The truth lies somewhere between the extremes.
Everybody does it.
There is enough blame to go around.
A pox on both their houses.
Journalists have adopted the viewpoint wholesale as an entire belief system. The pedestrian on the sidewalk you see interviewed every once in a while has enrolled. If you apply a critique, or even an observation to one side of an equation, you have to apply it to the other side. Equal and opposite reaction.
I once wrote about my experience listening to an informed and enlightening analysis of what was then proposed health care reform legislation by the Obama administration. The White House said it would lower health care costs. A Republican spokesperson had insisted it would increase costs. The reporter, who apparently had done a lot of homework, guided us to the effect on three main groups of people. Pretty much everyone is in one of the three groups. For each group, as it turned out, the cost of health care would go down.
Wow, I thought, listening to the radio. Three groups and the cost goes down for all three groups. So the White House is right. Right? Not so fast.
But the NPR analyst (after saying that everyone would get a cost break) concluded that both sides were "sort of" right. Both right? Sort of? The anchor summarized. "So the answer is, it's complicated." The analyst agreed, "Exactly." Complicated?
Uh huh. Some say it's cold outside and some say it's hot. We've measured it and the temperature is 108 degrees, so the answer is complicated and both sides are sort of right.
Now, in fairness, in many disputes there is room on both sides. My objection is to a preemptive conclusion. That pretty much means any conclusion that comes before the evidence is glanced at. Can we look at the evidence, and actually consider it, before we conclude both sides are right? Or wrong? Or neither?
When one side differs from the other side in a qualitative way, some explanation is required. It seems to me that there is a such a difference between liberals and conservatives. In looking at the best arguments offered by either, I reached a conclusion and offered a proposition, although one with some wishy-washy caveats.
Liberals see problems and and want those problems solved. They, meaning we (okay, meaning me) are mostly apathetic about whether government is involved in the solutions.
Conservatives are opposed to government involvement. Regulations, taxation, and government itself are viewed as an infringement of rights.
Now, certainly there are exceptions. Some cultural issues see a sort of role reversal in some cases. Civil liberties, government involvement in religious decisions, values issues.
But the main debate seems always to arrive in Rome: Government shouldn't be involved versus problems need solutions.
Liberals are for solving problems regardless of whether it takes government to do the solving. The most direct line to solutions is usually government, but that is how the chips fall. Government is the means, not the motivation.
Conservatives are opposed to government as a solution regardless of the problem. If problems can be solved without government, conservatives are okay with that, for the most part. But, after legitimate private efforts, problems that are left are best left alone. The important thing is to oppose government meddling.
It all leads me to a simple proposition, although one with some important consequences. One consequence is about the best and most honest form of argument for conservatives.
Those motivated by a sense of problem solving activism will tend to rely on data. It comes with the territory. You see a problem. You want it solved, you don't care which approach is used to solve it as long as liberties are not seriously abridged and the cost is right. You will want to see evidence about what approach gets the results you want.
Those motivated by an objection to what is often the most direct, obvious, solution; an active government; will be inclined toward a philosophical approach.
One pays more attention to data. The other pays more attention to a guiding principle.
Liberals tend to do best rhetorically when relying on sound data. That is, after all, the natural arena of problem-solving activism. Conservatives are rhetorically strongest when relying on philosophical argument and staying away from the factual arguments that, for the most part, are not relevant to what matters to them.
The response to my simple proposition has varied.
One writer was offended by my observation that Republicans are not all that concerned with solutions to a host of issues liberals have some urgency about. The comment was so well written we requested permission from the writer that it be allowed to stand as an article on its own. It began with "Mr Deming, this is simply a lie." Oh my.
My point was easy to understand, or so I thought. One consequence of a difference on approach is that the most honest and the strongest approach for conservatives will be philosophical. For liberals it will be factual.
Having weathered that simple consequence, a consequence that flows naturally from the nature of the argument, let's go on to the next.
Here it is:
The Republican Party will vanish as a national organization before this decade is complete.
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Conservatives say they want lim ited government but what they REALLY want is limited government when the DEMOCRATS have power. As we saw during both the Reagan and Busg 2 administrations, when THEY run the government it is perfectly ok to have it not only big, but imperialistic and providing lots of corporate welfare as well. They claim to be strong supporters of personal freedom, but when that freedom involves having an abortion, union organizing, opposing their constant effort to impose a permanent oligarchy upon us, they will fight to the last person against you.
Because they must continually spin misinformation to get and maintain power, their tolerance level for all but their own solutions to problems is continually shrinking, and because their economic aims are to benefit only the wealthy and to actively hold everyone else down and keep them from attaining that type of wealth, I fully agree with your premise that the Republican Party will be gone within a decade.
It cannot survive economically representing only a handful while dooming all the rest to drudgery or economic slavery.
You misunderstand what conservatives mean when they say limited government, and I am offended on their behalf.
Let me clarify. Limited government means two things:
“Limited government means that we should limit the effectiveness and cost of programs that risk inhibiting corporate profit for the betterment of the planet or the betterment of humankind. These include the EPA, the FDA, OSHA, and any other agency that is not profitable to the biggest campaign contributors in America.”
“Limited government means that we should limit the effectiveness and cost of social programs, some to the point of extinction, and that we simply abolish others entirely. These include support for the children of single or underachieving mothers, healthcare, SSA, and most programs that support the needs of the elderly. Programs designed specifically for those people who are most in need and who could not possibility make monetary or marketing contributions to Republican campaigns have no constitutional justification.”
I do believe that many conservatives are sincere in their desire to limit government, and for noble reasons. Their approach, its turns out is ignoble.
Mr Deming, I've made this point before, so I'm forced to assume you either didn't understand it or have simply rejected it outright. I will make it once more.
I am a conservative, so I ask you to take my word for this: what you describe is not a conservative idea, but a libertarian one. You are presenting a debate between liberals and libertarians, not liberals and conservatives.
I take no offense to your post because I see that you are not talking to me or conservatives like me. I am concerned about the confusion you are sowing with your readers.
Sit back and listen to Republican rhetoric for a while, and it's not hard to apprehend that on economic issues, libertarian thinking thoroughly dominates American conservatism. You do make an important distinction between libertarian-style conservatism and classic Burkean Euro-conservatism. But this distinction has very limited relevance in the U.S., because there are so few classic conservatives (unless you want to count the ones in the Democratic Party). I respect the fact that classic conservatism is fundamentally concerned with the preservation of a society and the BEST elements of its past. Sadly, one is hard-pressed to find any such conservatives here. Our "conservatives," such as they are, glamorize pre-1935 America, an America that was perhaps utopia for an elite few, but for others was 60-hr. workweeks and half of our elderly living in poverty. Such people romanticize a past that never was, and that's largely the source of their disconnect with facts.
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