I was recently having dinner with three others in New York City, in the heart of the West Village, when the table next to us leaned over and proclaimed that we were the problem with America.
My friends and I were all shocked and perplexed. Did we know these people? Had they confused us with someone they knew? After calling us "bigots" and "ignorant" we realized they had been eavesdropping on our political discussion during a quiet Saturday night dinner.
Our opinions about Sarah Palin and women in politics were too much for them to sit and enjoy their own dinner, instead they chose to insert themselves into the conversation next to them and loudly start an argument. The irony was not lost on me: a man in the West Village, wearing an ascot around his neck, was lecturing us about being "bigots who want to control the way other people chose to live their lives" — after he interrupted our dinner to shout us down! I tried to explain to him that he has become what he hates — an intolerant and angry voter.
In the 1990s, the liberals were proud to display a popular bumber sticker: "HATE is not a family value." The slogan was a backlash to the religious right's (RR's) attempt to promote family values in politics. The liberals found the RR's social campaign and their subsequent intolerant actions to be too hypocritical to not push back.
Correctly, liberals mounted a campaign to show the hypocrisy of promoting love and family values while at the same time angrily denouncing some people. Hypocrisy never wins elections and the liberal backlash succeeded.
Social conservatives and their promotion of family values as the primary issue in the 1992 and 1996 congressional and presidential campaigns naively believed that Americans would vote for the party that promoted social policy over any other policy.
The disasterious Houston Republican Convention of 1992 was highlighted by Pat Buchanan's speech promoting social policy as the mantra of the election.
The RR didn't learn any lessons that year when Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush and a plethora of Democratic senators swept into Washington; they ultimately tried to push the same social policy messages into the 1996 campaigns as well. And although the Republican reformers and fiscal budget hawks in Congress wrestled control of the Republican message from the RR in 1994 (and ultimately became the majority in Congress for the first time in 40 years), the religious right came roaring back in 1996 with more social policy demands.
The 1996 elections for Republicans focused mainly on Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky's affair and only proved that the RR's message of social policy as government policy would be rejected by the American people - the RR had once again lost the General election.
In 2000, George W. Bush seemed to learn the lessons of the intolerant right's failures by launching his presidential bid with vows of "compassionate conservativism" and commitments to work with both sides of the partisan aisle. For many of us, we thought the lessons had been learned that intolerance is not only un-American, it doesn't win elections either.
Although the current Bush presidency's plans for the country were drastcially changed on 9/11, many Republicans wonder if the compassionate conservative campaign pledge of 2000 would have ushered in a greater sense of unity in Washington, less divisive political theatre and a final defeat for intolerant politics. Unfortunately, we may never know the answer.
In 2008, the Republicans had a plethora of candidates to chose from in the primary. The candidate chosen by the GOP, John McCain, wasn't the choice of social conservatives and yet he is the nominee.
For many in the Republican Party, the choice of McCain is another defeat for intolerant politics led by the RR.
But while the war over intolerance and narrow-mindedness is waging in Republican circles, it is alive and well on the left.
The angry left has taken over the Democratic Party and is in full control of the message. The actions by the self-described "all accepting" and "diverse" liberals started to creep into politics with John Kerry's campaign in 2004. But in 2008, we are seeing the most angry and intolerant liberals America has ever seen.
The liberal elites are having a hard time discussing policy without becoming apoplectic and resorting to name-calling. The height of hypocrisy is to see the angry left advocate for diversity but completely become enraged when someone isn't seeing the world the way they do.
They believe that if you don't agree with them you are a bigot and "ruining America." Try listening to "The View's" Joy Behar and you quickly see that she shouts over all other views with cynicism and anger; or watch MSNBC to witness the left's new intolerant message that there is only one way to think.
Living in New York City, one would assume you would be surrounded by liberal and accepting people with diverse opinions. This is a city that declares you can be anything you want. This is the heart of American liberalism. But try being a conservative in liberal circles these days and you quickly see that the diverse party isn't so accepting.
Try telling the liberal elites that you are a pro-life Democrat and you'll get a lashing about how you don't care about women. Or tell the standard bearers of tolerance that you are a gay Republican or an environmentalist voting for McCain and the angry name-calling reaches a new level. But why has the angry and intolerant left taken over the RR as the new intolerant group?
For many in the Republican mainstream, we thought we were making progress on getting rid of the narrow-minded from the political scene, but now we find they have popped up on the left. The elite have become completely unwilling to listen to other ideas other than their own.
The intolerant angry left has replaced the religious right in 2008. And it makes you wonder if "Intolerance and anger is the change we need."
Richard Grenell was the U.S. spokesman at the United Nations until he resigned on Sept. 29. He had been one of the longest-serving press spokesmen at the United Nations.
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