I have been having an email exchange with a familial relation of a very prominent conservative. I know him (though I've never actually seen him in person) through a familial relation of mine that lives near to him. I shall save the details for confidentiality's sake--suffice it to say that he is a very strong conservative, and very intellectual.
We have been exchanging emails originally based on an article in the National Review. What is interesting is that he did not call the National Review "conservative" or "rightist" or any other such word--he used the term "counter-socialist" to describe it. Later on in the exchange he said the the National Review was a foil to the progessive--that is, "socialist," ideology.
I was flabberghasted, and frankly a little insulted. I responded to him concerning these statements that the equation of the term "progressive" with "socialist was completely incorrect and that liberals are for the most part free enterprise capitalists who believe in having a strong social safety net, and that is exactly the way I described myself, since I had, after all, started my own business in conjunction with my brother and was a free enterprise capitalist myself. He said that he was "pleasantly surprised" that I called myself a capitalist.
Surprised? Really? Shocked that I don't avidly support Soviet-style communism or something? Is that really how bad political discourse has gotten in this country, that even the most educated, intellectual conservatives have a genuine belief that liberals don't believe in free enterprise and want state socialism?
I went to a fundraiser with Mark Warner tonight--I'll blog about that soon. Maybe if we nominate for the presidency the founder of a major corporation (Nextel, in Warner's case), the conservatives will actually realize that we too believe in free enterprise--we just believe in a strong social safety net, in strong unions, workplace safety regulations, etc. to create the balance between owner and employer that leads to a strong and productive society.
This conversation has opened my eyes to one thing in particular--when I get called a communist by various people of the opposing political ideology, that's not some hateful hyperbole--that's their genuine opinion. Because if that's what the more educated ones who have experience with major state and national politics believe, imagine the ones who don't have that same experience. That's just scary.