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

the great divide

I can’t think of any other way to say it. Our government simply isn’t accomplishing very much right now.

Before the Trump-haters start cheering or his apologists take offense, I’m not talking about The President. This dynamic has continued to evolve in the last two administrations, Republicans making it their stated goal to obstruct Barack Obama at every turn, and now Democrats so unwilling to work with the Trump administration that they are calling themselves “The Resistance.”

It didn’t used to be this way. Politicians from both parties used to go after each other pretty hard during their campaigns, but even in the most contentious contests, once they were elected, they put the campaigns behind them and got on with the vital work of governing. The consideration of various issues did not involve who won or lost, only what was best for the American people. In fact, some of the best examples of legislative achievement have been partnerships that reached across the aisle:

  • Democrat George McGovern introducing food stamps with Republican Bob Dole to control costs and help the truly needy
  • Bob Dole again with Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan in an attempt to save Social Security
  • Bill Clinton working with a bitterly divided Congress to pass welfare reform
  • Conservative Orrin Hatch providing children’s health insurance with ultra-liberal Edward Kennedy
  • Socialist Russ Feingold creating campaign finance reform with maverick John McCain so neither side would view it as the other’s solution
  • Indiana Republican Richard Lugar collaborating with Georgia Democrat Sam Nunn on nuclear disarmament, and later with Illinois Democrat Barack Obama

That’s not the way things work today. I don’t know if it’s the Internet, Twitter, or 24-hour cable news, but we are now in constant campaign mode. Every issue is seen as an opportunity to win points against one’s opponents for the next campaign. We never get around to governing! I don’t know which side wins, but it’s the American people who lose.

We saw it in the last administration, when Mitch McConnell stated, “My number one priority is making sure President Obama is a one-term president.” And we saw it again during the recent health care debates, when every Democrat voted “No” on everything, and Republicans couldn’t find a solution to which 50 of 52 Senators could agree.

We’ve lost a number of elements critical to public service in this transformation into constant-campaign mode: no one is governing anymore, we aren’t making any progress on anything, and civility is completely out the window.

It’s this last point where I think the discussion needs to begin. Because politicians are in constant-campaign mode, they have to keep their bases energized, engaged, and most importantly, sending money. So they speak about those on the other side in the vilest terms, be it the Democrats who want to kill children through abortion or the Republicans who want to kill children by taking away their healthcare.

I’m pretty sure no one want to kill children. But how can the two parties be expected to work together when they talk about each other as if they were evil?

That’s where we’re going this week. With The Intramuralist away getting some much-deserved R&R, we’re going to do a 4-part series on how to quit talking about people who have different political views than we do as if they were mal-intentioned or misinformed. There are legitimate reasons one may choose to be liberal. There are legitimate reasons one may choose to be conservative. Following this introduction, we’ll explore each of these viewpoints.

One of these will come more easily to me. But I’m hoping you can’t tell which.

And I’m asking each reader not to focus on their own viewpoint and say, “Yeah, that’s right!” but on the other viewpoint and say, “Ok, I can understand why one might feel that way.”

Then in conclusion – and I don’t even know yet whether I can do this – we will seek common ground. Is it possible to focus on the things upon which we can agree rather than where we differ? Can we combine the best of each into solutions that would be better for all?

I don’t know. But we’re not making any progress the way things are. Let the journey begin….




Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

questions from an old(er) woman

Like most adults my age, I have adopted social media along with the rest of the world as an efficient way to reconnect and stay in touch with my distant family and friends. This time of year is the best time of year to be on social media, in my opinion. The pictures! Wonderful, happy, pictures of end-of the school year events, summer fun, and WEDDINGS (honestly, my favorite!). I think it was around the end of May, as I was gazing upon all these posts that questions started popping up in my head.

As a more, ahem, mature woman, I can’t help but think about how things have changed from when my children were growing up to now. My questions here are sincere because it seems growing up in the U.S. has changed quite a bit in the last 20+ years, probably as it changed in the 20 years prior to that and so on. I wonder if growing up in the U.S. right now is better than it used to be?

Take into account while you’re reading that most of my social media “friends” have enough food in their bellies, a roof over their heads, and clothes on their back. They earn the means to raise their children and thus, I think there are less basic worries and perhaps a greater desire to celebrate the joys in life. I totally get that. My husband and I struggle to keep the balance. Should we go on vacation or sock that money into retirement? The answer is not always clear to us. Too often, we see friends and family “waiting” for retirement to enjoy their life and something devastating happens before they get there.

Back to my question: is it a better experience growing up in the U.S. right now than it was 20+ years ago? I’ll tell you why I have that question. Pre-schoolers are wearing caps and gowns in order to graduate from being 4 to being 5. Pinterest-inspired (and definitely Pinterest-worthy) birthday parties are being given, starting with gender reveals during pregnancy and continuing until children say “stop, I’m too old for that.” Children receive cell phones, video games, and other traditionally “adolescent” privileges at younger and younger ages. Kids today have experiences! Activities! Travel! One friend took her elementary-age child to Disney’s Art Institute because he likes to draw. Fifth grade proms. High school prom-posals. Oh my. The prom-posals. Kids are traveling internationally and experiencing other cultures and ways of doing things. Truth be told, I didn’t even travel outside the U.S. until I was 45.

It also seems to me — and I stress the “seems” part because I am beyond the active childrearing years — that teenagers are not working at jobs outside of schoolwork and chores at home. I read an article the other day that addressed the joblessness issue among teens today and it surprised me to read that the findings revealed that teens aren’t working at part-time jobs because they are using summers to continue to prepare academically and experientially for college applications. Wow. That’s some added stress to families.

So. These are my observations from social media. Downright objective, I know, but question-generating for me nonetheless. Part of me thinks this is a natural process of growing older. Comparing generations. Another part of me, though, sincerely questions the differences. I know now how important it is to travel and experience other cultures, environments, and situations. Do today’s young parents already get that? It seems that more have than when I was growing up. A trip to the beach was downright glamorous and highly anticipated once a year (or less) when I was young(er). Do today’s parents realize how fleeting our time is here on earth and work to make as many special memories as possible before their kids move away and begin lives without mom and dad? I can get behind those ideas. Honestly, I wish I had had some of those realizations 20 years ago when my kids were small.

Let’s also look at the other side of the coin. May I insert here that the element of competition might be at play? Mommy wars is a real thing. Women striving to outdo other women through their children. It happens in the workplace. Isn’t it logical that it also happens in the family and childrearing context? Is that what is driving the “uber-childhood experiences”?

That leads me to my next question. Are today’s children programmed to be disappointed adults? There has been research done in this area. Some note that today’s young adults experience anxiety and depression at greater rates than previous generations. How do young adults continue to experience life events when parents aren’t around anymore? Don’t you suppose that there is a bit of shock and letdown when they realize that there won’t be a parade for them when they start their first job? Is there a transition of the responsibility to create joy? To whom? Spouses? What does that expectation do to young marriages? I would imagine that it takes a while for people to figure all this out. How long does it take for young adults to find their own, sometimes less sensational, ways of celebrating or simply experiencing life? I rarely see pictures of “twenty-somethings” throwing Pinterest-inspired parties for themselves.

As with most interesting life situations, there isn’t a black and white answer. Is this trend good or bad? I don’t think it’s that simple. It’s a shade of gray (no, I haven’t read the books). It’s one of those things where it’s up to moms, dads, and kids to make sense of it all and pull the good out of it and use it to lead fulfilling lives. Likewise, the not-so-good should be weeded out and discarded along the way. Easier said than done, eh?

As noted at the beginning, this old(er) woman has a lot of questions. I’m still not sure of the answers, but I have confidence that all will work out for the good of American families. In the meantime, I’m considering asking some of these families to consider me for adoption! I’d LOVE to go to a Disney Art Camp.



[Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash]