Ideologically Confused Partisans

I sometimes feel like I’m living in Bizarro America.

Al Gore is a veteran and a successful businessman. He is of Scots-Irish descent from the Upper South where he spent summers working on the family farm in Tennessee where they grew tobacco and raised cattle. Al Gore is boring, if anything, in his being a generally upstanding citizen. He is smart and accomplished. He has lived the American Dream, if you’re into that kind of thing.

George W. Bush is a draft-dodger and a failed businessman, not to mention an alcoholic. He was born in New England to a political family of old wealth, but he pretended to be a good ol’ boy Southerner and a rancher. Even Bush’s Christianity always seemed like pretense. Everything about Bush seemed like pretense, even simple things like putting on a flight suit and declaring ‘Mission Accomplished!’.

Al Gore was an example of what conservatives idealize as a moral citizen, but they attacked him. Instead, conservatives supported George W. Bush who demonstrates the worst attributes of the ruling elite.

Now, conservatives claim Bush jr never was a real conservative. The last real conservative to be president, they claim, was Ronald Reagan.

However, Reagan was the president who chose to use deficit spending which created the permanent debt that later on both Bush presidents grew even larger. Also, Reagan was a part of the Hollywood elite, a union leader, passed the most liberal pro-choice abortion bill prior to Roe v. Wade, and was the first president to invite an openly gay couple to sleep over at the White House. Reagan’s sunny optimism and idealism was a straightforward expression of his liberal-mindedness. He was a former progressive who simply turned his progressivism toward realpolitik and became a neocon. There was nothing particularly conservative about him.

Before Reagan, Jimmy Carter was a Deep Southern Evangelical. He was an actual compassionate conservative, what Bush jr was always pretending to be. He was an old fashioned conservative of a conservationist bent, a type of conservative that used to be more common. It was Carter who was the first Evangelical president and he took his religion more seriously than any other recent president. His so-called malaise speech was all about America’s moral fiber and everything he said about America has turned out to be true.

Despite many perceived successes, Reagan was responsible for the permanent debt which is one of the greatest failings of any president in all of US history. Despite many perceived failings, Carter’s one great achievement was passing an EPA regulation to decrease lead in gasoline which is directly and positively correlated to the largest decrease in violent crime in US history and hence one of the greatest achievements of any president in all of US history.

I just don’t get what is conservative about Bush jr or Reagan nor what is praiseworthy about such ideology, whatever one wishes to call it. It’s equally confusing trying to figure out what liberalism means in all of this. The most liberal president in recent history may have been Reagan who supposedly hated liberalism. Obama is probably more of a conservative than Reagan. Conservative or liberal, there is plenty of cynical and confused, maybe even deceptive, rhetoric to spread equally around.

10 thoughts on “Ideologically Confused Partisans

    • I was reading some reviews of a book about Jimmy Carter and his malaise speech:

      “What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?”: JimmyCarter, America’s “Malaise,” and the Speech that Should Have Changed the Country
      by Kevin Mattson

      Reading about Carter, somethings stood out to me about his personality. From what little I could glean, he seemed to have been very conservative-minded in his attitude. I couldn’t help be reminded, in contrast, of how liberal-minded Reagan was.

      I’ve heard conservatives such as my dad claim liberals believe humans can be perfected. My dad got this idea from Sowell. It is a mistaken understanding of liberal-minded optimism and idealism. It isn’t perfection liberals value, just improvement. That describes Reagan as much as any other liberal-minded person.

      I don’t agree with Reagan’s version of liberal-mindedness, but it is what it is. As a liberal-minded fellow myself, I actually prefer Carter’s conservative-mindedness, if I had to choose. However, in politics in general, there is never an excess of liberal-mindedness as I pointed out in my last post. Reagan was relatively liberal-minded compared to many politicians, but that isn’t saying much.

      A hardcore liberal-minded person probably would never enter Washington politics at all or not get very far if they did. The utopian vision of liberal-mindedness taken to its extreme isn’t statist communism, rather anti-statist anarchism (probably of a socialist variety such as anarcho-syndicalism, I suspect). I’m not saying that the extremes of anything is a good thing necessarily, although I’m fond of this extreme expression of liberal-mindedness. The problem with Reagan, from my perspective, is that he didn’t have enough liberal-mindedness to actually take liberal values seriously. He had only enough liberal-mindedness to make him and the entire country along with him very ideologically confused.

      It would be an interesting experiment to see a president one day to take liberal values seriously.

        • Yeah. I hadn’t given Carter a whole lot of thought. He first came onto my radar when I learned of the EPA regulation of lead and the decrease of violent crime. I suspect a lot of criminal, anti-social and generally dysfunctional behavior is caused by environmental conditions, whether chemicals or some other cause.

          Many conservatives have turned on Bush jr as not being a real conservative and that compassionate conservatism isn’t real conservatism. I don’t think there is a single real conservatism, but I’d say compassionate conservatism is more authentic than neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism/libertarianism using conservative rhetoric.

          I’d say Carter’s conservatism is real. It’s not reactionary conservatism. It’s a healthy and balanced conservatism that takes traditional conservative values seriously while trying to pragmatically and morally apply them to a post-Enlightenment liberal society. I don’t have much personal opinion about Carter. He seems like a decent person, well-intentioned and genuine.

          What I want is for liberalism to be given a chance and I think that can only happen if conservatism plays its natural role in society. I want a conservatism that embraces conservative-mindedness so that liberals don’t feel like they have to, in order to stop conservatives from taking all of society over some ledge. While conservatives have become reactionary, liberals have been stuck in a rearguard defense.

    • There is another thing that I and many others would like to see. How would a political leader act if they had a balance of both well developed liberal-mindedness and well developed conservative-mindedness? We get politicians who are imbalanced in various ways.

      Most people have both liberal-mindedness and conservative-mindedness to varying degrees of development and expression along with varying degrees of potential for further development under the right conditions. I’d theorize that a person would be severely dysfunctional without a balance of the two, however imperfect in practice.

      The problem I proposed in my last post is that American society puts conservative-mindedness or a particular expression thereof at the center of society, although at the same time all of American politics is in a technically liberal tradition based on Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment liberal values. This is part of the confusion that was there from the beginning. It’s very hard to grasp what it all means.

      Many so-called liberals in America are relatively conservative-minded and, in some cases, have openly embraced it in becoming the defenders of traditional values such as land and community. In the opposite direction, many so-called conservatives are relatively liberal-minded (such as Reagan and other classical liberals). This is fine, as far as it goes. I could care less about ideological purity. I wouldn’t mind, though, a bit more self-awareness and historical understanding.

      What would America (or any other country) be if liberals embodied, defended and promoted liberal-mindedness while conservatives did the same for conservative-mindedness? I think that would be a healthier society or at least a lot less confused by partisan rhetoric and mindless propaganda.

  1. I’ve always had this idea that people are full of infinite potential. This is my liberal-mindedness. On the other hand, I take seriously the conservative-minded view of real limits.

    The trick in harmonizing these two is knowing an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. I’d like to live in a society that allows each person to fulfill their potential, as much as possible. If that turns out to be infinite as liberals tend to believe, that would be awesome. But if there turns out to be massive constraints on human nature as conservatives tend to believe, that would also be good to know so that we can work around those constraints to fulfill what potential is there.

    However, in seeking balance, we have to be able to see both the good and the bad within all ideological tendencies and psychological traits. We have to be very clear and very self-aware.

    I’ve noticed an odd thing along these lines. Conservatives often deny the worst about conservative-mindedness while claiming the best about liberal-mindedness, and I suppose the same is true for liberals. Conservatives go on about freedom and liberty. Those are great ideals and values, but there is nothing particularly conservative about them. Liberals defend the established social order in order to maintain liberal gains, but there is nothing particularly liberal about defending the established order.

    A reactionary conservative is one who has adopted some liberal-mindedness, yet tries to force liberal-mindedness toward conservative-minded purposes… which just creates a dysfunctional expression of liberal-mindedness and doesn’t do conservative-mindedness any good either. A defensive liberal is one who has adopted some conservative-mindedness to equally unhelpful results. Adopting undeveloped traits in order to develop them is certainly not a bad thing. The trick is taking things on their own terms and taking them seriously as part of one’s own inherent potential.

    The first step is knowledge and awareness. It’s not necessarily problematic to use an undeveloped or underdeveloped trait in a dysfunctional way. That is just the nature of being human. However, it is also an opportunity that can be accepted… or else denied. A dysfunctional use of a trait shows one is capable of using it and so capable of developing it in order to use it better. These traits aren’t in opposition to one another. Only the ideologies and partisan politics are in opposition. And this is why we need to look deeper into what it means to be human and to live in a shared society.

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