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taking liberties with labels

Some mornings there is absolutely nothing I want to write about. Then there are days like today, when my blog-to-do list is a mile long. I'll start with The Denver Post and Henrietta Hay's What is a Liberal? (link via Daily Pundit)

Ms. Hay is a knee-jerk liberal and proud of it. Good for her, I say. It's good and American to stand up for what you believe in, even when others may call you a fool for doing so.

Generally, when I talk about liberals on this site, I am referring to the far left liberals. This is why I hate labels. There are too many sub-genres of the political genres. Liberal, far left liberal, moderate liberal. And all the same for conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc. I'd rather take ten minutes to explain my politics to someone who asks then just slap on a name tag that says "Hi! I'm a Conservative!"

The problem with trying to fit yourself into one group and then applying a definition to that group is you end up sounding like you just walked out of Broad Brush Painting 101. Inasmuch as defining a certain politic puts those within that politic into a nice square hole, you also keep out anyone who may adhere to only part of your square. Politics should be a venn diagram, not a bunch of neat little boxes.

Ms. Hay defines liberals as thus:

In today's world, the liberals are the idealists, the people who still believe, in spite of everything that has happened, that they can make the world a better place for everybody. Realistically, they know they're outnumbered, but it is a belief that shapes their lives.

Not only liberals think they can make the world a better place. Conservatives and moderates believe that also, they just want to go about it in different ways. Also, idealists do not think realistically, which is why one cursory glance at any liberal website will leave you with the impression that the liberals are not, in fact, outnumbered, but they believe they are louder and greater in number than any other political force.

They believe that government is inherently good, that it can make the human condition better. They believe that we have some obligation to our fellow human beings. They believe in personal freedom, in freedom of speech and religion. They believe in the common good, the things people cannot do alone.

Well, Ms. Hays, I am not a liberal, but I certainly believe in obligation to my fellow human beings, personal freedom and freedom of speech and religion. My main problem with liberals is they think they have cornered the market on inate goodness and altruism. They think they are the only ones who want freedom. Conservatives want it too, and they want it for everyone, not just Americans. The people of Iraq do not have the freedoms that liberals covet so dearly, yet those same liberals don't want us to enforce a regime change in order to give the Iraqi people those very freedoms.

The liberal thinks government can make the human condition better. The conservative thinks government always makes things worse.

Hmm. From everything I see in the media and on various websites, it seems that the liberals are the ones who think the government makes everything worse, and most of them think that less government would make the human condition better.

It takes a long time to create a true liberal. They usually start young and enthusiastic, and are sure they can save the world. But finally they come face-to-face with unfiltered reality. Either they go by way of yoga, guitar lessons or just plain dropping out, or they stay in there swinging.

I was young and enthusiastic once. I thought I could save the world. I wore my No-Nukes t-shirt and listened to Jefferson Airplane and channeled every dead hero from the 60's. Reality certainly did kick me in the ass. I don't know which portion of reality it was, most likely the Iran hostage ordeal. My road to the middle started then, and just reached it's destination now, although a little further to the right than I thought I would end up. I did not go by way of yoga, nor did I stay in there swinging. I changed course, as did so many of my idealist classmates of those days. It may take a long time to make a "true" liberal, but all it takes is one dose of ass-kicking reality to make one turn tail and run from that course.

Liberals are not criminals. They are not traitors. They are patriotic Americans. They love their families. They go to work and complain about traffic circles. Most of them probably have cats. Most of them are Christians. Most of them are Democrats. Some of them are Republicans. Most of them say, "You believe your thing and let me believe mine."

They are not criminals, no. Not unless they are vandalizing property in the name of activism. They are not traitors, no. Not unless they are supporting an enemy country's leaders over their own, not unless they go to that country and openly blast the president on enemy soil. Not unless they kill a cop in the name of sending a message.

I love my family. I complain about traffic. I go to work. I am not a liberal.

Most of them own cats? Most of them are Christians? Where did this woman get her data from? Most liberals I know would not go anywhere near the Christian church.

Most of them say, "You believe your thing and let me believe mine."

Hardly. Most of them say "You believe your thing and I will tell you that you are wrong and will not listen to your response."

Of course, that's true of people other than liberals. But so is everything Ms. Hays said.

Just reason #106 why I Hate Labels.

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Comments

Democracies were made to take the power from the kings and give it to the people unfortunately liberals run from the consequences and wont to give it back.

Congratulations on nailing this issue. Less than 15% of democrats are liberals. In the same way that a small percentage of republicans are fundamentalists. Unfortunately, an even smaller percentage understands that it is the issue, not the party, that is the key. That's why you end up all over the playing field partisan-wise. Labeling is seductively simple, and appeals to the lowest common denominator in political thought. Well stated, Michele.

From what I see, the problem with "liberals" is that they never had the blood-letting purges that the right did to rid itself of the kooks and unsavory sorts. Bill Buckley almost single-handedly rebuilt the right in the 1950s from the ruins of the New Deal and did so not only by building coalitions, but also by tossing overboard crazies like the John Birchers.

Today, because of the infinitely large tent strategy of the Left, we have a Democratic party populated with a rump of responsible and sober people, but adorned with unreconstructed communists, environmental extremists, screeching, man-hating feminists, Jew-baiting black "leaders," a hard-left union leadership totally out of touch with their members, and tax-sucking welfare statists.

The result is a party that almost reflexively cozys up with the most strident America-hating demagogues available at the moment. No one will deny that the right has gotten in bed with some unsavory dictators, but you could at least count on them being pro-American. The Left's heroes, OTOH, you can almost guarantee will denounce every American instituion with the zeal of an Osama bin Laden on crystal meth. Witness the hideous spectacle of David Bonior and Jim McDermott in Baghdad shilling for a vile, despotic regime and you'll get the perfect picture of what I'm talking about.

Interesting little essay. I fully relate with your dislike of labels. It seems that the world is full of pigion holes and if you're not in one of them you're a traitor of some kind. I don't buy it. Also in response to this:

"The liberal thinks government can make the human condition better. The conservative thinks government always makes things worse."

Well, historically, government has always had a tendency to make things worse if given the chance. At least as far as individual freedoms are concerned. At the risk of over simplifying, history is replete with the cyclical phenomenon of governments rising, governments oppressing, the oppressed revolting and building anew . . . and 'round and 'round it goes.

Regards.

This looks like a pretty good example of what Thomas Sowell identified as "The Vision of the Anointed." All judgment is made on the basis of intention only. Since the liberals know their intentions are good, for someone to oppose them means that person's intentions must be bad and someone with bad intention is evil. Thus, oppose my liberal views and you are evil.
The very concept of a 'loyal opposition' wherein you share aims but recognize that others might apporoach those aims from a diffierent direction is utterly lost.
Thus politics is poisoned.

It's time to challenge the idea that liberals "want to make the world a better place." This may have been true of classical liberals, but it's not true of today's "progressives." They reject all incremental improvement (that is to say, any feasible improvement at all) in the name of a totally mythical reconstruction of society. Many of them are actually anti-human..there is a bumper sticker that says "plants and animals are being destroyed to make room for your fat ass." Many of them, despite their talk of "peace," are fascinated by violence, as witness their "understanding" attitudes toward terrorism.

Obviously, there are many on the left who still mean well..but they fail to understand the attitudes and motivations of those around them.

Comment #1:
"They believe that government is inherently good, that it can make the human condition better."
Yes they do. No matter the socio-economic wastelands left in the wake of each and every socialist/communist/fascist government in history. And they deride Christians for their "factually unfounded" religious beliefs. Can we call them government-worshippers?

Comment #2:
"The liberal thinks government can make the human condition better. The conservative thinks government always makes things worse."
Well.....how about the depts of Education and Energy? Or the EPA? Or the wondrous Canadian socialized medicine program ("You'll die without this surgery! I'll try to get you on the list for the next 6 months or so. Or you can go to the US and get it in practically any hospital. Too bad about that exchange rate though.") Or my favorite - the continued poverty fed to blacks and other poor people in the form of welfare.
Can't imagine why Conservatives think government only makes things worse.... Personally, my motto is, "Government is the slowest, most expensive, least efficient way to do anything." Nuff said.

Hey, I agree with you totally. I hate labels, especially when dealing with something that's so gray-shaded as politics.

You added me for the Hellboy link (thanks, by the way!), and I'll add you for this piece! Long may we run.

"yet those same liberals don't want us to enforce a regime change in order to give the Iraqi people those very freedoms"

The fact that you can consider yourself conservative free thinker yet still swallow your governments PR spin, hook, line and sinker, exposes a fundamental weakness in your philosophy. Your right leaning views certainly suggest a suspicion and opposition to the unlimited scope of government, yet at the same time you seem to be working on promoting this as hard as anyone.

when did you all get things so mixed up as to believe that any of this represents real life?