Am I Liberal or Conservitive
The simple answer is that I am Liberal by most definitions, both classically and in terms of modern American politics. That said, I try not to fall into the trap of being on a “team” when it comes to my personal political views. I may join a team to get a specific political objective accomplished, but I like to think I am, at heart, a free political agent who puts principle over partisanship. I also try not to favor extremes. I believe in balance and restraint which makes me a kind of principled moderate. I like to listen to radical ideas, but I rarely want to adopt them in their purest form.
From a Fundamental Perspective
I tend to look at any complex system and try to understand it at some root level, then get into the nitty gritty of the details which often don’t exactly follow its underlying core. For me, the heart of liberalism is about change and the freedom to try new things. A true liberal should be open to transformation and growth, ready to take a few risks for the chance to learn something new. I see the true heart of conservatism as the desire to protect and preserve what is valued and treasured. That is why a conservative will yearn for tradition and discipline. That is why they tend to be fond of authority and order.
I earnestly think that both of these viewpoints are important for society. We should protect and honor traditions that have worked well for us and which give us a foundation on which to build into the future. But I also think we must be open to change, allowing our society and individuals to grow and adapt to the changing circumstances of life. While I think almost none of us is wholly dedicated to one or the other principle, I do think we tend to have a favorite to some degree. For some, it is a very strong preference, for others a mild one. I am fairly strong in my liberal leanings in this sense. I hate to do what everyone else does in the way everyone else does it. I feel a strong desire to do things differently and create something new. I have a very hard time with ideas like “sacred” and “unthinkable.”
I’m glad there are folks all around the spectrum on this. I reflect that it is very much how life works. Too much order and it fails to adapt, yet life requires stability and continuity to exploit functional strategies consistently. Our DNA is mostly stable, but it varies just enough to give us some flexibility in an ever changing world. The trick with the change part is it can before better of for worse as where the tried and true is a known quantity. On the flip side, the most compelling theme of human history is its advancement and discovery of new things. Or perhaps that is just what we liberal minded folks find most compelling.
From a Modern US Political Perspective
I feel there are threads of the classical sense of liberal/conservative in the modern US political divide but it is not clear cut. My reasons for being a liberal in this sense is mostly about being community-minded and being fervent on civil rights issues. The fact that the right wing of American politics seems to shelter bigots and zealots under their big tent makes it very hard for me to support them. And their embrace of stern authority rubs my somewhat rebellious and independent streak the wrong way. Finally, their seeming embrace of wealth as virtue is a moral stumbling block.
Some of the ideals of the political right are ones I can get behind. Fiscal responsibility is good. Wanting to grow the economy and create prosperity is good. I like free markets and capitalism as the default economic system of the country. I think that personal responsibility is an important virtue. I value loyalty and ideas like honor. The problem is the way in which they govern, rarely leads me to see these virtues at work. They run up huge debts, give special deals to folks in the markets, blame scapegoats for all our problems, and so often betray loyalty and honor for money. The rare few that truly uphold these ideals seem to so often be the outcasts in the GOP.
The left also has their share of head issues that bother me. There is a strong maternal desire on the left to protect everyone and value safety over freedom. This sometimes leads the left into warmongering and heavy-handed control through regulations and red tape. There is a certain amount of elitism of the “we know better for your sake” that leads to a heavy handed and over controlling impulse. This leads them to often support overly broad solutions to problems that could be better handled on a case by case basis.
As of late, the right has really gone into a tailspin from my ideological view. Their embrace of anti-science nonsense and reactionary politics really bothers me. And the rise of the far right bigots who seem to have been drawn to the forefront by Obama’s presidency are pretty much my sworn political enemies. On the left, I’ve also had to do some eye-rolling at the extent of political correctness and the like, but at least I feel like their hearts are in the right place. And I’ve loved all the progress we have made on equal treatment for LBGT folks and women over the last decade. The despicable drug war is also starting to fall apart which is a good thing in my book but isn’t really a left/right issue at the moment, more a third rail of politics. Finally, Obama was simply my favorite president of my lifetime, a true liberal minded pragmatist and moderate despite the ravings of the right on the subject.
My Voting History
I am something of rebel in the voting booth. I’ve voted 4 times for democratic presidential candidates, and 3 times for independent ones. I’ve never voted for a republican to national office though if McCain had run against Clinton or Gore he might have gotten my vote. I’ve voted for republicans for local offices, especially positions where I felt money was being spent frivolously. I also love to vote for independent and third party candidates provided they don’t come across as crazy people, which about three-quarters of the time they do. The tea party surge and the once again rise of the religious right has made me more and more a democratic partisan voter.
I really look forward to the day when I can look at a republican and democratic candidate and say to myself, man this is a hard choice, they are both so good! The closest I came was Obama vs McCain. I respect and admire McCain for the most part. He actually does have a lot of integrity and sticks to his republican ideals. Obama was my man though so it was not a hard choice. He’s the only candidate I’ve gone out and caucused for or sat down to work the phones for. It was amazing for me to have a candidate I supported actually win and I have no regrets what so ever on that account.
What I’d really like to see in politics is either for both parties to move strongly towards the middle and throw off their more radical adherents, or to have a strong third party stake out the middle ground and effectively gut the two parties of their more reasonable members who agree to work together in compromise for the good of the country and its people. That is one of the reasons I sometimes vote third party, to encourage a realignment. As I said, my liberalism is partly about trying to find a different way.