Anytime I weigh in on politics on Facebook — which I try to keep to a minimum, as Facebook is hardly the medium for thoughtful discourse — I almost always tell people “I’m neither liberal nor conservative” and/or “I’m a moderate”. That is partly true, at least best I can figure, but the breadth of my stance (and probably many folks’ stances) is far more nuanced. So, for anyone bored enough to be interested, here’s where I actually stand on all things politics. It’s long, complicated, and nuanced all over the place, so today’s entry will simply be Part One with more to follow.
(Disclaimer: My stances have evolved over time and likely will continue doing so as I become more educated in topics and learn to clean up my verbiage. This and related entries will either be updated or appended as time goes on, accordingly. Also, I’m totally am amateur on this topic and may not entirely know what I’m talking about.)
So today I’ll get the first obvious question out of the way:
Liberal or Conservative?
I’m both to varying degrees, but I lean more liberal. The problem is most Americans conflate liberal with Democrat and conservative with Republican, but that is not an apples-to-apples alignment.
I am a liberal in that I believe fiercely in the unalienable rights of the individual. I believe each individual is a unique person with unique beliefs who should be fully free to express, pursue, and advocate for those beliefs as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others.
I’m pretty down with classical liberalism. I am passionate about civil liberties and economic freedom for all. “Live and let live” without the government deciding for us how the individual should live their lives, and provide economic freedom for all individuals to pursue their own endeavors without having to belong to a nobility or special class in order to access such opportunities.
I’m also a conservative (I think?), but I disagree with the broad definition of American conservative presented via Wikipedia, which is:
a broad system of political beliefs in the United States that is characterized by respect for American traditions, support for Judeo-Christian values, free speech, moral absolutism, economic liberalism, anti-communism, advocacy of American exceptionalism, and a defense of Western culture from threats posed by ‘creeping socialism’, moral relativism, multiculturalism and liberal internationalism.
I disagree with half of that list (I underlined above that which I do not believe), so I don’t know what that means for my idea of conservatism. My understanding of my flavor of conservatism is I believe in preserving those traditions which define our history but are not harmful to anyone. For example, I think maintaining the structure of government as outlined in the Constitution is a really good idea, but I’m really glad the age-old tradition of slavery (which, needless to say, was extremely harmful) is over. I’m for slow, gradual, thoughtful change as the default setting when time is not of the essence. The abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement are examples of when time is not a luxury and change must happen swiftly, but when those aren’t the kind of stakes on the table, I’m all for slow change just so that we’re careful not to forget who we are and where we came from — and more importantly, so that we know exactly what change we’re bargaining for and for what ultimate purpose at the given moment before we pass a point of no return where “oops” is too late to say in the face of the unforeseen consequences.
I’m for conserving the values of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. I don’t know of any modern body of American conservatives I’d touch with a ten-foot pole (the Tea Party creeps the crap out of me), so I really don’t know what kind of conservative, if any, that leaves me to be at this point.
Here’s where it gets really muddy: I propose what is liberal and conservative is mostly defined by the point in time the question is asked. With this in mind, I might be a conservative liberal, but I don’t fully agree with what’s outlined in the linked description there, either.
What do I mean by defined by the point in time? I mean that during the time of the American Revolution, the idea of denying a monarchy and establishing a country of self-rule of the people was wildly liberal. Then, the conservative stance was to side with the long-established monarchy, which was to adhere to a very firmly grounded tradition at the time. Yet today, conservatives by and large claim to advocate for the preservation of individual freedom, private property, and rule of the people, which today is to hold to long-held tradition and the established system. So in other words, I propose what is liberal today is conservative tomorrow, at least in terms of the liberal ideas that stick.
For these reasons, when speaking in the shorthand, I tell people I’m moderate, but even that word is problematic. There isn’t a well-defined “middle” line that if you cross it from one direction, you’re conservative, and if you cross from the other, you’re liberal. It’s a spectrum, so “moderate” is to say “somewhere in between those two extremes”, which, in truth, I would argue most of the populace resides on. But what other concise way is there to say “quite a bit of this, a little of that”?
I could go on for a few more hours on this question alone, but I think this is a sufficient start, for now. For Part Two, I’ll delve into where I stand on the “Left or Right?” question (which, no, it’s not the same question).