Meet the Crunchy Conservatives
They eat organic food, ignore TV, and question republican values
Conservatives who make their own granola? Republicans who oppose sprawl and consumerism? Hard-core right-winger Pat Buchanan condemning corporate greed and the Iraq war? Welcome to America’s changing political landscape, where progressives might find some unlikely allies on a number of important issues. —The Editors
One day last summer, I told a colleague I had to leave early to pick up my weekly batch of fresh vegetables from the organic food co-op to which my wife, Julie, and I belong. “Ewgh, that’s so lefty,” she said. And she was right: Organic vegetables are a left-wing cliché. Indeed, I once made fun of neighbors who belong to a co-op that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables from local organic farms to our Brooklyn streets. But then the neighbors gave us one week’s vegetable shipment, and we were knocked flat by the intense flavors. Who knew cauliflower had so much taste? It was the freshness of the produce, not its organic status (of dubious nutritional advantage), that we were responding to. Now, Julie usually picks up our weekly delivery in her National Review tote bag.
It never occurred to me that eating organic vegetables was a political act, but my colleague’s comment got me to thinking about other ways my family’s lifestyle is countercultural. Julie is a stay-at-home mom who is beginning to homeschool our young son. We worship at an “ethnic” Catholic church because we can’t take the Wonder Bread liturgy at the Roman parish down the street. We are as suspicious of big business as we are of big government. We rarely watch TV, disdain modern architecture and suburban sprawl, avoid shopping malls, and spend our money on good food we prepare at home. My wife even makes her own granola. And yet we are almost always the most conservative people in the room—granted, not much of a trick if you live in New York City, but we’re still pretty far out there.
So how did we get to be so “crunchy”—as in “crunchy-granola,” a slang term for earthy types—without realizing what was happening? Much of our crunchy conservatism comes from simply being carried along by the tide of our lives, and discovering by trial and error things that work well. But it’s also grounded in basic attitudes we’ve long held. That, generally speaking, Small and Local and Particular and Old are better. That beauty in all its forms is important to the good life. That the bright glare of television and the cacophony of media culture make it too hard to discern the call of truth and wisdom. That we are citizens before we are consumers. And most important of all, that faith and family are the true point of life.
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