conservatism it was when I was younger, nor is it the liberalism it was when I was middle-aged. I can no longer sit idly by and pretend that what I once believed is what I believe now, or that anyone else should believe it. Or not.

When I was growing up in another decade when things were simpler and more complicated than they are at this pivotal moment for our democracy, the precepts of conservatism were pretty basic: Conservatives should be conservative, government should be conservative, and conservative people should consume conservative culture conservatively. For decades, that principle animated my conservative conversation on dates, at parties, and throughout three conservative but fairly brief marriages.

During the anomalous periods where I called myself liberal, I still also called myself a conservative, both to hedge my bets and because the liberal publications didn’t pay quite as well. Now, however, few publications remain, and I’m at a loss about what ideas to have or when. The alt-right is neither alt nor right, progressives do not believe in progress, and nationalists do not actually read The Nation. Populists, I suspect, are mostly bots. So what remains?

As the conservative founder of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley, once wrote, “God and man are at Yale, therefore we must emulate the Romans and preserve a certain way of thinking. Also, Gore Vidal is a queer.” If I were to write that, or something similar to that, today, I would be immediately excommunicated from Twitter, even though I tweet under the sobriquet @Doghat and only publish photos of dogs wearing hats. I find my options declining quicker than the ratings for “The Romanoffs.”

Nonetheless, I must hold fast to my beliefs, and to the strap as I ride the subway to meet with my agent. As an ex-conservative and ex-liberal and ex-conservative, I stand against Emmanuel Macron, but also think the world could use more people like him right now, and I still want to go on vacation to France. While I despise everything the Clintons stand for, I also enjoy being near them in a room. If that makes me a hypocrite, then color me red.

I was wrong when I said, “climate change is no big deal,” right when I said “ISIS is dangerous,” wrong when I said “we need another Robin Hood movie right now,” and right when I said, along with Ariana Grande, that “God is a woman.” What does that make me? Someone of substance, I say.

Most ex-conservatives who used to be liberal who used to be conservative, after all, are people like me. And most people, in my experience, are human. We enjoy eating hamburgers and going to the movies and smelling things after we lick them.

Still, I must align myself with those who are realigning themselves. My new principles will be just as principled as my old principles. Principally. I will remain critical of those in power while also seeking to curry their favor and get invited to their holiday parties. Perhaps I will find the conservatism that I thought was no longer conservative is actually still pretty conservative.

So, as I once wrote in my book “Rational Realism: A Realistic Argument For Rationalism,” let’s be rational and realistic. There’s still a chance that I could be persuaded to be a conservative again. If we can somehow broaden the definition of conservatism to include liberalism, I might refold myself into the fold. Especially if I got another book contract.

Neal Pollack, The Greatest Living American Writer, is the author of many semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction. He also cohosts the podcast Extra Credit on Audible.com with his teenage son Elijah. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.

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