Are You a Liberal?

Are You a Liberal?

One of my war cries for the last couple of years has been, “The Left isn’t Liberal!” Most people look at me like I’m daft when I say that, but many so-called “right-wingers,” who are actually quite liberal themselves, know exactly what I mean.

If you look at any decent dictionary…

…you’ll find that “liberal” is generally defined as the American Heritage dictionary defines it:

1) Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

2) Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded

Notice what that definition does not say. It says nothing about your view of taxes. It says nothing about your views of homosexuality. It says nothing about your view of the right to keep and bear arms, or abortion, or feminism, or school prayer, or whether you vote Democratic or Republican or 3rd party or not at all.

If we take that definition seriously, I could be a card-carrying member of the NRA with a concealed-carry permit, I could think homosexuality is sinful, I could think taxes are much too high, I could think Bill Clinton was a horrible President, I could think that welfare checks cause crime and poverty and destroy the human soul, I could oppose socialized medicine, I could think abortion is murder, I could believe that our Social Security system is a ripoff that steals from our children, I could think our public schools can best be fixed by freedom of choice for parents, I could think Rush Limbaugh is hilarious and a boon to American culture, I could think legalizing medical marijuana is a horrible idea, I could think the mainstream media is badly biased, I could think democracy is a daft idea, I could think that Alan Dershowitz should be strapped into a barber chair and forced to listen to Courtney Love records… heck, I could think all of that and more, and still be a liberal.

By the way, please note that I do not believe all of the above. I may not believe most of it, although I do believe some of it. You can guess, but I’m not saying (at least, not now). Yet if I did subscribe to all those views, most Americans would balk if I called myself a liberal. Why is that?

The problem is that when millions of Americans say “liberal,” they are referring to a fairly specific set of beliefs completely at odds with everything I described two paragraphs ago. Just as interesting, many people who hold said beliefs are, in fact, not at all “free of bigotry,” “favoring of reform,” “unorthodox,” “broad-minded,” or “anti-authoritarian.”

Some time in the late 20th Century (it’s open to debate exactly when, or at whose hands), “liberal” came to mean, basically, a socialist. Usually, it’s a socialist who believes that the state is dangerous when it arrests criminals or wants to limit pornography or abortion, but should be free to regulate our lives in just about any other way. It is also axiomatic for them that, since taxes are an unavoidable aspect of life, any amount of taxation is moral. As long as we democratically elect those who impose the taxes, it doesn’t matter how much they take away from our fellow citizens. Indeed, the only caveat is that a “moral” tax will be leavied not just in higher amounts, but at much higher rates on vaguely-defined groups they call “the rich” and, of course, those “greedy corporations.”

Astonishingly, most folks who think like this (mind you, I used to consider myself one of them) also think tend to of themselves as free of bigotry and intolerance–although if you changed the words “rich” and “corporations” in many of their statements to oh, let’s say “Jews,” the nature of their views would be far more open to question. Ditto on many (not all, but many) of their rants about “The Religious Right.”

Such people also usually think themselves to be axiomatically intelligent, good and decent because of their obviously (to them) righteous ideals. They take it as a given that anyone who disagrees with them on any fundamental issue is, ipso facto, stupid, ignorant, selfish, mean-spirited, or just plain evil. This is especially ironic, because most of those opposed to their views are highly anti-authoritarian and unorthodox and are, at least some of the time, quite broad-minded and tolerant.

It makes certain conversations difficult to have in American English. I really wish I could think of a good way to clear this mess up, but I can’t.

In a recent piece in NRO, Stanley Kurtz more or less nails it by describing who these folks really are. He doesn’t say so, but the truth is that they are the closed-minded reactionaries of today. The laughable part is, they actually think they’re the liberals.

It’s funny, when you think about it.

Posted by esmay | PermaLink

Discuss This Article!

I am of “the left” and strongly deny being a “liberal” to any who ask.

I like to use the word “Neoliberal” when describing my libertarian buddies ;) It’s a stupid term, IMHO…but hey…

Of course the term “Libertarian” originated on the left–the anti-capitalist anarchists always have used that term

Posted by Qualiall on May 13, 2002 at 10:33 AM

For clarification, I’m not saying that I don’t believe in the dictionary definition of “liberal” but on the mainstram view of what a “liberal” is.

I don’t like the term “liberal” because it implies that I support small band-aid solutions to complex problems. I prefer a more radical approach–attacking the system at its roots rather than looking superficially at the problem

Posted by Qualiall on May 13, 2002 at 11:19 AM

Hm. I’d say that thinking homosexuality is sinful is a form of bigotry, so that would be incompatible with liberalism by the definition you gave. And as for thinking that legalizing medical marijuana is a horrible idea, it would depend on why you thought that — most people I know who think that do so because they’ve internalized authoritiarian and orthodox beliefs that incorporate elements of class-based bigotry, and sometimes racism. (Really. Even the name “marijuana” for hemp was popularized in the US by people who wanted to ban it, because using the Spanish word associated it with Mexicans.)

Posted by Avram on September 04, 2002 at 2:34 PM

“I’d say that thinking homosexuality is sinful is a form of bigotry…”

Really? Does that mean you think Orthodox and Conservative Jews, the majority of Christians, and the majority of Muslims are all bigots?

Isn’t it more than a little bigoted to say so? What ever happened to, “I respect your beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them?” Slamming religious traditions that are thousands of years old simply because you don’t like them is a form of bigotry, too.

As for opposing legalization of Marijuana, you say, “…most people I know who think that do so because they’ve internalized authoritarian dn orthodox believfs that incorporate elements of class-based bigotry…”

Wow. So the black welfare mother living in a terrible neighborhood, who doesn’t want her kids even more tempted by drugs and so opposes legalizing pot in any way, is a class bigot and an authoritarian, eh?

Have you ever looked up the words “bigoted” or “prejudiced” and really thought about them? Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps all the people who’ve told you they’re anti-pot are authoritarian, orthodox, and class bigots.

But I note that it’s easier to dismiss someone’s arguments if you can pigeonhole them.

By the way, for the record:

I don’t think homosexuality is particularly sinful, and I not only support medical marijuana, but I think it should be decriminalized, period. Same for LSD and mushrooms. On the other hand I think there are sound reasons to have legal restrictions on narcotics, although our current approach to the problem is all wrong and just worsens and aggravates the problem.

I simply think the lack of respect given to people who disagree is highly illiberal, and often deeply bigoted.

But maybe not. To a lot of people, “liberal” has come to mean kneejerk, reactionary, bigoted, prejudiced, closed-minded, mean-spirited. In other words, the opposite of what it classically meant. Increasingly, that certainly seems to be how people are using the word “liberal” these days.

Kinda sad, innit? But whose fault is it? The nasty conservatives for saying it? Or is it the fault of closed-minded reactionaries and bigots who call themselves “liberal?”

Posted by Dean Esmay on September 05, 2002 at 9:50 AM

The dictionary definition you reference is so general as to be virtually meaningless, although I believe it refers more to classical liberalism, or libertarianism, than anything else. Libertarianism came out of a split between modern liberals (i.e. “progressives”) and the old classical liberal ideologies of the founding fathers, John Locke, et al.

I believe that split occurred in the late 19th century, so it’s been accepted for a good hundred years in the United States. Other countries are another matter. Sweden’s Liberal Party, for example, is considered to be of the right, similar to the American Libertarian Party. The difference is that “liberal” has become interchangable with “left” in the American political context.

This doesn’t, of course, apply to all usage. I can say that I have liberal views on science, and simply mean that I’m open to new scientific ideas. Yet that doesn’t necessarily connote any political ideology, which is why dictionary definitions alone do poor justice to political philosophies, which can change and have different meanings depending on the time and context.

Posted by Owen Courr�ges on September 19, 2002 at 8:52 PM

Well said, Owen. However, I’m not so sure the labels were all that fixed in the American mind as early as you think.

For example, a little-known fact is that when Herbert Hoover was running for re-election as President, he was horrified to read that his opponent, Franklin Roosevelt, was calling himself a liberal. Hoover considered himself to be the liberal, and was aghast that anyone would see it differently.

In his classic book, Up From Liberalism, written in the early 1950s, William F. Buckley Jr., the so-called father of modern conservatism, stressed to his readers at some length that he considered himself a liberal. He took pains to separate the liberalism that he found noble, and a group he called Liberals (with an upper-case “L”), who were generally closed-minded, intolerant of dissent, contemptuous of religion, and contemptuous of all traditional beliefs and values. That was about 50 years ago, yet to this day he still routinely uses “Liberal” to describe the mindset he finds closed-minded and contemptuous of others, and “liberal” to describe that which is open-minded, tolerant, and free from bigotry.

An interesting bit of trivia is that former President Hoover befriended the young Buckley, and was instrumental in helping him found The National Review, which is today the flagship publication of the conservative movement in America.

Posted by Dean Esmay on September 20, 2002 at 2:14 AM

I wasn’t aware that Hoover ran as a liberal, although at that time northern Republicans did tend to identify themselves as such. Still, I will admit that the terms remained rather fluid during the early 20th century, although I believe the shift began during the Progressive Era, terminating after the 1930’s. I would suppose, however, that there were many holdouts even after that time.

Posted by Owen Courr�ges on September 24, 2002 at 2:25 PM

I am a hardcore conservative, and yet for some strange reason I respect the liberal viewpoint, because you dudes stick to your guns.

Posted by Jordan Lee Dietsche on December 20, 2002 at 3:50 PM

The party I vote for here in Estonia, the Reform Party is part of the same worldwide Liberal organization as the Liberal party of Canada. Both call themselves liberal. Yet I have serious trouble imagining Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman quotes on Canada’s Liberal Party homepage.

Then again we’re postcommunist, so lefties would more aptly be called conservatives here.

Posted by Sam on January 08, 2003 at 7:46 AM

1) Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

2) Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded

Let’s see if I can find a set of positions from this.
Not limited to established, traditional or authoritarian dogmas = accepting of homosexuality, since homophobia is an established and traditional position in many religious dogmas. And I’m not quite sure why calling homophobic Islam “bigoted” against homosexuals makes me a bigot against Muslims. If I call David Duke a bigot for his views on racial minorities, does that make me a bigot against white people? Or are you arguing that incendiary terms like “bigot” or perhaps even “racist” simply should not be used? If so, presumably you also think incendiary terms like “evil” should be deleted from discourse as well.

TOLERANT OF THE IDEAS AND BEHAVIOR OF OTHERS: How can someone who is tolerant of others’ ideas support organized school prayer? How can someone who is tolerant of others’ behavior oppose the legalization of marijuana or sodomy?

Another dictionary meaning for “liberal” is generous. It’s a little bit of an archaic meaning, nowadays found mostly in Dickens adaptations, but I think it ties into the political meaning. There is nothing generous in wanting to impose harsh measures on non-violent criminals, or wanting to deny dying people a measure of relief, or in wanting poor children to go sick and hungry and lose school funding.
England in Dickens’s time demonstrated that the private liberalism of Christian charity was insufficient to fill the gaps of what public liberalism (government action) left undone. So nations have become more liberal to their citizens and the citizens of other nations; it is illiberal to give little foreign aid or to have poor domestic welfare.

Posted by PG on February 03, 2003 at 2:37 AM

…accepting of homosexuality, since homophobia is an established and traditional position in many religious dogmas.

Which ones?

And I’m not quite sure why calling homophobic Islam “bigoted” against homosexuals makes me a bigot against Muslims.

Are people who think drinking is sinful bigots? Are people who think smoking is sinful bigots? Are people who think dancing is sinful bigots?

Many religions feel that lots of things are sinful. Religious bigotry is still bigotry. Condemning them for what they believe simply shows that you are a religious bigot.

In short, tou can disagree with their position without attacking them.

The issue of real liberalism goes to tolerating dissent and criticism.
How can someone who is tolerant of others’ ideas support organized school prayer?

By saying, “I disagree with this, but I understand that thoughtful people might disagree with me.”

By saying, “I would prefer that they not do this in my school, but it’s none of my business what they do at schools my child does not attend.”

By saying, “If most people want this, then I won’t stand in their way, so long as they respect the right of me and my child not to participate.”

Now you tell me: how can you be tolerant of others’ ideas and support the idea that even when the overwhelming majority of people want something, it’s right for a tiny minority to enforce their views against school prayer on everyone else?

How can someone who is tolerant of others’ behavior oppose the legalization of marijuana or sodomy?

Ah. Now you get closer to the core.

Sodomy: I don’t think a liberal can support anti-sodomy laws, except maybe in some sort of public health sense, like maybe closing down bathhouses at the height of an STD epidemic.

Marijuana: learned, thoughtful, decent people have concluded that it’s a dangerous drug. I happen to think they’re wrong, but I’ve asked this question before, and I’ll ask it again:

The black welfare mother living in a terrible neighborhood, who doesn’t want her kids even more tempted by the destructive drugs swirling around her and so opposes legalizing pot–is she being illiberal?

I’ll stop here for now.

Posted by Dean Esmay on February 03, 2003 at 4:42 AM

“Religious bigotry is still bigotry. Condemning them for what they believe simply shows that you are a religious bigot.”

So you calling him a religious bigot makes you a religious-bigot bigot?! I think you are taking the logic too far.

“Marijuana: learned, thoughtful, decent people have concluded that it’s a dangerous drug”

I’m learned. I’m decent. I think it’s ok. No worse than alcohol. Never heard of anybody dying from a marijuana overdose. Seen plenty die from alcohol poisoning.

“Now you tell me: how can you be tolerant of others’ ideas and support the idea that even when the overwhelming majority of people want something, it’s right for a tiny minority to enforce their views against school prayer on everyone else?”

So the majority should be able to take whatever they want all because they are the majority? Forcing a religion on somebody smells a bit archaic, no?

“The black welfare mother…”

would probably prefer that her son gets his drugs from a convenience store, rather than some gun-toting, drug-pushing thug.

Posted by Denny on March 02, 2003 at 9:16 PM

Those Intolerant of Intolerance are More Intolerant Than Those They Accuse of Being Intolerant!

The above convoluted semantic argument is often used to berate liberals for accusing conservatives of various forms of prejudice, bigotry, sexism, homophobia and racism. Though so absurd it seems unworthy of comment, it is still a debate they are winning through every area of the media, for this is the central theme regarding the issue of political correctness. Years before political correctness had a name, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. arrived at a way of expressing the absurdity of all this in his novel Bluebeard. I paraphrase one of his ideas in that book.

Intolerance was an important issue of debate between my parents. Father was of course, a good fascist, and was intolerant of just about everything, except of course, Nazi�s. Mother would ask that he not bring any of the uniformed, swastika laden soldiers into her home. My father would then accuse her of gross intolerance. My mother, rather than play the semantic game, would get out pencil and paper and begin her list.

Things Mother is intolerant of:

� Nazis

Things Father is Intolerant of:

� Jews
� Communists
� Queers
� Buddhists
� Lesbians
� Chinamen
� Negroes
� Hindus
� Japs
� Muslims
� Unionists
� Pollocks
� Environmentalists
� Arabs
� Catholics
� Mexicans
� Moslems
� Liberals
� Socialists
� Feminists
� Albanians
� Russians�

Then Mother would search around for more paper. Mother always made a big thing out of searching around for more paper.

� Copyright 2003 – http://rackjite.com

Posted by Rack Jite on March 02, 2003 at 9:54 PM

“By the way, please note that I do not believe all of the above.”

Liberal and conservative have lost a lot of their original meanings. Liberal is related to “liberty” is in not? Conservative is now a different concept than conservationist. I think conservative means wanting to preserve Constitutional principles, as stated in the preamble. But the parties keep changing subtly. Now we have libertarians who also think of themselves a liberal but not in the Ted Kennedy sense. I’ve been toying with another term, Independentarian, because there is a difference between independence and liberty. Both mean free, but the former means literally means not dependent, which is what Americans should be. Liberty is also related to libertine, as in a person with no restraints.

It’s always been my belief that if you indulge yourself in too much liberty, you may end up losing your independence. In my view, citizenship in this country comes with responsibilities, such as being self-supporting, paying taxes, and not becoming a burden to others, except with their consent. Those principles go against transfers of wealth and bureaucracies. They also limit government to what is necessary for us to do jointly.

The War on Drugs may be over the top and goofy, but it’s a response to parents who want to save their kids. An Independent society should outlaw drug abuse and drug that pose a hhigh risk of abuse and addiction, on the grounds that wasting your life on dope will make you dependent on others to support you. Fathering children and bearing children with the expectation that others will support them, same thing.

OK. I’m ranting, so I’ll end it there. The point, however, is that to know what a term means, you have to know its context in social, temporal as well as syntactic terms.

Posted by AST on March 08, 2003 at 9:56 PM

While I generally vote Democratic Party, I still have a hard time accepting being called “Liberal”.
I think it has a bit to do with who is saying it, and the connotation of what most of the public believes it means.

If a Republican says “Liberal” he usually is trying to impose a label that says:
Spendthrift, commie, college-boy, fiscally irresponsible radical that doesnt see the forest for the owls in it.

I think I can accept Liberal in the classical sense, but in today’s culture putting the label LIBERAL on yourself is setting up a prejudice.

Even DEMOCRAT pretty much labels you as LIBERAL today. Especially if you even make any type of statement about the current President questioning his leadership on ANY subject.

Dont call me Liberal, Dont call me Democrat even.
Call me a person with an opinion, open to yours as well.

For the record:
1) I voted for Reagan once. Once.
2) I voted for Clinton twice, and dont regret it.
3) Clinton was a womanizer, and I dont respect that about him. I do appreciate his intelligence in other areas, however.
4)I hate abortion, and think limits and thoughtful legislation is needed.
5)I hate the use of drugs for “recreational purposes” and wish we could come up with a better solution to the rampant use of them.
6) Alcohol is an even worse problem that Democrats and Republicans alike wont address.
7)I will vote for those that I think are good leaders, intelligent and honest, and have the GOOD OF THE COUNTRY, not themselves, at heart.
8)Dont mess with our Protected lands. We protected them for the purpose of keeping SOMETHING in this country untainted by us.
9) I am a Christian, but respect the rights of others to the belief of their choice. That is what is great about America. Lets keep it that way.

PS- Even though Kurt Vonnegut Jr is an athesist (If I remember correctly), I have enjoyed almost every book he has written.

Posted by Rory McDonald on April 21, 2003 at 10:10 PM

Shut the fuck up stupid liberal pussy ass bitches.

Posted by Stfu on May 02, 2003 at 12:28 PM

Well. It’s nice to see the Right has such thoughtful and intelligent people on its side. Thanks for sharing, “Stfu.”

Posted by Dean Esmay on May 02, 2003 at 12:32 PM

I am a liberal too. i am also a member of the British Conservative Party, which in my view is the most liberal of the three main parties in the UK, ie it is most consistent in support of free trade, limited regulation of the economy, low taxes etc. The Liberal Democrats are commendably liberal on some social issues (ie drugs, gays etc) but are most illiberal (ie socialist) on the big issues that affect people.

The greatest liberal publication in Britain is the Economist.

I think it is a huge shame that in the Anglo-Saxon world the term liberal has come to mean the precise opposite of its original usage. In Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Germany, it is the liberal parties that uphold the freedoms that we in the English speaking world take for granted.

Don’t allow those who love state power to steal our word.

Posted by Matthew Robinson on May 13, 2003 at 6:49 PM

Okay, I am a conservative. I am also from lovely MI. Right by lovely East Lansing. I don’t like a lot of liberals that I come across… mostly because they spend most of thier time telling me how they know whats best for me…or calling me names. Now, I am talking liberals in the current sense. I am not talking about people like dean. Unfortunatly many “liberals” are not tolerant of others beliefs.

Now on to some of the topics of the day.

1)school prayer. I believe that it is assinine to not allow children to pray in schools. I also think it is assinine to make them.

2)Abortion. I believe that ultimatly the woman does have a choice. When I hold a gun to someones head, I have that same choice. To kill, or not to kill. Personally I prefer not to kill.

3)Drugs…I love this one. The arguement that people use drugs anyways so we might as well make them legal. Okay, I’ll agree to that. However, people kill people even though it is illegal, so lets make that legal too. In fact, lets just make everything legal.(this is sarcasm for those who can’t tell)

4)Guns (this is a pet peeve for me) The second ammendment was written for a purpose. Ghandi said that of all the crimes britain commited against india, depriving the people the right to bear arms was the worst.

5)Homosexuality. I am a christian, and part of that belief structure includes the statement that homosexuality is wrong… If you want I can show you the quote. Funnily enough my aunt is gay, and I still love her. I don’t try to force my beliefs on anyone, but I sure as hell don’t have to think it is okay to be gay.

6)Taxes. Nothing pisses me off more than a democrat who says that we cant afford tax cuts. You pompus A**holes tell me that you cant afford to NOT take as much of MY money away. to quote a brittish friend of mine…Bugger Off.

Oh yeah, and one final point. People who give stupid arguments piss me off. Now, in my experience “liberals” do this more than “Conservatives” but we have a few who do it too. Like our idiot friend Stfu. Man I wish the idiots on both side of the fence would shut thier f’ing mouths.

Okay done ranting now.

Posted by rob on May 19, 2003 at 2:45 AM

There are some interesting points here, but frankly, this is one of those academic discussions that’s neither here nor there. I’ve gone through these discussions myself. . . am I liberal? Maybe I’m a progressive (which I do more closely identify with).

This kind of identification retards substantive politics in this country because we can be liberal or conservative in so many ways that it’s not uncommon to find that we’re both.

It comes down to specific issues. Sure, it’s nice to be consistent, but as someone who has studied formal and informal logic, I’ve seen that consistency is illusory because it can be so twisted by anyone agile with words and semantics.

That said, I wholly agree with the point that we should tolerate dissent and criticism, which includes tolerating those who are intolerant. In this respect, the U.S. is a liberal country.

The problem is when the intolerance becomes part of our government, our laws. You’re right, esmay: Christians have the right to believe that homosexuality is wrong. (I disagree with the idea that this stance isn’t bigoted, but that’s a red herring argument.) The question is should homosexuality be a crime? Should homosexuals be treated any differently than heterosexuals?

As someone who lives in Texas, I find the threat of Christian-based legislature palatable, and I’m talking about an intolerant Christianity. And as silly as some, even many, instances of “political correctness” are, I’ve found that criticism of it is often nothing more the desire to be intolerant with impunity.

Your point is a good one, esmay: the left/liberals/democrats can be just as closed minded as the right/conservatives/republicans. I believe that one is nonetheless more pernicious than the other. Does Limbaugh have his liberal equivalent? Certainly. Pick one. But I don’t think s/he wields more influence than Limbaugh’s hate through laughter.

I listen to the self-described neocons and conservatives. Most of my friends are such, so I have to. :) Sometimes, I am persuaded to their perspective on an issue. Sometimes, I see that their motivation is nothing more than an anti-democrat or anti-Clinton impulse. However, it’s one thing to dismiss Ann Coulter and Al Sharpton who are going to stick to their guns no matter what. It’s another to dismiss the conservatives or liberals that we work and live with out of hand. When I’ve had honest, engaging discussions, I often see an openness. It’s when we allow debate by media personality proxies that the openness disappears.

And I’ll try to wrap this up now with two problems of this value of tolerance that I’ve been wrangling with for many years. And I believe these are very mundane, practical problems.

One is that you can’t be tolerant of *every*thing. Santorum actually presented us with a good slippery slope argument (which is not to say that I agree with him): what sort of marriages are illegal? Why are they, and how is that different from making homosexual marriages illegal? We should not run from the argument by calling Santorum names. Instead we should confront it. But we have to recognize that everyone draws the line somewhere.

The second problem is one of vulnerability. Being tolerant makes you in a certain sense prey to those who will use whatever means necessary to destroy you and to gain power. Tolerance is not passivity. However, fear and hatred are very effective and influence more quickly than reason and openness.

I believe that “tolerance” has become pejorative. It’s one thing when one group is not as tolerant as they think they are. It’s another when a group consciously assaults tolerance.

Posted by gb on May 24, 2003 at 1:39 AM

bleeding heart

Posted by barbara on May 30, 2003 at 4:32 PM

Its annoying to see the word “tolerant” used to mean “accepting.” As in “I am tolerant of the Queer community.” We tolerate things we don’t like. “I accept the Queer community” means something entirely different. But oh well.

Therefore, a battle to see who is more tolerant is a show of just how many things we don’t accept or appreciate.

Liberal and Conservative have both evolved into bad words. Growing up in a steadfast Republican home, I guess I find the label “conservative” a little better than “liberal.”

But I didn’t kill or maim any liberals today. See? I’m tolerant too :)
They are all just emotionally charged labels. If you paint a bunch of labels upon yourself, you end up stuck defending a bunch of loopy arguments to which you may have not given enough thought.

Posted by Tanya on May 31, 2003 at 3:29 AM

Oh, nonsense.

This is PC dreck. I tolerate all kinds of things, and it doesn’t mean I secretly dislike them. It means I don’t consider it my business and don’t go out of my way to attack people.

This twisted definition of tolerance is just a way for the Queer community, amongst others, to villify people who disagree with them. It is, frankly, an intolerant and bigoted attitude.

Posted by Dean Esmay on May 31, 2003 at 4:51 PM

Whoa…. hold on.

I was playing a semantics game, not plugging political correctness. You were doing the same thing earlier. “Queer community” could easily have been substituted for “picking your nose,” or something even more prosaic. Hell, I started by saying “Mexicans,” but the thread seemed to focus a lot on homosexuals.

It has just occured to me that you probably stopped thinking about my comment the moment you thought I was talking “PC bullshit.” It kinda upsets me that you would immediately pin labels on me based on some comments you misunderstood.

Of course, I could have always been unclear in my presentation of that thought. *shrug*

Posted by Tanya on May 31, 2003 at 5:28 PM

All right, I apologize.

However, I’ve been hearing refrains exactly like yours on the word “tolerant” for far too long. It’s usually from highly intolerant gay people who want to slam Christians and other religious believers.

“Tolerant” simply means the capacity for, or the practice, of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others. Look it up in the dictionary.

Any decent definition of “liberal” includes the word “tolerant,” and furthermore, it is NOT a negative, snotty, or nasty term or attitude. It is a highly admirable trait and one that anyone who believes in a liberal society ought to laud, not sneer at.

You cannot expect a world full of human beings to embrace everything and everyone they come across. “Liberal” does not mean “I love everyone and utterly approve of everything.” It means tolerance, and tolerance is a good thing.

Posted by Dean Esmay on May 31, 2003 at 8:52 PM

My potato is a hairy hat

Posted by Lefty McLeftalot on June 06, 2003 at 9:44 AM

I guess-I think government should be proactive in the betterment of people (education, health, environment) I think the shift to the right (less taxes-more concentration of wealth at the hands of fewer people) has pushed me to take the opposite stance(possibly extreme) As of right now,
I don’t see any improvement in the quality of my life. Call me a Paleo Liberal-Socialist if you want-not all social programs were a failure. Just don’t see how the current political (conservative) is adressing my concerns. I am a minority-so who the fuck cares? Regards

Posted by Chuck in TX on June 16, 2003 at 2:24 PM

Why I’m Conservative.

I love John Wayne!
Marylynn Manson scares me!

Which way do you think those two would vote?

Posted by Chris on June 17, 2003 at 2:22 AM

‘I’d say that thinking homosexuality is sinful is a form of bigotry…’

“Really? Does that mean you think Orthodox and Conservative Jews, the majority of Christians, and the majority of Muslims are all bigots?”

Well —- Yes. And I figure that, no matter how hard I have tried not to be a bigot myself, I still pretty much am. I’m not proud of it, I wish it wasn’t so. I really do try to treat everyone I interact with as politely — and with some degree of humour and generosity — as I can, given the daily tides and turnings of the human mind just trying to get through the day. Give people a break and hope they give me one in return. The Golden Rule. That doesn’t always work out, but one tries. Of course, I could be wrong, as Dennis Miller says.

But as long as I’m here let me say that I’m sorry to say that I also think that most people, religious or not, are frightened, misguided, superstitious fools, pack animals who think they are individuals and somehow special to the earth, who must delude themselves by a variety of ways in order to overcome the almost Universal Fear of Death, as in “Death Everlasting.” I said “almost” to give myself a little cover for those who will say they don’t have this fear.

I think Life is wonderous and magical all by itself. It doesn’t need justification or reason. It simply is. It’s very much OK.

For those that do fear death however, and find comfort in religion — I know how they feel. I’m not a big fan of death myself. I wish I could figure away around it, and at 64, with a quintuple by-pass under my uhhhhh — chest —- it seems just a tad more likely now than it did a year ago. But wadda’ ya’ gonna’ do?? I’ve tried to delude myself with religion. I really have. I have reached an agreement with myself to view all of this adventure as being controlled by Coyote, the American Indian God known as The Trickster. If you believe in Coyote, everything becomes clear. Everything. Even the fact that we are all crazy as bedbugs. (You won’t hear someone under 50 say THAT!!)

Now, as to this Liberal – Conservative business.

I have taken to calling myself an “Extreme Middle of the Road Moderate.” I think we should have Universal Health Care, that there was NO evidence justifying the Invasion of Iraq — None!! And I think that the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft Axis is the worst thing to happen to American political life in my lifetime. Maybe in American history, but probably not. I think this Regime is deeply ignorant, and has no real sense of American ideals or history, only its own semi-religiously based fanatical beliefs and desire for ever increasing power.

I think that the War on Drugs is actually a War on Freedom, and a demonstrable failure over the last 50 or 60 or 70 or ????? years — unless you are in the Cop & Court Business. I think treatment can work for some, but sadly not for all. I have said, and say now, that I would live with a drugie for a week before an alcholic for a minute. I sure don’t think prison is the answer for using drugs. Actions taken under the influence of drugs should be judged for what they are. People on drugs are not the same as sober people sent to prison.

OK – Now you know how us “Extreme Middle of the Road Moderates” feel. Or EMORMs. I have declared myself the Founder and CEO of EMORM Inc. Why Not??

Aw, poop!! I’ve forgotten the origninal question, so I’ll end this ego trip. For those who got this far, thanks for your time. Now go do something worthwhile — garden or take a walk, call a friend and meet ‘em for coffee. Have some fun.

David Winn – EMORM
dwinn@austin.rr.com

Posted by David Winn on June 29, 2003 at 1:11 PM

EMORMs — Hmmm. Sounds pretty good. Can one join? I find myself agreeing with most all of your opinions, particularly about our current regime.

Posted by Walt on July 01, 2003 at 11:08 PM

If the above poster is an example of your so-called liberal “tolerance,” then thank God I’m a Conservative.

Posted by John A. on July 11, 2003 at 6:30 AM

My apologies, the post I was referring to seems to have been deleted.

Posted by John on July 11, 2003 at 6:34 AM

Am I a liberal?

I became one after the first Kennedy killing. There is nothing good about a government that lies to it’s citizens as a matter of policy. That particular tradition is enough to put me out of the conservative camp.

When the “Politicly correct” crap became liberal policy I ditched that label also. I think that I fall into the EMORM group described abuve, except for the stance on drugs. If you commit a criminal act they should put you away. No slack for being on drugs, none for being drunk, zero for being in a jealous rage. Crime is crime, no excuses.

My political position …… hmmm there’s the democrats …… Ted Kennedy, nuff said. Ok, how about republicans? We will start with Spiro Agnew and follow to the current “All hat, no cattle” specimen we have today. Libertarian? Gaaaahhhhh!
A pox on all their houses!

As far as voting goes, I try to support the cantidates that I think will harm me the least. Forget about doing me some good, any good a politician does for the average guy is purely accidental or a scam to take him for more later.

I continue to hope for the miracle of a competent, honest, and decent leader. I just doubt very much that I’ll live long enough to see it happen.

Plumnilly
plumnilly@iWon.com

Posted by Bob Jackson on July 17, 2003 at 4:54 AM


Why do liberals spend such a disproportionate amount of time stridently complaining about conservatives?

Shut up and make a difference, already.

Posted by John Frazier on July 26, 2003 at 9:15 AM

Thanks all of you for helping me to understand about Liberals and Conservatives point of view and the differences. i think im gonna get a really good grade on my report. Thanx.

Posted by wisdomprincess* on July 27, 2003 at 4:05 PM

John Frazier- ‘librals’ haven’t done anything?
how about FDR, LBJ (he would have been a lot better if vietnam didn’t happen), or JFK? I am not in anyway a fan of Clinton, though, although him being ‘liberal’ is open to debate. anyways my question is what has conservatism (or neocom) done for the USA? I think conservatives prefer to close their eyes and pretend problems don’t exist until they blow up in their faces (ie 9/11). nuf’ said.

Posted by andy k on September 21, 2003 at 9:34 PM

“I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies.

What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label “Liberal?” If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

-John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK)

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Posted by John on September 30, 2003 at 10:05 AM

‘I’d say that thinking homosexuality is sinful is a form of bigotry…’

“Really? Does that mean you think Orthodox and Conservative Jews, the majority of Christians, and the majority of Muslims are all bigots?”

That depends on how you look at it, I’d say. If there is a Jew, Christian, or Muslim who has studied the Torah, Bible, or Koran respectively and still feels that homosexuality is a sin, then yes I would say that that person is definately a bigot. However for the laymen religious folk who simply accept the teachings of those in authority without checking for themselves I think they are simply ignorant. There’s a big difference there. Neither is a good thing but certainly bigotry is far more dangerous. For instance, if I am a Christian who believes homosexuality is sin because my preacher says so, then I am ignorant because I have accepted information from a source that may or may not be reliable. However if I am a Christian who has studied Hebrew and Greek and looked into the passages of the Bible that seem to condemn homosexuality in thier orignal text and find that most of the teachings of the religous right on the topic are seriously flawed and based only in hatred, yet I still choose to hate gay people or believe they are going to hell simply because I don’t like gay people, then that is a bigoted position. I have used christianity and homosexaulity as an accurate example but the same difference between bigotry and ignorance can be made on most any issue where education can provide the only correct answer.

Posted by BNDolphin on October 07, 2003 at 10:40 PM

I really liked reading through all this…well, maybe not all. As a semi-conservative/moderate, I still found JFK’s remarks the most impressive. I thought Jimmy Carter was a great person, if not a great President. Great men and women are great despite the labels attached to them by others hoping to claim them for their side and ride on their coattails.
One of the problems with the far left and far right groups that I can’t handle is the cynicism that make a ‘liberal’ so distrustful of the ignorant masses as to want to centralize all power so it can be hijacked and do all sorts of ‘wonderful things’ for those same ignorant saps. In the process, those same ‘compassionate’ liberals will turn a blind eye to any smear campaign or deliberate misleading statements which discredits the other side; liberals are often as much in the ‘end justifies the means’ category as many totlitarian states be they fascist or communist.
The ultra conservatives are no better–so cynical about the ability of the government to do good that they want to dismantle almost anything that the government does, cut taxes regardless of the outcomes.
Maybe that is why the JFK remarks are so good..I suspect the same would be true of T. Roosevelt, FDR, Lincoln, even Reagan…..these are men that thought things could be better…so much political positioining today is not about improving things, but about looking for someone to blame, or worse yet, simply ridiculing the other side (often unfairly) purely for sport and entertainment–the Rushes and Vidals of the world.

Posted by Bruce Henderson on October 15, 2003 at 1:43 AM

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  • jokem

    I remember you from the GEnie days Dean.

    This is an interesting read.

    I would say the word ‘Liberal’ has come to be functionally
    equivalent to ‘Socialist’, and the Democratic Party is really
    a closet Socialist party.

    The word ‘Conservative’ is now functionally equivalent to
    ‘Capitalist’, and the Republican Party is no longer the
    party of fiscal responsibility and limited government, but
    has become the Party of Big Business.

    Feh…

    A pox on both their houses.

    As far as the definition of the word ‘bigot’… I would have
    to say it depends upon the reasons for such belief.
    If a person wants to outlaw medical marijuana because
    they think there is no legitimate medical purpose to it and
    it is just an excuse for potheads to get high for free. I would
    say that is not a bigoted position.

    Likewise for homosexuality. If it is a choice to become gay,
    rather than a cross wired biology, then the sinfulness is not
    a question of bigotry.

    Both of those positions might be wrong, but that is not the
    same thing as being a bigot.

    Does that make sense?

    • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

      Yeah it makes sense.

      There’s a certain arrogance to this, but if you decide that you put your first allegiance to reason and logic, then, I don’t know how you can accept any particular label, although open-minded and accepting of new ideas is pretty much “liberal” even if by broader issues you come to some pretty “conservative” conclusions.

      I can’t stand either of America’s big parties anymore. I was at various times a staunch Democrat and others a staunch Republican and even for a while a Libertarian but now I’m a pretty staunch “none of the above.”

      Oh the Genie days… gosh. Good times, good times.

  • jokem

    Well, I have not given up on the Libertarian or Constitution party.
    There was a time where I thought neither of them were electable,
    but with today’s growing dissatisfaction with the Demopublicans,
    maybe they might form a pact with the Tea Party, anything but
    what we have.

    I had an idea of a Constitutional amendment that required write-in
    candidates to be permitted. Also, if a write-in got, say, 5% of the
    vote, the party he was affiliated with automatically became an
    ‘official’ party in that State, and no longer had to go through
    the rigmarole to get on the ballot.

    Oh well, just dreaming…

  • jokem

    Dean – I think the reason for labels is kind of a shorthand for
    presenting a persons views. It is a lot more convenient to
    use a label, than to present a manifesto detailing all of ones
    positions on every conceivable issue.

  • http://madisonforum.net/ Sandi

    More importantly than any party is how well do we understand them. The way I see it, the reason we the people are never happy with whichever party we elect is fairly simple. The aims of the grass roots conservatives are opposed to the corporate/business conservatives, and the aims of the grass roots liberal are opposed to the progressive liberals.

    So whichever party wins, the opposing factions of the party in power end up in opposition. Doesn’t matter if democrats or republicans come to power, the factions within the winning party cannot hold together once the opposition party is defeated. Their objectives are entirely in opposite directions.

    Until we acknowledge this, we won’t understand why each time we vote to rearrange congress, and the office of president: we often end worse for our efforts. As long as we are blind faithful party followers, we will also be blind to the opposing factions, and the harm it does to the party we support.

  • jokem

    Sandi –

    Here is the problem –

    People are afraid to vote for a third party because that takes votes
    away from the major party they most favor. People want to vote
    for an electable candicate they most favor. As a voter this is
    exactly why I got cold feet in those elections. Now, as I am older
    and perceive growing dissatisfaction with the major parties, this
    may be changing.

  • SirTabetha

    I have to say, reading your entry of what real liberalism is reminded me of a philosophy class I took years ago. He defined what liberal/liberality meant and what conservative meant, according to the historical applications used by Euro/UK standards. Both of these definitions, liberality of ideas for the better; conservation of fiscal responsibility, appropriate caution and research when looking into a new idea, etc., both seem to be rooted in two words: common sense. Something that we rarely see, if ever, in modern US politics.

    Your right. American liberals are anything but. American conservatives are anything but. Fear and anger seem to be the tools both party sides like to use, in order to scare/anger people into voting for their guy/gal. Where is the common sense in instilling fear or anger? How will that, how HAS that, change/d anything for the better?

    I’m glad I’ve stumbled across your site. It’s nice to read and know there are people like yourself, who honestly want to find a logical, progressive, middle ground to stand on, not just for themselves, but because it makes the most sense for everyone. Thank you for your voice!

    • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

      Thank you for the kind words.

  • jokem

    It occurred to me this link by Mike Royko (may he rest in peace)
    might be an amusing addition to this thread.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19881031&id=MKgeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=a84EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6802,7287653

  • Slayerofguitars

    Great post…little late but doesn’t matter. I am a supporter of the Tea party, but do not judge me or the party as you all have stated above. I believe more or so in the lines of Libertarianism. Most of my friends are liberal and or closer to the left side of things….and we actually end up agreeing in SO many issues….only argue on few. The reason is is I am completely open minded and want whats best for us and our freedoms here and abroad. I tend to be very picky with friends until I find someone who can actually think for themselves instead of rehashing the news/Glen Beck or Francis Piven. The only way out of the hole we dug is to quit acting like 2 year olds on both sides and realize we are in a world of butt-hurt if we dont work together to fix it.
    By working together that cannot mean rushed through legislation and passing laws without sound and just debating. BOTH parties do this now and are destroying what we have grown to love and cherish. A strong or worthy adversary/opponent is the best thing you could ask for! For Instance of both sides….Lincoln didn’t choose yes men on his cabinet…what good would they do other than get coffee? He chose people against him strongly and with him strongly so that the best result could come out of it. Almost every truth in a 3d world we live in has multiple views and outcomes no matter how it is achieved. Clinton worked well with the Democrats and Republicans thus created masses of jobs (not directly of course) and took out our debt to a plus I believe. Well lesson I am trying to point out is no one is right all of the time and the wisest of men once said that ‘The more you learn the more you know, you know little about anything.’ It is a good thing to have a worthy opponent, would Tyson of amounted to anything without Evander Holyfield? Would the NE patriots be any good playing an unknown team? You have to look at both sides of the question to attain the proper and delicate answers…or at least try to. Thanks to the Author of this blog reminding me I am alone but not completely.

    Please people prove me wrong/back it up or whatever floats your boat it will only make me stronger and wiser same as yourself.

  • jokem

    I am a States Rightser, I think. Putting the States in competation
    with each other to provide he best living environment might
    work better. That way, there might be 50 different options,
    not to mention local community variants. To make that
    happen, the big power of the Federal Government must be
    devolved back to the state and that is not going to happen
    quietly.

Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy