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A lot of people today don't believe that it was one the GOP that was considered the party of reason and thoughtfulness. This was largely before the 80s, at which time the GOP make a tactical decision to get in with the religious right. Whether out of genuine alignment of goals or just as a measure to increase voter base, the religious right took over the GOP and introduced a new way of thinking for the Republican party.

The religious, used to having values and opinions placed down on top of them from authority, preferred arguments from consequences. If it's something you don't like, it's bad. If it's something you like, it's good. Not that politics was ever really about fairness and representation of the people, but in a way, a new low was hit. When reality didn't align with political goals, the politicians tried to make up a new reality. With what really has been extremely effective campaigning, many conservatives now live in an echo chamber of a thought-free world, isolated from anything that could distrub their fantasy.

And recently, liberals, once the champions of science, evidence, and forethought, turned to the same rhetoric and methods as the very people they considered to be the worst of their political adversaries. Though the particular political goals were extremely different, both left and right took on the same form, simply with different colors. Where fact and analysis didn't provide liberals with favor, they ignored reality and created their own echo-chambers, falling for the same political ploy as conservatives.

Politics, while always ugly, for a long time had smart people pushing it along. Many issues were hotly debated, but at least both parties, both sides knew to look out for obvious dangers. Each side favored a compromise if it avoided long term detriment to their party or their cause. Now, however, robbed of most any common sense, both sides seem to be happy to fall off a cliff so long as the other can plummet to death slightly faster.

This isn't about the current government shut down and this side or that not compromising.

This is about a shift in thinking that's taken place over the last decade, and mostly since about 2010. There is a time and place for both liberal and conservative thinking. A liberal approach is "to each their own, and we'll learn to live with differences," but risks great internal conflict. The conservative approach of "my way works, you change if you don't like it" can be very oppressive but does set clear standards. Sometimes you need to learn to work within whatever rules you are given (a conservative approach), sometimes you need to push the rules as far as they can go (a liberal approach). This certainly doesn't always describe American political Liberals or Conservatives, note the capitals. But it does describe a lot of personal thinking.

On any issue, a conservative stance can be taken on either side, with liberals in the middle hoping to avoid the negatives of either extreme while reaping the benefits of both. Politically in America, Conservatives with conservative ideas were on the right political spectrum, while Liberals and "progressive" Conservatives were more in the middle, with only a few outliers being conservative Leftists. While not a great distribution, it worked in many ways for a long time. "Liberals" were generally in favor of a liberal approach, and "Conservatives" likewise with a conservative approach.

But what I've seen in the last few years with extreme regularity is Liberals becoming highly conservative. Their political goals are still the same, but their thinking, both political and onn-political, has become extremely conservative. Anybody under 40 has spend most if not all of their adult life with the internet, which has amplified for them the predominance of their own worldview. In turn, this gives the idea that it is widely accepted, no matter how big or small. And since they feel to be in the moral majority, they adopt a conservative stance. "Clearly," they say, "this works for me and everybody else, if it doesn't work for you, you're the outlier."

The courage to step outside one's own mind has been lost to an apathy of thought. "So much thinking has been done for me already," so many seem to think, "I needn't put any effort into it myself." The difference between hearing ideas and understanding them has been lost to these people. For the longest time, to spread an idea you had to understand it yourself, but no longer.

While the conservative approach isn't inherently bad, it needs to be checked with liberal approaches when the time calls for it. Particular political goals are a detail here. The single-sided approach to all matters makes all things more difficult, and hence more appealing for those who have adopted the conservative approach to become more conservative. The liberal joy of rearranging things in a new, better way lured us away from the comfortable conformity of conservatism. But as understanding and learning have become less and less valued compared with feeling and expressing, that lure disappears for all but the genuinely intellectual, who for all their knowledge and understanding generally lack the empathy and rhetoric to convey their ideas to anybody but their peers.

Five years ago, I would have said that the vast majority of people I know are "liberal," with little need to differentiate between politically Liberal and philosophically liberal, since even the Conservatives I associated with took a liberal approach to thinks, albeit much less often. These days, less than half of the people I know are liberal, even if the vast majority of them espouse traditional Liberal values.

I myself no longer consider myself liberal, in either sense of the word. Even "moderate" doesn't suit me, since being halfway between Republican and Democrat is like being, in no particular order, half-way between crazy and stupid. I suppose I'm still "progressive" in that I think that our current system is fundamentally inadequate for governing today's world, but even that label I shy away from, since self-described progressives often take this to mean an anything-goes situation.

The world has become stupider. There's no other way to sum it up. Not for lack of knowledge, but a laziness and/or fear to think for oneself. The enlightenment really is over.

Sapare Aude
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