I have put up a paper on SSRN that I’ve been working on, “Embracing the Opposition: The Conservative Appropriation of Liberal Critiques,” that explores the appropriation of the critiques and rhetoric of liberals and progressives by modern conservatives. In it, I argue that in the last twenty years American conservatives have (mis)appropriated rhetorical critiques of their political opponents, especially regarding the authority of science and of regulatory agencies, originally initiated by liberals in the 1970s-1990s.
Looked at historically, this appropriation is particularly interesting because it was originally progressive liberals who pushed for the regulatory agencies they would later come to resist by the late 1960s, and it is liberals again who have turned back again to both science and administrative agencies. Originally opposed by conservatives in the early part of the twentieth century, these agencies were in many respects tamed by the business establishment in the 1950s and 1960s, before conservatives turned against them again beginning with Reagan in the 1980s and continuing on to today’s Republican Party. The modern conservative attack has not been limited to federal government agencies, however. It now extends to many areas, especially those related to science and rationality, including, for example, medicine and vaccination, global climate change, and even gay marriage.