…and I’m not sure what you mean. In fact, if the debate on the Panic post is any indication of the matter, we appear to be differing over the nature of the terms.
In his fantastic book, The Conscience of a Liberal, Senator Paul Wellstone discuss the nature of our country’s politics. Are we “left, right or center?” Wellstone cited all sorts of data on the issue, ending with his belief that our country is “Center-Left.” In effect, when asked about the issues, American’s lean Center Left.
When asked to self-identify, American’s appear to have interesting answers. Lewis cited the poll where in 60% of American’s identify as conservatives (page 16). Yet Fifty Five years ago, President Eisenhower was identified with so-called Liberal Causes. What happened?
In fifty-five years, Liberals got a bad rap. Even Saul Alinsky mocks them. What does liberal even mean anymore?
For that matter, what does Conservative even mean anymore? Frequent readers (and friends) have identified them as fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and straight up conservatives. Even I’ve said I have a fiscally conservative approach–and I don’t think anyone would confuse me for a potential Republican voter. (That being said I have voted for one big ticket republican before. It was a local election, and I voted against my union endorsed candidate for president because he was a tool. So is his son…but that’s a post for a different time.)
I have heard various pundits (and read a number of op/ed pieces) that suggests that the main difference between the Left and Right is a question of basic human character: Leftists believe that people have a tendency towards benevolent/generous behaviors while Rightwingers believe that people tend towards selfish/greedy behavior. Therefore, leftists don’t have an issue with “big government” because, with the right (leftist) people in power, government will work for the betterment of society. Rightwingers will want to limit government because they only have their own interests at heart. Thomas Frank discuss this on Bob Edwards Weekend.
What’s your take on this idea?
On like the Belief article, I’m going to post my first thoughts here. As an aside, I am still working on the belief post…Flickr ate it.
I’m not sure about this. I first this heard Thom Hartmann and David Horowitz debate this on Air America, and it appeared that they agreed on the issue. Hell, they were more explicit, using terms as “good” and “bad.” Then on Bob Edward’s show, Thomas Frank made the argument that because conservatives think that people are inherently selfish, they wreck government agencies so that the private sector can fix it. Agencies have too much power, so the concentrated power inherent in the private sector somehow limits bad people being in control. At least, I think that was the argument.
Obviously, political philosophies are significantly more sophisticated than, “people are good/people are bad.” However, I do think that there may be some merit in this idea. I do believe that provided a level playing field and all the information, most people will do the right thing. The less level the playing field, the harder it is to be altruistic; however, I have seen families living in abject poverty reaching out to their neighbors to help them.
And yet, at my job I have seen horrible things that people have done to each other. I have met kids who have been failed so thoroughly by society that they never had a chance to be anything but “bad.” I have also seen a few kids, given all the opportunity in the world, turn out to rotten to the core. Some would even use the term evil to talk about these kids…
All in all, I think that how people see others–inherently good, bad, smart, stupid, selfish, whatever–helps form the basis of their political ideology. It doesn’t explain all of why I believe what I believe, but it is a good start to it.