Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

Liberal or Conservative?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I wonder if the language politicians use to describe their political beliefs should be aptly termed, “liberal” or “conservative.” I think these categories are obsolete and no longer provide an adequate description of where people stand in the political spectrum of ideas.

We talk about this person being liberal or that person being conservative, but as I have thought about this subject, many of us would admit that these labels do not unilaterally apply in all cases. Many people are liberal or conservative. But many of us are a combination of both values and belief systems.

On some matters I am liberal and on others I am conservative. In most matters my political beliefs are democrat and in others Republican. When I say “Republican,” I mean this in the purest and most honorable sense of the term.  So does that make me a “Republicrat” or  a “Demican?” 

Still in other instances many people claim these labels but really are more extreme in their views. I keep hearing people say that they are conservative when in reality they give conservatism a bad name.  They hide behind the term conservative when in truth they are a radical hybrid hodgepodge of some extreme creepy political potpourri. John Dean hints of this in his book “Conservatives without Conscience, Russell Kirk in “The Conservative Mind,” while Paul Wellstone talks about this in his book, The Conscience of a Liberal.”

The same can be said of  the words “big government” and “small government.” Does that really matter or should the real issue be good government versus bad government? Who really cares how big or small a government so long as it does right by all of its citizens and can manage its business efficiently and effectively? Just because a government is big does not mean that it is inadequate and just because it is small does not mean that it is more efficient.

Politicians keep throwing these words around like they really mean something and keep missing the whole point about American democracy and what the American people are actually seeking from their elected representatives.

Let me illustrate this way. Two friends and I went to a diner for breakfast. When we walked in we took seats at the counter. I sat in the middle and my two friends flanked me on the left and on the right.

The friend on the right ordered black coffee with cream and four packets of sugar. The friend on the left ordered straight black coffee.

For appetizers, the friend on the left ordered wheat toast with piping hot butter and loads of jelly. The friend on the right ordered dry rye toast with no butter and no jelly.

When the waitress asked us what we wanted for our main course, the friend on my left ordered two eggs sunny side and nothing else. The friend on the right ordered a Denver omelet with cheese, salsa, ham with a side of bacon, hash browns,  grits and corned beef hash.

Both of these guys were a medley of liberal and conservative in their choice of food and the quantities of their servings; with one on the right and the other on the left. Moreover, neither of them paid for their meals because I the “tax payer” picked up the tab.

My point here without oversimplifying is that too often we tag ourselves with labels that have nothing really to do with who we really are politically. We just claim the labels as a way of identifying ourselves with one group or another sometimes out of pure political expediency. Sometimes we really are completely one or the other but rarely. We keep getting caught up on who is left and who is right, who is  liberal, conservative and all that other stuff which sometimes are just code words that mask who we really are and really do not amount to a hill of beans.

When the chicken and the hog have to make a decision of what they will sacrifice for breakfast who makes the greater sacrifice the hog or the chicken? Which is liberal and which is conservative?

When you are driving a car, you don’t make right turns only to get to your destination do you? You make a combination of turns both left and right and sometimes you drive straight ahead. Driving involves right and left turns. The problem is when and how you use the reverse gear and the speed at which you are travelling.

All of this talk of politicians being left or right, liberal or conservative means nothing to the average American if the whole country and economy are being driven off the cliff at warp speed in reverse!  The issue here should be whether America is moving forward or moving backward? That is the question. And I know that you will say that it depends upon what I mean by forward or backward.

All these superficial labels about conservatism or liberalism, left or right, big government or small government is just political doubletalk designed to keep us guessing about some of our elected representatives and where they really stand on the issues.

The labels do not often tell us whether a person is faking right but really going left or faking left but really going right or faking going forward but really going backward or just talking about moving somewhere but really going nowhere.

Maybe we need to develop new categories such as” jaw bone” or “wish bone,” ” back bone “or “no bone,” ” stimulators “or “pontificators,” “helpers or hurters,” “spectators,” “hesitators” or “participators,” “high risers” or “low riders” or those serving only the people on top or those serving people only in the middle or on the bottom of  American society.

We need to revise the American political lexicon so that politicians and leaders appropriate words that really speak to their actions and develop actions that really speak to their words; words that tell the people who they really are, reveal their true value systems and whose interests they are really serving.

So let’s just cut out all this political gibberish and get real about helping our country get back on track whatever labels we choose to wear.

We can change labels on an empty bottle all that we want but it is the bottle with substance that matters, for the substance in the bottle defines the label on the bottle and the label on the bottle describes the substance in the bottle.

In other words, labels on the “bottle” saying “liberal” or “conservative” “mean nothing if the bottle is empty or if the bottle is filled with hemlock or some other noxious forms of lethal substance.

While politicians raise questions about who is liberal and who is conservative perhaps the real question is what they are doing to help our country move out of its current political quagmires and its present economic abyss.

To be or not to be liberal or conservative is not the question. To do or not to do something meaningful and worthwhile to turn our country around into a forward direction is really what we should all be about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *