I’ve had this particular idea rolling about in my my head for some time now, and I thought I’d throw it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it. Many have asked how a person as bleeding heart, radical, and optimistic as I could hang out with the likes of Malkin, Limbaugh, and our current president. It’s a fair question, and one I didn’t know the answer to till I had thought in-depth about it. My answer involves quite a radical theory.
Everybody’s using the wrong terms.
It is my contention that those who call themselves liberal are actually the Old Guard, trying to “conserve” the Great Society programs, social changes, and Realpolitik foreign policies of the past. Those who call themselves conservative are the true radicals.
Where are the radical, world-changing ideas coming from? Some might say that the Left’s push for universal health care is radical, and I’ll agree that Hillary Clinton’s scheme WAS something new and world-changing, but the proposals that have come out since are just tepid expansions of the current Medicare/Medicaid government-pay regimes. And my contention is that preservation and expansion of the existing order is “conservative”.
Name the issue – the right has radical proposals and the left is tring to hang onto the old order.
School vouchers. Social Security Privatization (yes, I used the word). NCLB (the testing regime – although many Democrats went along with this). Tax rates. Affirmative Action. In all of these, it is the liberals who are trying to “conserve” the past. I could think of more, but I need to move on.
Foreign policy: let me first say that I now think that invading Iraq was a mistake. The president made the same mistake I have made many times as a parent; he thought other people were predictable and you could base policy around what you thought they would do. That being said, let’s think about it for a minute. What president Bush tried to do was something quite liberal: he set out to change the world. He thought he could usher in a wave of freedom, and to this day I believe it might have worked, save tactical errors. But once again, we had a “conservative” shaking things up, and “liberals” trying to preserve things as they were.
The social sphere? This is where I feel we’re on the other side of the Looking Glass. Many on the left still talk like there is an oppressive conformist order that they must fight against, to which I say, “huh?” Any objective look at our society will tell you that their side IS the oppressive conformist order! Their side holds sway in almost every social sector of society. What they are actually trying to do, is “conserve” the social order their side set up in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
“Give me the songs of a nation,” said Andrew Fletcher, an eighteenth-century political thinker from Scotland, “and I care not who writes its laws.” I agree. A society is shaped by its arts and popular culture more than anything. And it would appear by looking at those things, that the current order still believes firmly in the tenets of the sexual revolution. In television and movies, single people have more sex than I think is physically possible, and married folk have no sex at all (with each other, at least). Virgins are ridiculed, especially males.
Name the social issue, and the left side, in the arts, is the one presented as “normal”. That’s why I say that the REAL radicals are the ones who are challenging this order.
Roe v Wade – let’s step lightly, shall we? Two quick things about this. There is no arguing that the pro-choice position is the law of the land. Therefore, anyone that holds it is trying to “conserve” the status quo (or expand it).
Secondly (and here I’ll make a larger point), when abortion discussions get down to The Personal, all of the arguments “for” seem to take a pessimistic view of life, and vice-versa. This is true of all end and beginning of life issues. The left seems quite pessimistic, cynical, world-weary. I am above all things, and optimist. I won’t break down the arguments. We all know them.
And this brings it full circle. I believe that conservatism, in its current incarnation, is the worldview of optimists and radicals. As for me, I believe in people (even, no, especially the poor), I believe in hope and not giving up because things are dire, I believe in compassion (the definition of which is “suffering with”, meaning we need to get our hands dirty and help those who need help face-to-face; writing a check, no matter how large, is not compassion). I believe in life, even when it is hard; I believe in radically changing the current social order. I am a radical, bleeding heart, optimistic conservative.
Thoughts? All I ask is 1) civility and 2) please do not patronize me.
UPDATE: I forgot to add that where “conservatism” holds a cynical or pessimistic policy (immigration for example), we part ways. I am no lackey. Except for my wife.