Friday, October 27, 2006

Alex P. Keaton Discovers What Modern Conservatism Is Really Like

Over at The American Prospect, Ezra Klein makes the point that many conservative spokespeople who scoff at the importance of a social safety net do so, in part, because they assume that their own backgrounds of wealth and privilege insulate them from the need for such a net. He goes on to observe:
I like to say that if a neocon is a liberal who got mugged, a progressive is a conservative who got sick. You see it over and over: Andrew Sullivan is a lefty on gay rights, Nancy Reagan came to appreciate the importance of stem cell research, Bob Dole was for intervention in Bosnia (his doc in WWII was a Slav), and so on. A bit of personal experience goes a long way. But it's hard, when you're rich, to experience being poor. And it's hard, if you got rich, to realize you were lucky as well as good. And that paucity of insight impoverishes the discussion. It's not that folks who've had membership in a group will necessarily come to the right conclusions -- see my friend Ben "Badler" Adler for more on that -- but they'll at least know the stakes.
In an ironic, meta sort of way, doesn't the Michael J. Fox stem-cell-research ad (famously and disgustingly mocked by Rush Limbaugh) illustrate the same point? Remember that Michael J. Fox first became famous as the obnoxiously smug young conservative Alex P. Keaton on the eighties sitcom Family Ties. (According to Keaton's biography in Wikipedia, the character grew up to become a Republican senator from Ohio.)

Wingnut Keaton is exactly the sort of person who would have suddenly become a convert to stem-cell-research as soon as he got the diagnosis of Parkinson's. And as we see from their vicious treatment of one-time allies like John Murtha and (most recently) Jim Webb, many partisans on the right wouldn't have hesitated to smear him the minute he deviated from the Rovian line--especially in the run-up to a crucial election.

Hey, sorry about the public ridicule for your condition, Alex--but I'm sure you understand it's all just politics, conservative-style.

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