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THE NOT-SO-NEO RATS | 2002-04-27

Neoconservatives are the liberals who, around 1970, suddenly realized that the left was turning public opinion against them and therefore switched sides.

In 1950, the word "liberal" was a compliment. By 1970, no one wanted to be called a liberal, even in New York politics. The real rats among the liberals could feel the water coming up around their necks. So they jumped ship by dropping the liberal label and calling themselves "neoconservatives."

As one neoconservative put it, "I was a social democrat and I am a social democrat."

In the 1950s and 1960s conservatives had told all the liberals that liberalism would lead to treason and policy disasters. Neoconservatives say that nothing liberals did before 1970 was wrong.

Neoconservatives say that one day about January 1, 1970, liberalism switched from absolute rightness to disaster. At that moment they became neoconservatives, so they were right before that to be liberals and they were right after that to sell liberals out.