One of the many aphoristic raps on liberals is that they're actually conservatives who haven't yet been mugged by reality. The real men of conservatism, along with scattered but diminishing numbers of real women, simply never tire of roasting this tired old chestnut: squatting on his haunches at neolithic gatherings such as CPAC, some tribal wag is always sure to remind his primitive playmates that brother so-and-so over there, now present among them, was a liberal until ...
Grunts, snorts and guffaws of knowing approval then ensue.
It's a peculiar but unfailing phenomenon, this aphoristic rap of conservatives as reality-mugged liberals: unfailing, because it never fails; peculiar, because anecdotal evidence (conservatives' preferred kind) points in the opposite direction.
Many conservatives are immensely proud of their abstract notions of how the world works or how it should work--until reality hits them in a personal way. Some young conservatives are gung-ho on the romanticism of war, for instance, until they find themselves in the unbearable carnage of one, while somewhat older conservatives denounce the evils of debt or our wicked litigiousness, until they need a huge loan or need to sue the bejesus out of some tortious wrongdoer.
Or perhaps they're philosophically, ideologically, religiously, unflinchingly opposed to all loves and marriages but the "traditional" ones--until a close family member introduces that alternate reality into their lives. I give you Ohio's Sen. Rob Portman:
I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.
That isn’t how I’ve always felt.... [But] something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way.
Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay.
My dear Senator, consider yourself lucky. The liberal-to-conservative conversion is invariably framed as the violent one of a "mugging," whereas your conservative-to-liberal conversion--on this issue, at least--is merely one of being lovingly touched by understanding and acceptance. Welcome to the real, and gentler, world.