Sunday, June 06, 2004

Why I am Not a Conservative

Well, in a number of ways, I do consider myself one. But with a small "c". What do I mean? Well, I generally believe that government is best suited to be small. I think taxes should be as low as is realistically possible. I think there are times that we need to swing a military big stick, and I think government should stay out of the lives of it's citizens. I also believe that stable two-parent families are the best way to raise children, public institutions (like schools) should be accountable to their users, and I am a firm believer that most economic issues are best solved by the market.

Once upon a time, the Republican Party mainly thought like that. But about when I was born, the party started changing. The Northeast moderates began to be replaced by Western and Southern social conservatives. Fueled by religious belief and a devotion to supply-side economics, they first took control of the party, then went on to capture the country. Old-line moderates (like the senior Bush) remade themselves in the new image, and a new focus took shape. The new conservative believed in thinning the wall between church and state, believed in tax-cutting at the expense of everything else (except for spending), and had a throwback attitude on race and gender. They feel that taking the minimum in taxes from the wealthy is essential to all that is good in the world. But naked giveaways to industry and a total contempt for the environment, driven by a millenarian viewpoint that holds with the Biblical belief that nature is man's dominion, has left this nation in a precarious state.

There are a lot of issues where I almost agree with that viewpoint. For instance, I believe abortion is wrong. But my belief isn't driven by religion - I'm about as firm an atheist as you will ever see. I just see children as such a valuable thing that it's awful to waste the infinite potential that each one represents. You know what, though? I'll express that by not having an abortion myself. I believe anyone else should make that decision for themselves, even if it's a bad one. And I won't think worse of someone for having one - because I'm not in their shoes and can't be. So in essence, that's about a conservative position as one can have.

Why do I favor gay marriage? Same thing. It's a conservative position. I think pair bonds are something society should encourage, and with that I also figure that I'd rather see gay couples married than single. Though you wouldn't know it sometimes from the straight world, married couples are more monogamous, care for one another, and serve as a safety net for society. Married couples are good for the stability of neighborhoods, and provide the best environment to raise children. I may agree that the ideal family has a mom and a dad, but better two dads or two moms than just one of either.

I don't believe in deficits. I don't believe in unprovoked wars. I believe we need to be responsible in our stewardship of the environment. I don't believe we should be tearing apart more of Alaska to try and gain a little more oil. I don't believe government should subsidize loggers, farmers, or drillers. I think artificially low-priced land leases are irresponsible. I think we shouldn't subsidize any industry at all, in fact. I don't really believe in most foreign aid, though I think there's a place for it occasionally for a short term. I wouldn't have opposed the Marshall Plan. I believe laws regulating the sexual behavior of humans are wrong, though I personally find many of those things to be yucky. I don't consume drugs, but I think our drug laws are a mistake. I rarely gamble, but I think it's foolishness to try and ban it. I believe that, so long as nobody is harmed and all parties are consenting, that virtually any behavior should be legal inside one's home. I think we should all be free to make bad decisions - though I also believe that we should be responsible enough not to.

In general, I would rather have well-intentioned interference in my life and my business' operations than the alternative - religion-driven moralism, cynical realpolitik in our dealings with the rest of the world, and an ideology that makes no place for the community except when it's connected to the church. Conservatism is far different from the Right, and if the current GOP defines what it means to be a conservative, then I'd rather be thought of as a liberal. Even though I come to similar positions, I do it from the other direction. To me, it's important to not force my views on others - and modern-day conservatives seem to have no problems doing so.

So I'll let you folks figure it out. I'm open to new labels - Once upon a time we were "Rockefeller Republicans". We also used to be the "Eastern Establishment". Then something happened, and we vanished. Nowadays I vote more for Democrats, even though I have to hold my nose when I do it. I know there's more people like me out there - atheists, religious people who believe in the proverbial "God with a small 'g'", social liberals, middle-class people who wonder why rich people get all the tax breaks, pragmatic libertarians, humanists, and everyone who's ever been willing to look at an issue with an opened mind. Our current President truly has a mind like a steel trap - once it shuts on something it never, ever opens again. He needs to be retired. The Right wing needs to be cut off. The born-agains need to go back to church and stay out of government. And we need to learn once again to just simply let people be.

Rant over for now.

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