Why CAN’T I be a conservative-liberal, or liberal-conservative?

Lincoln was as radical a change agent as this nation has seen -- but his chief goal at every step was to conserve the union.

Lincoln was a conservative liberal. He was as radical a change agent as this nation has seen — but his chief goal at every step was to conserve the union.

The answer is, there’s no reason I can’t. In fact that’s what I am. But dang, it’s hard to explain to people, even though it seems natural to me.

Harry Harris and I were having a good discussion about political labels — ones that people apply to their opponents, and ones they apply to themselves (which can be just as irritating sometimes) — on a previous post. The thread started here.

The last thing Harry said about it was this:

My experience with self-labeled persons has been colored by encountering the very aspect of labeling that you parody. A frequent irritant is the conversion of an adjective (conservative, liberal) into a noun – “a conservative” or a whatever. What is it you want to conserve, Mr Conservative? What liberty do you want to unleash, Mr. Liberal? The assumption of a label, other than as a general description, often leads to a forced skewing of one’s understanding of many important ideas or issues. It often then promotes group-think and seeking-out only opinion or fact that would reinforce the prevailing attitude associated with that label. Many of us are overly binary in our thinking, and I believe the prevalence of self-adopted labels promotes such thinking as we basically throw ourselves in with that group. Then starts the name-calling. Now we feel almost compelled to label “those people” as leftists, liberals, commies, gringos, flat-earthers, knuckle-dragging reactionaries, or tree-huggers. I’m a liberal, Southern Baptist, Jesus-follower. The first few parts of my label are just adjectives. I’m probably more conservative on matters of church polity than my “conservative” Southern Baptist brothers and sisters. I’m more conservative on child-rearing related to behavior and decorum than most – but more liberal on allowing children to question and reject my theology and values. I ran a strict classroom with clear and strongly-enforced limits – but those limits allowed as much discretion and freedom as my students could handle – tailored to the situation. Was I liberal or conservative? I changed my mind and my practices on issues as experience dictated. Was I liberal or conservative? Or did I not let labels get in the way.
Labels can increase polarization, and self-adopting those labels equates to giving in to that polarization in my opinion.

Lots of good points there. My response ran along these lines…

The thing is, despite how irritating it has become to hear them, “conservative” and “liberal” are perfectly good words, implying perfectly good things. If only the people in and around our political system hadn’t dragged them through the mire over the past 50 years.

It’s a good thing to be conservative. It means, more than anything else, that you respect tradition — which is a value I cherish. It means respecting those who went before you, instead of assuming that “progress” means you’re better and wiser than those old dead dudes (which you’re not, especially if you have that attitude). It implies caution and responsibility. It means you don’t go off half-cocked. It means you respect the fundamental institutions of society — the family, the church, and yep, the government and its component institutions, such as the police, the military and the public schools.

“Liberal” also means good things. It means you favor liberty. It means you believe in pluralism, and freedom of conscience — including the views of people who don’t share yours. It means openness to new ideas. It means a willingness to change things if they aren’t as good as they should be. It means being generous. ALL Americans should be liberal, including conservatives, because conservatives believe in our institutions and underlying principles, and the essence of our system is that it is a liberal democracy.

The ideal public servant, in light of all that, would be both liberal and conservative, and I see no contradiction in that. For instance, you can have a deep respect for, and deference to, existing institutions while at the same time wanting to improve them. It means you can be a change agent while being cautious and responsible in your approach to change.

But folks who’ve been brainwashed by our parties, and by media that cover politics like is HAS to be a competition between two mutually exclusive teams (the sports model of coverage, which I despise), aren’t able to conceive of the two concepts going together. Language that should bring us together builds walls between us.

This leads to a great deal of misunderstanding. A lot of folks thought I was nuts, back in 2008, when I said I was happy either way the presidential election came out. The two parties had nominated the two people who I thought were the best candidates — John McCain and Barack Obama. It was the greatest win-win situation I’d seen in my adult life — the choice in November was between the two people we had endorsed in their respective primaries. Force to choose, I chose McCain over Obama — but I was pleased with Obama’s victory. Of course neither man was perfect — no one is. But they were both awfully good.

That made some people think I’d lost it, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

I am conservative, and I am liberal, or I try to be. We should all strive to be both, as I defined them above. We should use these fine qualities to unite us, not as a means of separating us — which is what I’ve seen, unfortunately, for most of my adult life.

John Adams was a conservative liberal. He was a revolutionary, but a conservative one, who cherished the rule of law.

John Adams was a conservative liberal. He was a revolutionary, but a conservative one, who cherished the rule of law.

44 thoughts on “Why CAN’T I be a conservative-liberal, or liberal-conservative?

  1. Holly Gatling

    The words liberal and conservative are clichés now. That is why I call myself pro-life. Being pro-life is not a liberal value or a conservative value. It is a human value.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, so am I, but that’s hardly all-encompassing. Bernardin’s Consistent Ethic covers a lot of issues, but not all issues.

      In any case, a pro-life person can’t be either liberal or conservative as those are popularly defined today…

      Reply
  2. bud

    It means you respect the fundamental institutions of society — the family, the church, and yep, the government and its component institutions, such as the police, the military and the public schools.
    -Brad

    This statement is entirely too vague to have any real meaning. The traditional definition of family values for instance suggests alternative lifestyles like gay couples are immoral. If you broaden that to include all types of family options then ok. What exactly is “the church”? Some churches, Westboro Baptist for instance, are downright disgusting. So to blandly suggest respect for “the church” is just not a statement I can respect.

    The bigger problem I have with this statement is that it is really obsolete. The term conservative has evolved into an entirely different concept, one that I just cannot endorse. Today’s meaning is one of oppression and reactionary policies that would cancel authentic, positive progress. A conservative would ban gay marriage; promote religious indoctrination of our children; turn a blind eye to police brutality; limit woman’s role in the military (and in other places as well); suppress voting rights; limit immigration; and strip environmental, consumer and employee protections from commerce in the name of freedom but in fact are merely ways to move in the direction of plutocracy. In short, I have to reject this quaint, obsolete description of “conservative” because it is essentially useless in today’s political environment.

    Reply
  3. Reply

    And what about those of us who respect (certain) traditions but who don’t consider ourselves political conservatives? I think that’s quite possible too. There are very few people who respect every tradition, just by virtue of it being tradition. We all, at one time or another and in one area or another, have said or thought, that’s old hat, time for a change. It’s just human nature to want to move on to one degree or another. In that sense, we’re all “progressives.”

    “Conservative” and “liberal” isn’t a binary choice. And I doubt there’s such a thing as a mashup of the two. Instead, they’re defined in a relative way and situationally. To a far right-winger, anybody who doesn’t agree with him is “extreme left.” And vice versa with someone on the far left. Most of the rest of us inhabit a broad spectrum somewhere between the two and define ourselves and our views in relation to others. Plus, the label that gets applied to a person may change without them changing their fundamental views. I may be considered “liberal” in much South Carolina, but “conservative” elsewhere. And then there’s the fact that what’s considered “conservative” or “liberal” (or “socialist” for that matter) can change over time. Much of the Socialist Party platform of the early 20th century is now part of our daily lives, but that doesn’t make us a “socialist country,” does it? So while the labels aren’t meaningless, it’s the views and positions that underlie them that are the important thing.

    Reply
  4. Scout

    To me what feels like the primary characteristic of the liberal point of view is tending to consider more information, more points of view, and look deeper into problems to understand them before deciding what to do. This approach tends to make you open to more possibilities for solutions to problems and tends to make the realm of what you define as ok in the general scheme of things to be broader.

    I realize that the above description sounds a lot like the P side of the P/J spectrum on the meyers briggs personality scale. But I think in real life it is not nearly so cut and dried. I feel sure there are a lot of P meyers briggs types who consider themselves conservative. The interactions of the other preferences clearly also would play a role. I would similarly guess that on the N/S scale – N would tend liberal and S would tend conservative, and for F/T F would tend liberal and T would tend conservative. I have no idea if there would be any correlation between introversion/extroversion. But then how that plays out in individual people is probably very complex and may not be predictable based on type.

    These people tried to find patterns, though.
    http://politicaltypes.com/index.php/public-politics/public-politics-articles?layout=edit&id=79

    It’s interesting.

    What infuriates me most in today’s political climate is people who use the terms “liberal” and “conservative” as derogatory labels rather than descriptions of legitimate but differing points of view. Ann Coulter is the poster child for this in my mind. Though I know there are plenty of examples on the other side too.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “I feel sure there are a lot of P meyers briggs types who consider themselves conservative.”

      Yeah, I think you’re right on that, and for that reason, I would reject the P/J scale as an indicator.

      However, I think you’re onto something with N/S. An S is by definition a conservative, compared to us extreme Ns with our tendency to soar into the sky with our intuitive perceptions, while the S folks keep their feet firmly planted on the ground, quite sure that we’re just making it all up.

      I could argue it either way on I/E. You’d think, for instance, that an introvert would be conservative, because he gets his energy and approval from within, and isn’t that susceptible to waves of change in his surroundings. On the other hand, the introvert is more likely to seek change if he sees it as the thing that’s needed, regardless of whether people around him agree (it seems like this would be particularly likely with an intuitive type, although an IN can go the other way, too — if he intuitively sees that the latest thing the crowd embraces is a bad idea, he will stick to the status quo without regard to what people think of him). In that sense, the crowd that the extravert relies on could hold the extravert back, causing him to resist new ideas.

      I love playing around with Myers-Briggs, as y’all may have noticed before.

      By the way, I’m an INTP. The degrees vary. I’m extremely, like almost off-the-charts, introverted and intuitive. And while I’m a thinker and a perceiver (and proud of it; I like those labels), I’m actually closer to the middle of the spectrum on those.

      Myers-Briggs seems a far superior set of descriptors to liberal-conservative, as the terms are used today….

      Reply
    2. Bryan Caskey

      “To me what feels like the primary characteristic of the liberal point of view is tending to consider more information, more points of view, and look deeper into problems to understand them before deciding what to do.”

      Oh, come on. So people who don’t have a “liberal point of view” don’t tend consider enough information, don’t take into account enough points of view, and don’t look deep enough into problems? Just because someone doesn’t come to the same conclusions on policy matters as someone with a “liberal point of view” where reasonable minds can differ doesn’t mean they’re close-minded and dumb.

      I mean, you might have well have just said: “People with a liberal point of view are smarter.

      Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        That was my response as well. It would be more believable if some said something like “The group I don’t consider myself to be part of is much smarter than mine”. It’s a self-fulfilling feel-good way to validate your own beliefs (i.e. a very liberal way of thinking). Stuart Smalley would be proud: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn people love me”.

        Reply
      2. Scout

        I’m sorry you heard it that way. That’s not what I meant and I don’t think that’s what I said.

        “Just because someone doesn’t come to the same conclusions on policy matters as someone with a “liberal point of view” where reasonable minds can differ doesn’t mean they’re close-minded and dumb.”

        I agree completely. I don’t think anything I said negates that.

        ” So people who don’t have a “liberal point of view” don’t tend consider enough information, don’t take into account enough points of view, and don’t look deep enough into problems?”

        I make no judgments on what is “enough”. I’m merely observing that it seems to be a spectrum with liberals on the ‘more’ end. I don’t know that that is always good. It is quite possible to be overwhelmed and immobilized by considering too many possibilities. I feel certain that there are some times both that “liberals” consider too much and “conservatives” consider not enough. And other times when each get it right. Probably both styles are needed in different situations. Like I said above, both are “legitimate but differing points of view”.

        Sorry if it came out otherwise.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Also, I’m guessing Scout would agree with me about this…

          A lot of the people today who would call themselves “liberal” — using the currently popular sense of the word, not the way I use it — are far from liberal-minded.

          They are just as closed in their attitudes as anyone else. And they are utterly dismissive — using terms like “haters,” for instance — of anyone who disagrees with them.

          And that’s the problem — too many people who currently see themselves as “liberals” and “conservatives” are both set in stone, unflexible…

          Reply
      3. JesseS

        Supposedly liberals are smarter, at least on IQ test averages. Not that I buy that. If you found a race who had a lower average on IQ tests, we’d suggest that it was caused by external factors. If someone of a particular ideology scores lower, it’s because they are dumb and only an idiot would believe those ideas. That doesn’t strike me as a rational conclusion. One or the other has to be true. Wouldn’t someone just as easily believe those ideas because of external factors?

        Then again maybe I’m doing what many progressives love to remind others of and I’m making a false equivalency.

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        1. Richard

          If liberals are smarter, why do they make so much less money? Who’s smarter… someone who goes to college to be a business major or a social work major? An engineering major or a English Literature major? Peace Corp volunteer or someone who goes for an MBA?

          Reply
          1. Bryan Caskey

            Well, someone’s intelligence isn’t strictly defined by their income. Sure, sure, intelligent people can make money by developing skills/products that other people will pay for.

            But it’s not necessarily so. There are plenty of intelligent people who don’t make a lot of money, and there are plenty of people who make lots of money who aren’t terribly intelligent.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              That post of Richard’s is just bizarre.

              And I thought DOUG believed money explained everything. It doesn’t seem to occur to Richard that intelligent people are interested in things other than money.

              If a person is going to college to make money, then of course he will choose a course of study that leads to making money.

              But it never occurred to me for a moment to choose the courses I took based on future earnings. And I don’t want to get into a bragging thing, but pretty much any measurement you want to go by will tell you I’m a pretty smart guy.

              Also — don’t I keep hearing and reading that liberals are to be found mostly in the nation’s richest enclaves — that Democrats live in the wealthy neighborhoods, while the people who voted for Trump tended to be more on the economic fringes?

              That certainly doesn’t mean they’re smarter, but they do tend to be rather affluent, for whatever you think that’s worth — except, you know, those kids who went for Bernie…

              Reply
              1. Reply

                Talk about caricatures:
                “I keep hearing and reading that liberals are to be found mostly in the nation’s richest enclaves — that Democrats live in the wealthy neighborhoods, while the people who voted for Trump tended to be more on the economic fringes?”

                Comes pretty close to calling Democrats rich, effete elitists.

                And as for those “economic fringes,” it’s just not true that the white working class formed the core of Trump’s voters. The majority of the working class vote went to Clinton. And the white working class didn’t vote for the Republican in any higher percentage this time than in any past presidential election:
                http://www.thestate.com/opinion/article155570999.html

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          2. Harry Harris

            That’s the kind of thinking you get in a frighteningly materialistic society. Kind of like Ayn Rand’s beef with those religious folks. Of course, I’d still maintain that it is pure laziness with a strong dose of goofiness to attribute a prominent characteristic of any group to all of its members. That’s another pitfall of labeling.

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          3. Scout

            Why on Earth would you assume that the objective of “smart” people is only to make the most money? If a person’s objective is to do fulfilling work that makes them happy for whatever reason and they choose a course that will allow them to succeed at meeting their personal objective, that sounds pretty smart to me. Income is irrelevant if it was never the objective.

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        2. Scout

          IQ tests just measure aptitude for being successful at traditional schooling. That is literally what the first IQ test was invented to predict when it was first developed. There are lots of ways of being smart that IQ tests don’t measure. So it may well be that liberals have qualities that tend to help them do well in traditional schooling, be book smart, and test well. That’s not the whole story. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually “smarter”.

          There are smart people in both groups.

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      4. bud

        Are People with a liberal point of view are smarter? I don’t know about smarter but certainly more empathetic and willing to learn from history. Progress never comes about by adopting the conservative point of view. Take a current issue, coal. Conservatives don’t just respect tradition they cling to positions that are already lost. We’re not going back to the level of coal usage that we once did. And for many well established economic reasons. Yet conservatives push coal production as a policy goal. That’s typical of all conservative policies. It is just a fundamentally flawed philosophy that leads to dangerous outcomes.

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          1. scout

            Weren’t you just the guy the other day saying how bad it was that this guy turned out to be left wing because people were going to think he is indicative of liberalism and use this to amp the rhetoric between liberals and conservatives, but you said they shouldn’t do that on account of how far outside the realm of normal it is for any human to shoot other humans so he should not be considered a typical liberal.

            At least thats how I interpreted what you said and I thought you were right.

            His tendency to shoot other humans is not typical of liberalism just like his lack of empathy is not typical of liberalism. His left wingedness could be incidental to the mental flaw or disease process that allowed him to do this.

            I wish we lived in a world where people generally had the intellectual honesty and awareness to concede things like this instead of whooping like they get a point because it wasn’t somebody on their team who did the bad thing. (And im not saying you did that. But Many people do/did. Its depressing)

            Can we agree that when people snap and become violent, they are most likely outliers and should not be considered exemplars of any ideology they profess to represent – that the mental flaw or disease process that caused them to snap is probably more at fault than the ideology.

            Probably. If the ideology promotes violence, it could be different, but liberalism does not.

            Reply
            1. Bryan Caskey

              “Weren’t you just the guy the other day saying how bad it was that this guy turned out to be left wing because people were going to think he is indicative of liberalism and use this to amp the rhetoric between liberals and conservatives, but you said they shouldn’t do that on account of how far outside the realm of normal it is for any human to shoot other humans so he should not be considered a typical liberal.

              At least thats how I interpreted what you said and I thought you were right.”

              I am disappointed that this guy was left wing, because it will add more fuel to the fire. Democrats have been accusing Republicans of having their rhetoric be the cause of people’s violence since Palin and Loughner, even though it’s complete horse-hockey. So after all these years and constant accusations, there’s now a left wing guy who went to DC with the express intent of killing Republicans.

              I’m not a “blame the rhetoric guy”. Rhetoric doesn’t cause violence. People can use any basis for their actions, but at the end of the day, it’s that person’s actions, not someone else’s.

              HOWEVER, having said that…in my less charitable moments, I’m also not a guy who likes a situation where the Democrats have made a rule that Republicans and their rhetoric are to blame for violence, but somehow this rule doesn’t apply to Democrats. Personally, I think the rule that people are to blame for other people’s violence is a bad rule.

              But even worse than a bad rule is a bad rule applied in an unequal way. Rather than arguing over the rule, I want to establish a more foundational issue: The rules apply equally to everyone. Only in applying the rule equally, will Democrats see that it’s a bad rule. I don’t think the rule of “rhetoric causes violence is being equally applied”.

              So in my less charitable times, I feel like maybe instead of being constantly assaulted and accused of being responsible for other people’s actions, maybe I’ll stop turning the other cheek and apply the same rule. It’s a bad cycle, but at some point I get tired of turning the other cheek and having people like bud constantly keep abusing the rules.

              Reply
        1. Bryan Caskey

          Saying that conservatives don’t have empathy is the height of arrogance. Democrats are always going on and on about how Republicans have no empathy. I’m so tired of it. You know why you keep losing elections? I’ll tell you.

          Guns are a perfect example. Perfect. Most Democrats assume that Republicans disagree with them on this issue because Republicans lack empathy, rather than simply having a contradictory view on how to best shape policy and the law.

          That’s why there are articles in Salon and interviews on the news with Republicans who were victims of the shooting, and all these gun control folks are gobsmacked that the Republicans, who are now victims, don’t seem to be changing their mind. They’re astounded, because these gun control folks seem to think that NOW!, now, that the Republicans are victims of gun violence, they’ll have empathy for other gun violence victims, and they’ll abandon their previous position and agree with the Democrats.

          But guess what, buttercup?

          There aren’t two groups of people as follows:

          A. People who are upset by people killing other with guns.
          B. People who are NOT upset by people killing others with guns.

          These are not the groups. Democrats like you think these are the groups. It’s why you say we lack empathy. That’s why I get accused of lacking “empathy”. That’s why all the gun control folks are astounded that the Republicans who are victims haven’t changed their minds.

          You want the real groups? Here you go:

          A. People who believe more government restriction of guns is a good idea.
          B. People who believe more government restriction of guns is a bad idea.

          That’s where you miss the boat. Gun control advocates don’t think I have empathy. They tell me that “I don’t care if children get shot”. They think that if they can somehow appeal to my empathy and “activate” it, then I’ll abandon my position and accept theirs. The reason that this whole “Think of the children!!” argument doesn’t work is this:

          I already am.

          And it’s terribly condescending. It’s why you lose. This condescension is why Democrats have lost most people. It’s why you’ll continue to lose. People can bear lots of burdens and accept lots of things. But mostly, people will not accept condescension and personal insults. I could do this on just about any issue. Like coal, for instance. Just go change a few words.

          It’s why you got Trump. For all his faults (and he has them in spades) voters didn’t feel condescended to by him. Think about that for a minute. People elected this stupid, reality-TV bird-brain, who lies like people breathe, who is ignorant of our history, who has no idea what he’s doing, and who is blindly trying to get things done…rather than vote for the candidate of the party of condescension.

          Keep it up, and you’ll get him re-elected.

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          1. Richard

            I wonder how the Chicago shootng & death watch is doing compared to previous year. Lots of gun loving Republicans living on the south side.

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          2. bud

            Let’s just leave guns out of this discussion. I don’t get the pro gun culture but it really isn’t the issue I had in mind with empathy. But I stand firm that conservatives do not have the same level of empathy as liberals. It was a liberal policy to abolish slavery. Liberals gave women the right to vote. Liberal integrated schools and the army. Liberals created the environment to legalize intr racial and gay marriage. I stand firm in my conviction, unapologetically so, that liberals are more empathetic than conservatives.

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            1. bud

              And just for the record conservatives are incredibly condescending on many issues including coal. They talk down about the scientists who spend their lives tirelessly conducting research to determine the causes of global warming with some dismissive suggestion that they say what they say in order to get more research funding. Those charges smack of condescension. Another example, Flint MI. How condescending can you get ramming a Rick Snyder toady down the throat of the people of Flint to “save” them from their ignorance. Hope that have good meals in prison.

              So keep on accusing liberals of being condescending and a Republican will never, ever win the popular vote for POTUS again.

              Reply
    3. JesseS

      It’s an interesting idea, but I dunno.

      Normally I’m a total introvert, but if you give me a few beers and start a conversation about something I’m passionate about, I’m the biggest livewire in the room. Like any subject that sits on the knife’s edge of self-preservation our politics generally inspire passion.

      The introverts become extroverts, the thinking become feeling, intuition becomes sensing, and perceiving becomes iron clad judgement. You can take a guy who allows people to walk all over him in his day job and when it comes to politics he is ready to gut everyone with a bayonet. With enough stress most of us become the opposite of who we generally are.

      The big safeguard in all of this is our principles. It gives us someone to be when we aren’t sure of who we are at the time. It may instruct us to defer to our faiths or stick to our absolutes on civil liberties when the world is in chaos.

      Reply
  5. Phillip

    Bryan, good points about gun control and “condescension,” —but even though it seems like that has become primarily a partisan issue, there is a certain layer of complexity about that particular issue (civil liberties, Bill of Rights, etc) that a little bit cuts across party lines. For example, Bernie is not the rabid gun-control advocate that many in his party are, and you have some others as well–I hope we can move the discussion off the pure emotional plane and talk about practical solutions.

    But as to the expansion of your point, Bud was right, the idea that the poor conservatives are the only group that has had to endure “insults and condescension” is ludicrous. Modern conservatism is founded on the principle of denigrating those at the economic margins as “losers” and “takers,” and assigning greater moral value to a Donald Trump and all his clever (and probably legal) tax evasion than to the poor guy or gal working 2 minimum wage jobs trying to support a family. The GOP has maintained periodic electoral success by exploiting racial and cultural divisions among the working class, by holding up scapegoats for economic/income stagnation—the black “welfare queen”, immigrants (illegal and legal), and so on.

    In general, modern conservatism (and by this I mean generally the post-Gerald Ford, post-Everett Dirksen era) seems to me to be animated by a kind of “might-makes-right” philosophy, which permeates both their economic thinking (the strong should get stronger and stronger by means of more tax breaks, while class-mobility should be reduced ) and their geopolitical thinking (though, as really part of neo-conservatism, that too cuts across party lines to some extent), where diplomacy is less preferred to displays of American strength, where a world permanently molded to our wishes at the missile-point of American military supremacy is to be desired. Then, too, there are global environmental considerations. I’m not sure what “condescension” you’re referring to in regards to the coal industry, but what could be more condescending, insulting, and dismissive to an even larger group (all the people following us on the planet in 100 years and beyond) than to ignore a challenge for that planetary future in favor of greater profits for a few select corporate-industrial donors now? Thinking about the future planet and billions of people who haven’t even been born yet requires the supreme exercise of empathy imaginable. I might not say that those who oppose actions to remedy global warming lack empathy, but I would say that it is just not as strong as the allure of present gains.

    So, while your analysis of the specific problem in the gun-control argument is excellent (and I fervently wish that we could move the discussion more to your second set of A vs. B opposing ideas rather than that first set), I would dispute the idea that Democrats or liberals are inherently more condescending or insulting or dismissive to those who oppose them than GOP-ers or conservatives are. In fact, could it be that your suggesting that is in itself a little, well, morally condescending?

    And, finally, I have no idea what you mean by “It’s why you lose. This condescension is why Democrats have lost most people. It’s why you’ll continue to lose. “—Democrats have won four of the last seven Presidential elections, SIX out of seven if you go by the pure national popular vote. Party affiliation remains roughly even. Demographics may be on the side of liberalism. It’s just as likely that Trump represents the last desperate gasp of something (which his incompetence and corrupt nature might well guarantee is indeed the end of its kind) as it is that he represents the dawn of a new conservative age of dominance. So, even if we accept your complaints about moral condescension in the gun control argument (and bear in mind I’m way closer to you on the Second Amendment than most of my liberal friends would be), your electoral analysis is way over-confident, I think.

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    1. Richard

      So in a nutshell:

      Liberals/Democrats = Good
      Conservatives/Republicans = Bad

      That was like listening to an Occupy Movement speech.

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    2. Bryan Caskey

      “For example, Bernie is not the rabid gun-control advocate that many in his party are, and you have some others as well–I hope we can move the discussion off the pure emotional plane and talk about practical solutions.”

      Agreed. Sanders is better on guns than most Democrats, and I’m always happy to talk practical solutions for making our country a safer place.

      “Modern conservatism is founded on the principle of denigrating those at the economic margins as “losers” and “takers,” and assigning greater moral value to a Donald Trump and all his clever (and probably legal) tax evasion than to the poor guy or gal working 2 minimum wage jobs trying to support a family.”

      I would respectfully disagree with this premise. Modern conservatism is not founded on denigrating anyone. Modern conservatism is based upon the value of individual liberty. It’s based on the idea that concentrating power in the federal government is not the best way to do things over our large republic. Washington should be full of people who want to return power to local citizens wherever possible and to the greatest extent possible because American citizens are free people who can decide for themselves what is the best thing for their local needs.

      “In general, modern conservatism (and by this I mean generally the post-Gerald Ford, post-Everett Dirksen era) seems to me to be animated by a kind of “might-makes-right” philosophy, which permeates both their economic thinking (the strong should get stronger and stronger by means of more tax breaks, while class-mobility should be reduced ) and their geopolitical thinking (though, as really part of neo-conservatism, that too cuts across party lines to some extent), where diplomacy is less preferred to displays of American strength, where a world permanently molded to our wishes at the missile-point of American military supremacy is to be desired.”

      All of this is entirely wrong. Economic conservatism seeks to free ALL people from unnecessarily high taxation and one-size-fits-all regulation. Economic conservatism, again, underpinned by the belief in individual liberty seeks to have all people succeed. Mostly, people who are starting in small businesses would benefit from a conservative policy. On the contrary, high taxation and high regulation creates an environment where only a few large companies can survive.

      Economic conservatism seeks to have highly fluid economic-class system. Where else but in the United States can someone come with nothing and rise to the pinnacle of wealth in one generation? It’s called the American Dream, and modern conservatism champions it.

      As far as foreign policy is concerned, “a world permanently molded to our wishes”? Americans want other countries to have Western values of freedom, liberty, human rights, and other widely accepted Western values. I’d be okay with a world molded to those wishes. If a country’s people doesn’t wish to share those values, that’s fine. But Americans will always stand ready to assist a people who want such values but are hampered by a totalitarian government. As for people out there who want to hurt Americans and our allies? Yeah, I’m good to use military force if it’s necessary.

      “And, finally, I have no idea what you mean by ‘It’s why you lose. This condescension is why Democrats have lost most people. It’s why you’ll continue to lose.'”

      It’s why you lose hearts and minds of those who might not necessarily disagree with you. I wasn’t trying to get into a technical analysis of electoral math. It’s like the old fable about the Sun and North Wind’s Argument. Most of our political discourse is like the North Wind, and it just makes that man down there clutch his coat tighter around him. I’m not terribly optimistic it will change. The best way I can think of is to start with myself.

      “and bear in mind I’m way closer to you on the Second Amendment than most of my liberal friends would be”

      Don’t worry, I won’t tell them. :) Any time you want to come shooting, just let me know. I generally find that taking someone shooting is the best way to educate them about guns and break down the “othering” that occurs so often on this issue.

      Reply
        1. Bryan Caskey

          First of all, I don’t accept your premise that it’s against their interest.

          However, assuming, arguendo, that it is against their interests, human beings aren’t rational beings. We’re highly emotional, irrational creatures who make decisions based on emotions, rather than logic, all the time.

          Surely you see that.

          Reply
  6. bud

    Good back and forth between Bryan and Phillip. I would only add that both Bryan and Brad are missing a major shift in the economic component of modern conservatism. Bryan’s description matches up well with Republicans like George HW Bush or even John Kasich. But it’s clear to me that this is a distinctly minority position in the 2017 version of the
    conservatism. The Mulvaney budget outline along with Paul Ryan’s various talks on the subject smack of Ayn Rand’s worldview that wealth in and of itself encapsulates the worth and morality of a given person. The result of this craven philosophy is a type of reverse Robin Hood approach to government spending and taxation. I’ll acknowledge that it’s theoretically possible to have a system that taxes too much and rewards sloth, but the philosophy of today’s GOP is to reward the wealthy well in excess of their actual contribution to the welfare of society then market their plans as Bryan describes. The Bryan plan as I’ll call it, would not necessarily be something I would agree with entirely but it’s something I could respect. The Mulvaney/Ryan approach, not so much.

    Reply

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