Let me get past the difficult part first: I'm a recovering liberal.
Yes, it's been decades since I left those benighted legions and became a conservative. But I remember employing name-calling instead of fact-based arguments when I was an impressionable lad under the sway of leftist professors.
I also recall a twinge of guilt for insisting on the likelihood of implausible outcomes that allowed me to seem compassionate. For instance, I knew in my gut that if the United States pulled out of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos without first securing actual peace instead of the chimeric promises of the Paris accords, the communists would kill hundreds of thousands. But, hey, give peace a chance.
Fast-forward, and we now face a similar situation in Iraq with bloodthirsty killers on the march. Nobody wants to go back in, but few would deny the likely fate of people there who cooperated with us.
In the 1970s, as the Vietnamese boat people took to the sea and Cambodia's communist holocaust unfolded, it pushed me toward the view that good intentions, which liberals brandish to ward off evidence of disasters they cause (see: Detroit), are not enough. Also, that not everyone has good intentions toward this country.
I recall vividly when a speaker at my college led an anti-war rally, applauding the communist Viet Cong, and pledging revolution — in the United States.
That's when the light went on.
I began recovering appreciation for American exceptionalism that my long-suffering, patriotic family had taken for granted. I started to really listen to debates. Often, it was the evil conservatives who were polite and informed, using reason and facts. I didn't yet always agree with them, but I admired their civility.
For people who insist that morality is relative, liberals use more morally loaded terms than you can pile into an environmentally correct Prius. If you disagree with their latest push, you're on the "wrong side of history." That's what Caligula used to say in between orgies as he turned the once-proud senators of the Roman Republic into geldings. Honestly, what part of his being a god and their being mere mortals didn't they understand?
In my formative years I also noticed that many leftist men, who supposedly bought into feminism, treated women badly. Their idea of being a gentleman was making sure someone — preferably not them — paid for the girl's abortion while they scored a bag of weed.
One guy, a pacifist, told me in front of his girlfriend that there was nothing worth fighting for — period. "I simply will not add to world conflict," he said, puffing up his scrawny chest. I asked, "what if someone attacked your girlfriend?" She suddenly got very interested.
"I wouldn't fight," he answered smugly. Glancing at his wide-eyed companion, I upped the ante, asking if, with one non-lethal punch, he could save her, would he? "Nope," he said, folding his arms. I don't think he got lucky that night, if you know what I mean, which is just as well. I'm pretty sure they weren't married.
Another striking aspect of modern liberalism is hypocrisy. Many liberals — not all — preach tolerance while acting hatefully. The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, operates an online "hate map" that gives addresses of Christian organizations that support natural marriage. So what if it prompted a man to attempt a mass murder at the Family Research Council? It's still up.
Finally, liberalism loves — is positively dippy about — the use of force. Since many Americans instinctively resist socialist impulses, liberals are quick to reach for their shotguns. Well, not shotguns, since the Robertsons use them to shoot ducks on "Duck Dynasty," but rather the big guns of mandates, confiscatory taxes and dictates from bureaucrats intent on transforming America into a replica of East Germany.
Purporting to speak for "the people," liberals work feverishly to remove freedom of choice — except for having abortions, of course. Their native tongue is "coercion." Read through the 2,700 pages of the Affordable Care Act and marvel at the mandates backed by fines, which, if not paid, mean jail time. Obamacare is their Disneyland.
Psychologists use the term "projection" to describe the act of projecting your own feelings, values and foibles on someone or something. There's truth in this. Hit yourself on the thumb with a hammer and you might say, "Stupid hammer," or something saltier, depending on proximity of spectators.
Liberalism projects its own insecurities, bad habits and lust for power on its opponents. We all do, to some extent. As the Bible says, "there is no one good; no, not one." The left has made it an art form.
At Tea Party rallies in 2009, participants left parks cleaner than they found them and gave police no problems, in stark contrast to rampant criminality at the leftist Occupy rallies. Liberal media vilified Tea Partyers while applauding the passionate "activism" of the Occupiers.
Some Tea Party participants at town hall meetings grew animated over Obamacare, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call them "un-American." Majority Leader Harry Reid branded Tea Party members "evil-mongers." Mr. Reid now rants madly almost daily about the "billionaire Koch brothers" even as he welcomes George Soros' largesse for leftist causes.
When liberals are merely eccentric, they're curiosities. However, when they acquire power, they can run over people by the millions while giving themselves a "high five" — for good intentions.
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.