How many times recently have you heard the term neoconservative, or more often “neocon”, used as a slur against a group of people within the Republican party? I wasn’t exactly sure who was the target of those flinging the slurs. Researching, I found the opinions of four prominent people on the following question:
What is a neoconservative and who are they?
Rich Lowry, editor of National Review:
Historically, 30 years ago it meant a former liberal who became a conservative. The cliche was because “they were mugged by reality,” but it was because they saw the empirical failures of liberal welfare, state and foreign policies, and they were therefore less ideological than other conservatives and brought much more of a social science background to their argumentation.
Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation:
They are mostly ex-liberals, by and large out of the intellectual community. These are people who came to the realization that modern liberalism was not the kind of liberalism that they had subscribed to. They are a fairly small group of people, both in and out of government. Those who are out of government are in either the media or academia. They are influential because they promote each other. They are very skilled at that.
Paul Gigot, editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page:
I think of neoconservatism as having a very specific meaning related to history. That is, the neoconservatives were people who in the 1970s were former liberals, in some cases socialists, who moved right in reaction to the left’s shift on cultural mores, personal responsibility and foreign policy. So I think the term “neoconservative” has that narrow meaning of that historical period. I think of them as the Podhoretzes and the Kristols and others. I don’t think “neoconservative” means much anymore. I don’t know what it means now or who they’re referring to.
George Will, the syndicated columnist:
Oh, that’s not a simple question. Neoconservatives are persons who in domestic policy often were former Democrats who felt that conservatives had erred in not accepting the post-New Deal role of the central government. They were in their early incarnation focusing on domestic policy and were distinguishing themselves from Goldwater conservatives.
While the opinions differed slightly, it appears that all agree that the neocons all come from the same base, all disaffected (for slightly different reasons) liberals, and perhaps now I truly understand why the word, usually voiced by members of the left is used in an insulting way, they may not truly even understand the origins of the word but I do wonder if they understand that they are looking extremely petty for referring in this manner to a group of people originally from their ranks, people they were unable to keep within their own “fold”.