In the midst of the Cold War, left-right labels — liberal and conservative — made some sense. In the 1960s liberals were generally seen as being for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. Conservatives stood for states rights and fought against communism. Much more recently, in the House of Representatives, with right-wing Republicans having […]
In the midst of the Cold War, left-right labels — liberal and conservative — made some sense. In the 1960s liberals were generally seen as being for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. Conservatives stood for states rights and fought against communism.
Much more recently, in the House of Representatives, with right-wing Republicans having combined with left-wing Democrats to slow down a massive federal program designed to unclog credit streams — favored by the establishment of both parties — just who was talking the liberal talk with that?
Under a Republican administration the banks were just nationalized, in some respects. With so much socialism to step over, who is really walking the conservative, straight and narrow path these days?
Are the left and right really stretched out on a straight line? Or is the concept more like a circle? Maybe an oval? Like, don’t the left and right sometimes bend to meet, according to the times? Seems to me such terms are frequently used to prevent discussion, rather than promote it.
Forty years ago, it was useful to see a left-to-right political spectrum. In those days, segregationists and hawks derisively called their most vocal opponents “pinkos.” Civil rights demonstrators and doves didn’t mind calling their opposites “fascists.”
After the Berlin Wall fell, in 1991, a radio news story described a political brouhaha in Russia between the ascending free-market style reformers and the old guard, the stubborn communists — who were going out of style faster than a Leningrad minute.
No, make that a St. Petersburg minute.
The report labeled those clinging to the Soviet system as “conservatives” and those in the process of sweeping them out of power as “liberals.”
Yet, when considered in light of the familiar Western view of matters political — capitalists on the right vs. socialists on the left — the role reversal of this situation’s fresh context was striking and amusing.
President George W. Bush used the tag “compassionate conservative” in the 2000 election. But in 2008 Bush’s steering of the nation’s economy, his unprecedented accumulation of debt, have hardly been conservative in the traditional sense. Nor has Bush’s swaggering, go-it-alone foreign policy been in the least bit prudent or conservative.
So, it has turned out that the term “compassionate conservative” was simply what used to be called “double-talk.”
Today’s political issues divide along many lines. There are urban vs. suburban arguments. There are political differences that divide generations, classes, lifestyles, regions, backgrounds, levels of education, and you-name-it. Trying always to frame such issues in a left-to-right, liberal-to-conservative context tortures the truth.
Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama have distinctly different ways of carrying themselves. They paint quite different visions for the future. Worrying about whether McCain is conservative enough, or whether Obama is too liberal misses the mark.
Instead, try considering which man has the greater capacity to inspire young citizens to believe the future can be bright makes more sense. As president, which would better calm the fears of older citizens?
Which presidential candidate seems to better understand the daunting problems he would face as president? Which senator appears to have the better plans to solve/cope with those problems? Which man sets a better example? Which presidential hopeful is the better leader for our time? Not for some other time.
In this election year, the wise voter will brush aside the manipulative, even threadbare, labels and remember that neither conservatives nor liberals have ever had an exclusive on two considerations that matter a lot more than labels — honesty and competence.
–Words and art by F.T. Rea