It is amazing that, for every issue, liberals and conservatives line up on opposite sides. There are a few issues for which a few people don’t fall in line with their compatriots, but for the most part, if you ask a person their views on issues, you can tell within a few questions whether that person is a conservative or a liberal.
Why is that? If you ask people, they will invariably say something like, “it’s because we are good and they are bad.” There is a certain tribalism at work. But it’s not like people consult their side’s umpire to find out the “correct” point-of-view. It’s innate.
Let’s go through a few issues.
• Abortion: conservatives think it’s murder, while liberals say the fetus is not a person, so it’s up to the woman to decide if she can and should continue a pregnancy.
• Death Penalty: conservatives think some people “deserve” to die, and the state has the right to do the deed; liberals say it’s murder, and there are plenty of examples of innocent people being convicted.
• Euthanasia: conservatives say it’s murder in any case; liberals say when people no longer have a quality of life, and they want to go, we should make it painless.
• Foreign Aid. Conservatives say it’s a waste of money, making foreigners weak and dependent on us; liberals say we owe it to our less fortunate brothers and sisters to share our wealth. Then, there’s
• Military Aid. Conservatives are all for arming “friendly” countries—so they can help us fight the bad guys, but also because our arms manufacturers can make a profit. Liberals say we are just increasing violence by shipping weapons of destruction abroad.
The United States has been
• “The policeman of the world.” That used to be the conservative view (except for libertarians); while liberals said we should not be meddling in the affairs of others. This is an area in which Trump planned to throw a wrench into things. He condemned Bush for the Iraq War, for example, and said we should not be trying to control the world. That was always the liberal ideal. On the other hand, he became involved in Syria and other places, so his stance has weakened.
Likewise, things have changed regarding
• Free Trade. Conservatives, primarily the business community, have been all for projecting our economic power. They felt that our overwhelming economic energy would overcome any foreign challenge. And, of course, if businesses are allowed to use cheap foreign labor, they can rack up profits without having to pay American workers. Liberals, on the other hand, were split. One group, primarily labor unions, feared free trade, precisely because it weakened their bargaining power; but other liberals felt that it was right for foreigners to begin to improve their living standards through jobs from free trade.
• Gun Rights are a powder keg (so to speak). Conservatives feel that the Second Amendment means there should be no limits—of any kind—on gun ownership or usage; while liberals feel that guns are the problem—in themselves—noting that most gun deaths are from suicide or domestic violence.
As for the
• Environment, conservatives say that if there is global warming, there’s no evidence that “little ol’ us” are the cause; liberals say we know the earth is warming so if we can slow it down, shouldn’t we try? Conservatives counter that it’s too expensive.
When it comes to
• Freedom of Speech, liberals are all for it—unless it offends someone. So they are more interested in the individuals who can be hurt that those who do the hurting.
• Gay Rights. Conservatives cite the bible verse, and justify limiting gay rights by saying such people should be discouraged. Liberals accept gays, lesbians, queers, bisexuals, transsexuals, asexual, and non-binary as being different, but equal.
• The Legal System. Conservatives are rugged individualists, but talk about the right of society to defend itself from individual criminals. Liberals say the economic system turns individuals into criminals by limiting their economic opportunities.
No matter what the issue, conservatives line up on one side and liberals line up on the other. It’s just automatic. Is it just because we like to fight, or is there some innate reason for the differences? Part of it is how we live. Liberals tend to live in bigger cities, while those in rural areas tend to be conservative. Thus, liberals are around people of all kinds, all the time, while conservatives tend to be suspicious of strangers, and of different ideas.
• Religion is a factor. While liberals used religion to push civil rights in the 1950s, conservatives have claimed ownership of religion since Reagan brought the religious right into his coalition. Many liberals stupidly reacted by rejecting religion. But most Americans profess to be Christians, whether or not they have any idea of the tenets. So if liberals reject religion, they are rejecting what the majority clings to (so to speak).
And at the risk of offending, I think, as a rule, we could say that conservatives are Old Testament, while liberals are New Testament. Conservatives are all about responsibility and rule of law. “Justice” means punishment for infractions. “An eye for an eye.” So conservatives are more responsible, more self-sufficient. They like to win, and tend to be “winners.”
Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely to “turn the other cheek” when wronged, and are more concerned with fighting for the underdog than for themselves. They’re also more likely to be willing to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” while conservatives distrust and may even hate government.
When it comes to
• Health-Care, liberals say “it’s a right.” That gets under the skin of conservatives, who don’t believe people are “entitled” to anything. What liberals should be saying, more in keeping with the New Testament ethic, is that health-care is a “duty”—that we owe it to our brothers and sisters to make sure that they have reasonably good health. Some go further and say that we should all have a monthly financial allowance, as Andrew Yang is proposing.
If you go through the issues, you’ll see that conservatives line up with an Old Testament—fairness–attitude, while liberals have a New Testament—mercy—approach. That’s why liberals see conservatives as mean, and conservatives see liberals as sniveling weaklings. George Bush’s “compassionate conservative” was an attempt to bridge the gap, as was his father’s hope for a “kinder, gentler world.” While liberal John F. Kennedy said, “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty”—and—“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”
Our problem is that we refuse to see—or acknowledge—that the other side is sincere and believes it’s just as right as we are. We just think differently.
There was an episode of the original Star Trek (“The Enemy Within”), in which a transporter malfunction accidentally divided Captain Kirk into two beings. One was conservative, the other liberal. Conservative Kirk was strong and determined; liberal Kirk was well-meaning, but indecisive, and thus, ineffective. The moral of the episode was that we need both sides of our personality to function properly. And I propose that it is—“logical”—that we, as a society—as a nation, would be far better off if we listened to each other—and accepted as honest, even things we could never agree with.
Compromise is not necessarily surrender. If done right, both sides get what they really need, and give in on matters that are not as important to them. Amen.