Gary Wills is half a decade older than me and I have admired and marveled at his broad sweep of expertise from the Classical World and its Christianity to contemporary politics. His voice is that of the Liberal I aspire to be. Here is his statement on that topic in his review of a book I read and liked very much, E.J. Dionne’s Why the Right Went Wrong.
“The truth is that conservatives are right to feel that their own moderates are sell-outs. To be (even moderately) a moderate is to leave the Republican Party – to be what Buckley called an immoral Middle-of-the-Roader. To accept Enlightenment values – reason, facts, science, open-mindedness, tolerance, secularity, modernity – is to lower one’s guard against evils like evolution, concern about global warming, human equality across racial and sexual and religious lines – things Republicans have opposed for years and will not let their own members sell out to. They rightly intuit that there is only one Enlightenment party in America and the Republicans are not it. That is why they have to oppose in every underhanded way they can the influence of younger people who are open to gays, to same-sex marriage, to feminism.”
The key to me is “Enlightenment values”. Kurt Andersen, in his Fantasyland, notes how the hippy-dippy New Age left did its fair share of the heavy lifting in destroying the consensus in this country that facts are facts; their contribution was more along the lines of clap your hands three times or click your heels together three times and magical things will happen. Out of those contributions came some wonderful changes in our culture like yoga practice, mindfulness practice, and so forth, but also a willingness to discard reality or drown it in drugs. Give me desiccated Enlightenment values.