why one would choose to be liberal

We’re embarking this week on a guest-written series exploring why people hold the political views they do. The goals are not to think maliciously of others, speak respectfully to each other, and hopefully find enough areas of agreement that could serve as the basis of an agenda the vast majority of us could support. See Sunday’s The Great Divide for the series introduction.

Each side has their extremists, and each side has their single-issue voters. Though unflattering, we will include them for both sides, as our conclusion will discuss how each poisons the tone of our political discourse. But the focus of our analyses are the very legitimate reasons one would choose to hold that political worldview. Today we explore Why One Would Choose to be Liberal.

I ask for your patience in discussing extremists. I am not saying they are representative of liberals, nor that the conservative extremists will be representative of conservatives. Why I include them will become clear by the end of the series:

Socialists – People who believe that the government should own the means of production, so business decisions could be made altruistically, rather than by greedy profiteers.

Militant Atheists – Those who want any reference to God completely removed from the public square.

Moral Relativists – Those who believe there should be no standards of right and wrong.

Race Baiters – If the African-American vote split 50/50 instead of 80/20, that would be the end of the Democratic party as we know it. So some politicians focus on keeping that voting bloc in line.

Similar to the extremists, each party has those who align with it for a single issue that is their passion:

Environmentalists – Some are extreme, believing that nature is more important than human beings, but most simply advocate protection of our environment, because this is the only earth we have.

Abortion – For some, this has become an all-consuming issue, preserving a woman’s right to choose.

Guns – Concerned about the high rates of gun-related crime and death in America, some seek to restrict the use of some or all guns or to make private ownership of firearms unlawful.

These are far from exhaustive lists. They are exemplary and will be used to make a point about how they affect our political discourse in the conclusion of this series.

But the primary point is that there are very legitimate reasons why someone would choose to be liberal.

To be clear, we must differentiate between classic liberalism and what it has come to be known as today. Classic liberalism focused on enhancing individual freedom and therefore limiting government. But modern liberalism, which has re-branded itself first to being “moderate” and now “progressive,” considers government to be a crucial instrument in protecting against social inequities.

In general, liberals sincerely care about people. That’s not to say that conservatives don’t, but when liberals see the injustices of discrimination or the inequalities between the have and have nots, they say to themselves, “That needs to be fixed.”

They tend to be a bit idealist. When they see one of these problems, they not only believe it should be fixed, but that it can be.

This idealistic care for people leads to a generally positive view of government.

Since real freedom can only exist when people are healthy, educated, and free from poverty, liberals believe the government should guarantee the right to an education, health care, and a living wage, while outlawing discrimination and pollution.

Then there needs to be a provision for taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves.

And they pay for all this by taking from those who can.

As one progressive website puts it, “Everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.”

There are, of course, many other possible motivations. I wish to be neither cursory nor exhaustive. Some are liberal more for social reasons than economic. In those cases, it is typically sticking up for the rights of a minority group of any sort – racial or otherwise – against being overrun by the majority.

And liberalism, which originally sought to limit government to protect the individual, has evolved to favor a strong central government to mandate the equality it so desires.

Fair enough? Any liberals out there who think I’ve left something out? Any conservatives who think I’ve used rose-colored glasses?

Just remember, the goal isn’t to convince me that liberals are evil, but to discover the legitimate reasons one would hold that view.

Next we will explore Why One Would Choose to be Conservative.



Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash