Leaning Windward

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tommclaughlin
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Leaning Windward

What the old man said about me was accurate. He’s been dead a while now and I’d forgotten about it, but his words have been popping back into my head a lot lately. “You have the character of the tiller,” he told me.

“I don’t get it,” I said.

“You know when someone stretches way out over the windward gunnel when a sailboat leans too far? He’s trying to bring the mast upright lest the boat capsize.”

“Yes,” I said. “I’ve seen that.”

“That’s what you try to do in your writing.”

He was a liberal, but more of a classical liberal than a leftist or a “progressive” as they call themselves today. He was willing to consider any idea on its merit and wasn’t dubious because it might be conservative. If he didn’t agree he would argue logically, not acrimoniously. Together we formed a political discussion group, an old-fashioned salon. For the first few years it was all men, many of them WWII vets and all somewhat left of center, I was too — then. I was the youngest member at a time when my own perspective started moving right. We met every two weeks in a library the old man had built in part of his barn.

During the ten or so years of my involvement I was still a Democrat, but the party’s movement left was accelerating. The old man saw me trying to counteract that in my writing even before I did. I had voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, but was dismayed by what he was doing and considered resigning from the Democrat Party, but the old man urged me to work from within. Our group started moving left also as new members came in and railed against Clinton’s impeachment. I began to skip meetings and eventually stopped attending altogether. Not long after, the group disbanded.

My movement right continued. I registered Republican but I was still feeling isolated as the education establishment was moving harder left along with all of New England, including Maine’s Republican Party. Some in the community began assuming that I was inculcating students with the same conservative views I expressed in my columns. I was “poisoning young minds,” they claimed. They pressured my district’s administrators, the school board, and Maine’s teacher licensing agency to discipline me and worse. My administrators knew their charges were baseless but had to respond to their complaints with an investigation. I was cleared, but being an out-of-the-closet conservative in public schools got increasingly difficult. Other leftists came after me too, which is the subject of a book I’m still working on.

Nationwide now, acrimony dominates left-right debate and is increasing to dangerous levels — even to violent attacks by far-left "Antifa" goons on college campuses and in the streets. That’s bad enough, but what is perhaps worst of all is something The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol wrote last week:

For young Americans today, Donald Trump is the face of Republicanism and conservatism.
They don't like that face. And the danger, of course, is that they'll decide their judgment of Trump should carry over to the Republican party that nominated him and the conservative movement that mostly supports him. If he is indeed permitted to embody the party and the movement without challenge, the fortunes of both will be at the mercy of President Trump's own fortunes.

The rest is here.