Sometimes I think that our country has become so polarized and so emotional in that divide that we can’t even have conversations anymore about principles and, hopefully, find common ground. It’s so much easier to only discuss politics with people that we know agree with us. There are opinion programs on cable news to reinforce whatever view we already hold. So we live in bubble where we only hear the echo of our own voices.
I try to watch some opposing viewpoint program at least once a week, read the progressive blog sites, etc. But even then I come away baffled. Recently I tried to engage in a dialog online on a college webite comparing Beck to Maddow. There were a lot of comments on the blog about how Glenn Beck is a hate-spewing, misogynistic, unhinged demagogue. So I tried to ask, “but why do you think that?”. You can see the dialog for yourself here. I didn’t really get any compelling answers. I can understand why some people don’t like Beck because they disagree with his principles on how the country should be run, his ideas on what the founders wanted America to be, or his criticism of this administration or congress. I told a liberal friend of mine once that I liked Beck and he acted like I told him I was joining the KKK and in jeopardy of losing my soul. I am pretty sure he never watched Beck though. I was at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in DC and I saw a group of people uniting around the principles of faith, hope and charity, honor, sacrifice, and personal responsibility. Republicans do not own those principles. They are American principles. They have been the principles of great leaders and individuals around the world.
I digress though, my question isn’t really about Beck, O’Reilly, Olberman or Jon Stewart. I want to find the things that unite us. And for that I need to understand what misconceptions I might have about liberals and what misconceptions they may have about conservatives. So I am going to list a few things that I think define conservatives and a few things that I think define liberals (or at least progressives, because I think that progressive policies are what many in the country are rejecting). But I want my Democrat friends to tell me what they think. Are progressives taking the Democrat party too far into progressive? Am I mistaken about what I believe defines conservatism? Many of things that I did not like about George W. Bush were the areas where I thought that he lost fidelity to conservative principles. So this is more an exercise in exploration on the “battlefield of ideas”.
My conservative principles:
• We are all created equal and endowed by our creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Rights come from God. Or said another way, they are natural rights. The government does not give us rights, they are there to make laws to protect our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If the government gives us our rights, the government can take them away.
• While we all want a safety-net to protect those that cannot help themselves, we don’t want a nanny state to protect those who will not help themselves. Americans have produced more, invented more and created more wealth than any other nation because of the “American Dream”. The idea that anyone willing to work hard, learn from their mistakes, and keep reaching for their dreams can make it in America.
• When entrepreneurs succeed in America their wealth creates more prosperity for others: employees, vendors, and consumer purchases, those recipients spend that money on their employees and vendors and purchases and so on and so forth. It’s called trickledown economics. Wealth is not a single pie for the government to slice up and hand out. We can all bake our own pies, and keep baking. Wealth is not finite and the “bakers” create more pie for everyone, even as they keep the biggest slice for themselves as reward for their risk, work and talent.
• All citizens should be treated equally under the law
• I am responsible as an individual for my health, my happiness, my wealth.
• It is my duty to care for others who need help. Charity in America is a concept intrinsic to our values and also intrinsic to the success of our nation. How do we care for others? When the government takes our money and hands it out to those they feel deserving we lose the “charity” and move to collectivism.
Progressive principles (as I hear them expressed)
• America is not a fair and just nation. There are the oppressors in power and the oppressed working class. The elite few will make it, but often at the expense of “the working class”
• The government needs to work towards “social justice” to make the country more equal and income distribution fairer.
• The “wealthy” or upper middle class only care about their own self-interest and will not (unless forced) take care of the unfortunate or victims in society
• We have the right to health care, housing and employment. The government must make sure that we get those rights.
• America has too much of the world’s wealth – more than our “fair share”. We are succeeding on the backs of developing nations and destroying the planet by using more than our fair share of consumption, energy, etc.
Where am I getting it wrong? What do you think are the differences between “conservative” and “progressive”?
There is little common ground in the two philosophies above. But I am wondering whether “progressive” represents many traditional Democrats. Maybe there are Democrats out there who won’t be at the “One Nation” rally in DC this weekend. The list of sponsoring organizations reads like who’s who of organized labor, environmentalists, anti war activists, socialists, and even the “Communist Party USA”. You can see more about the event and its endorsements on the event website. In some cases the local unions are even making attendance compulsory. Is this who the Democrats are now?
Have we become polarized because we have become a nation of polar opposites? Where is the middle anymore? The place where we all share the same American principles, even when we sometimes disagree on the details.