First, the fundamentals.
Are Conservatives and Republicans genuinely opposed to social programs, regardless of the nature, primarily out of hatred of fear of minorities? Are they so entrenched in their religious views that they hate gay people on principle? Do they really want women to live forever under the thumb (or foot) of her husband? Are Conservatives so committed to their devious ‘agenda’ they’re willing to throw out the Constitution for the sake of their own policies?
Are Liberals and Democrats truly trying to take down America by changing her entire framework by whim? Are they so entrenched in their socialistic views they’d rather see rich people torn down than find alternative, constructive means to help raise everyone up? Are they so committed to the secular cause they’ve no interest in moral values? Are Liberals so entrenched in their devious ‘agenda’ they’re willing to throw out the Constitution for the sake of their own policies?
Make no mistake about it, these are the fundamental assumptions many people make about the other side’s beliefs. Few public speakers choose to articulate the assumptions precisely this way – it’d be in poor taste. A simple perusal of social media or the comment section of any online journal, however, will confirm: many of us believe precisely these things about our fellow Americans.
Seriously folks: do you really think that half the country believes this way?
Admittedly, the preceding is an extreme presentation of folks political/moral premises. Unfortunately, the extremists merely take fundamental premises to their logical conclusion.
In some manner or another all too many of us believe some version of the above about our neighbors. It matters not how watered down our own version may be.
Also unfortunate is that on the issue of policy over principle – our fears regarding the other side’s motivations may be somewhat justified.
Many folks who take a keen interest in politics – and who hold to a firm position – will ignore all evidence suggesting that they might be wrong. This despite the fact that wrong on policy generally means wrong on principle. In the end, such intransigence produces the opposite of the person’s intended result. This basic truth is part of the Law of Unintended Consequences
For example take the question of gay marriage.
Conservatives and Republicans have fought diligently for several decades to limit the slow steady expansion of laws which favor gays and lesbians. They’ve sought to hold back what they see as encroachment on their religious beliefs. Following the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and considering as well the actions of several (17) states), it appears, despite every legislative and judicial effort Conservatives could muster, that gay marriage will eventually become recognized by all 50 states.
Conservatives like to claim that they are victims of judicial activism. They argue that DOMA was a poor Constitutional decision. This reasoning ignores the fact that they themselves sought to make marriage an issue. Until Conservatives began adding anti-gay marriage laws and amendments to the various State’s books and Constitutions (including DOMA), most gays and lesbians assumed that civil unions (in the limited states and the piecemeal legislative efforts they were available) was the best to hope for. For gays and lesbians every thing changed with DOMA, a law sought by Conservatives prior to the existence of gay marriage anywhere in the country.
Lawyers, judges, pundits, and Constitutional experts were nearly universal in predicting the overturning of DOMA. Today, Conservatives demure. They blame everyone else for their losses on gay marriage. Many Conservatives would rather not address their own ignorance (or evasions) of basic Constitutional premises. Many on the Right position themselves as defenders of religious liberty. Meanwhile, however, they feel comfortable ignoring, evading, or diminishing the value of the First Amendment’s other guarantees – namely free speech (such as when they fight FOR censorship).
In seeking out a religious liberties argument for the clearly indefensible – namely the systematic undermining of state law via DOMA – Conservatives have achieved the opposite of their intended results. This from folks who at many other times (on Proposition 8 in California, for example)claim they are for State’s Rights over the power of the Federal Government.
Were DOMA upheld it could have forever damaged, lost, or altered Fifth and Tenth Amendment protections.
One is tempted to ask: would Conservatives be willing (or are they willing) to sacrifice basic fundamental protections in the Constitution to further their social agenda? Are they (or would they be) willing to sacrifice one portion of the Constitution for another in their quest for a more religious society?
Then there are Liberals and Democrats and the quest for the great social experiment to end poverty. Despite the reverence that Liberals have for Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty”, according to one (albeit Conservative) organization
Total federal and state welfare spending has increased more than 16-fold since 1964. Even since the 1996 welfare reform replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, spending has increased by 76 percent and by more than 20 percent since 2008.
Despite the increases in spending the typical Liberal line is cuts to social programs, in part, have led to increases in poverty. Despite all evidence to the contrary Liberals pursue this reasoning. Some choose to label individuals who question that line as, at the least, uncaring towards the poor.
Though there’s little evidence to support the notion that direct aid helps folks in poverty climb out, the line persists. One must ask: why?
When folks point out the direct correlations between education, the stability of the family, and potential to rise out of poverty – particularly those who support alternatives to public education like vouchers and charter schools – the knee-jerk reaction from many Liberals is to cry ‘hater’ or ‘racist’. However, why,when they have 2/3 of the black vote and when only 13% of Hispanics identify as Republican, do Democrats and Liberals continue to oppose vouchers? The voucher system, when it is offered as a possibility, has overwhelming support of among minority parents, especially those in urban neighborhoods. Are they even listening to their own constituency?
Its almost as if these parents know something that Liberals do not want everyone else to know.
We sit under $17 trillion in federal debt, our schools graduate scores of kids who can’t read, and we see racial biases in everyone else’s political viewpoint. Our assumptions and biases drive us further towards the house divided that Lincoln warned about so long ago.
In seeking out an economy that distributes the wealth more ‘fairly’, despite any evidence that such a policy would work (and despite never asking whether it was fair)while also ignoring potential policies that could help merely because those policies come from the other side, Liberals have achieved the opposite of their intended result.
One is tempted to ask: Would Liberals be willing (or are they willing) to let the economy collapse if it means saving face on their failed policies in regards to poverty? Would they be willing (or are they willing) to (literally) sacrifice a major part of their constituency (the poor) to a failed economy and impossible budget if and when our current system collapses under its own weight?
It appears as though some Conservatives are willing to sacrifice political principles – limited Constitutional Government – to their social agenda.
It appears that some Liberals are willing to sacrifice their social agenda – getting folks out of poverty – to their thus far failed economic principles.
Who are these folks and how much influence do they actually have?
While the fighting and accusations continue the rest of us take cover as the house fractures.
Perhaps its time for introspection as well as for reaching out. What do folks really believe, and why? What do we know, how do we know it?
The house is not yet on fire. There’s still time to put our house in order.