- Written by Ken Alpern
24 Feb 2012
POLITICAL LEANINGS - One of my most-cherished hobbies is the observation of people and of human behavior. We’re so rational, yet so self-deceiving; so earnest, yet so hypocritical. And in this modern era, where things change so fast and nothing is closed off to the Web-surfing public, the claim of being “liberal” or “conservative” is all-too-often as arbitrary as it is mendacious.
Certainly, the concept of being “left-leaning” or “right-leaning” still exists, but it’s not as synonymous with being “liberal” or “conservative” as it once was (although claiming to be liberal or conservative still counts for some political point-making for politicians as they appeal to the voters).
Yet so many younger voters are looking at their aging, “liberal”, Baby Boomer-era parents or grandparents and are turning rightwards. So, are they the true “liberals” or are the old-fashioned Baby Boomers now the “conservative” old guard?
As a Jew, it’s hard not to notice that my family and friends of the same faith are increasingly torn between our “liberal past” and our “conservative present”, now that the era of Jews being “nonwhite” has ended and many of today’s leftist leaders have turned their long knives on “the Jewish establishment” or “the Zionist establishment” or whatever epithets are utilized to instill Jew hatred.
And as African-Americans are becoming an increasingly smaller minority throughout the Southland compared to the ever-rising percentage of their Latino neighbors, from South L.A. to Watts to Compton to North Long Beach, it’s not hard to observe that many black Americans are encountering the same liberal/conservative dilemma.
Maybe it’s just a matter of terminology and the psychological power of words.
For example, liberals rightfully would argue that a minimum wage is insufficient to pay for health insurance and enough to truly live free of the need for public safety net programs—hence the goal of a “living wage” is often raised. However, conservatives would also rightfully argue that a "sustainable wage" or an "independent wage" is enough to not rely on other taxpayers to fund one's own health and welfare (although they might demand a person get 2-3 jobs, if needed, to achieve independence).
Similarly, the concept of the individual health mandate sounds socialist to some, but when it's presented as "hey, why should I pay for your health if you get sick?" makes more sense to the conservative mind (although the question has been thrown out there as to whether that answer is best decided at the state or federal level).
On yet another note, the term "climate change" is so vague, and carries so many questions, Big Brother governmental programs, failed "pro-environment" spending and political cronyism, that some might prefer the term "conservationist" as a pro-environmental epithet because it attracts conservatives as well as liberals.
Much is in a name, and any term that suggests "the government is going to control you", whether it is liberal or conservative in origin, is destined to lose. Any term that has a concept of everyone being self-sustaining and self-reliant is bound to win, in comparison.
Many Americans demand that unions, either public-sector or private-sector, retain their right to collectively bargain and even strike; yet these same Americans are increasingly looking at the chaos in Greece or Spain (LINK: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/hundreds-of-thousands-of-spaniards-protest-new-work-rules.html) and wondering if Labor is part of the solution or part of the problem.
Similarly, many Americans demanded that the GOP relent on extending the Social Security payroll tax cut, while the GOP wanted to preserve Social Security funding and limit more debt spending. Were the Democratic leaders of Congress and President Obama being “conservative” by reducing taxes, and were the Republican leaders of Congress being “liberal” by defending the need for taxpayers to provide sufficient revenue to avoid debt spending (LINK: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20120219,0,1032274.column)?
Furthermore, if conservative voters are so concerned about anti-business/anti-investment policies coming out of Washington, why is Mitt Romney’s wealthy Wall Street status hurting him among Republican primary voters? Are they really liberal?
On the same note, why are so many liberal Democrats upset with President Obama for bailing out Wall Street and offering to lower the corporate tax rate at a time when the President has been campaigning on having the rich pay their fair share? Are the President and his supporters really conservative?
Most of us know what the terms “progressive” and “tea party” mean, but they are not necessarily synonymous with “liberal” or “conservative”. Not in an era where the new reality means fiscal belt-tightening and self-sufficiency, and not in an era where the civil rights movement is under attack by both the right and the left as being “too socialist” or “too sellout”.
And in an era where being a moderate is being increasingly reviled by all sides of the political gamut, can the right hand of the political spectrum ever relate to what the left hand is doing (and vice versa), even though they are still undeniably connected to the same body of voters and taxpayers that is the United States of America?