Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Liberal-Conservative War

Comments on this and many other blogs make clear that a war continues between people of liberal and conservative nature. The way that partisans have treated the last two presidents elected, demonstrate how harsh the judgment and rhetoric has become. Bill Clinton was blamed for all manner of offenses by conservatives, and later liberals, for his presumed liberal policies and on the other hand for ‘betraying’ liberals by working with republicans on some issues. George W. Bush, on the other hand, received even more vitriol for being conservative, or for not being a ‘real’ conservative. The extremists on either end were displeased with both presidents; they demanded a polarity which would have been impractical and unreasonable, yet they poisoned the reputations of both men out of spite. From what I can see, there has never really been a purely ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ President elected yet; Kennedy championed many liberal causes, yet was fiscally and militarily far more conservative than today’s liberals would tolerate. And Reagan, the definitive icon for modern conservatives, cooperated with liberals far more often than many on the Right are willing to admit, especially with regard to immigration and environmental issues.

This is not to say there is a moral equivalency between liberals and conservatives. There are many ethical and logical reasons to choose one standard over the other, and I will not go into that here, except to acknowledge that the decision is often made by serious, intelligent people who intend to follow the best possible moral course in their political foundation. Yet historically, liberals and conservatives have often been able to find common ground, and to reach mutually acceptable compromises. The modern version of each group is far less willing to even look for such accommodation, preferring to destroy the loaf rather than let the other side have even a slice, let alone half.

Some people will look at the 2008 election, as a mandate for liberal policies. I disagree, for the same reason that liberals argued that the 2004 election was not a mandate for conservative policies. As a conservative, I naturally believe that in general conservative polices are better for the country than liberal policies, and I would even go so far as to suggest that in an unbiased environment, voters will prefer a solid conservative candidate to a solid liberal. However, I recognize that moods and environments change, and that the nation in general prefers someone they consider more ‘centered’, that word changing from year to year in meaning as well as specific policy, but usually meaning that the public does not like hard shifts towards any perceived extreme.

As much as I prefer conservative policies and candidates to liberal goals, I concede that a balance of some sort is necessary. This comes from history again, where we can see that unipolar moral systems tend to devolve to individual and systemic corruption, as there is no effective check to the party or leader in power. There needs to be a counter-balance to extremist tendencies, whether or not we like the direction in general that the leadership wants to pursue. It is distinctly unhealthy, however, for disagreement in policy to become vitriolic hatred, for a different perspective to be condemned simply for expression.


Anonymous said...

Maybe part of the problem is that you see a Liberal-Conservative war even where there is none. Since my reply was denied in the thread that these comments emanated, I'll just do them here:

>>>I would recommend you >>>seriously step back and >>>consider how much of your >>>condemnation is based on your >>>emotion, and how little you >>>focused on fact.

That's absurd. You didn't respond to any of the substance of my post and wrote it all off as "emotion." Sounds like you read the line of "worst president," instantly wrote off that I'd say anything substantive and then hastily wrote your response.

>>>You should understand that the >>>same derogatory style you used >>>in your comment can just as >>>easily and likely be applied to >>>Obama,

I note the fact that you instantly assumed I support Obama. The post was about *Bush*, and I responded accordingly. This is the tripe that bogs down political blogging. The moment that someone criticizes a Republican, it's ASSUMED that that critic LOVES everything the Democrats do. And vice-versa. So it's easy to deflect a criticism of Bush by saying "Obama won't do any better." That's all well and good. We weren't talking about Obama, we were talking about Bush.
and there is a real and significant damage to his effectiveness that such opposition will effect.

Absolutely, the jury is out on Obama. I have reasonable hopes for him, no more no less, but I'm perfectly willing to admit that he might not meet them. I had lower hopes for Bush but he didn't even meet them. But that doesn't mean that I think all Republican presidents are/have been/will be bad, I just think this one was particularly bad.

>>>Igoring the qualifications and >>>accomplishments of any >>>president solely because you >>>personaly dislike him,

Yet again, I think you have this vision of every single Bush critic as some raving leftist beacon of hatred. Not true.

Why do you assume that I personally dislike Bush? I don't know the man. I have nothing against him as a person. I think he was woefully unqualified to be president but as far as hanging out with him and having a conversation, I'm sure it'd be surprisingly cordial.

Personally, I think he failed at what he set out to accomplish. He also didn't accomplish anything I personally believe is important. Therefore I'm pretty hard pressed to make any case for him being a good president.

If the war in Iraq had sucked less money out of America and caused less turbulence and I generally believed that the democracy they've formed will have a lasting impact in 50 years, then I'd go "well, a war in Iraq wouldn't have been one of MY goals, but it was one of BUSH'S goals and he accomplished it. Bully to him. (-1 + 1 = 0)" If he'd put more focus on Afghanstan and captured Bin Laden but still failed, I'd say "Well, he didn't succeed but that's a goal I would have pursued. (+1 -1 = 0)" And if he DID succeed in capturing Bin Laden, I would go "he succeeded at what I wanted (1 + 1 = 2).

Instead, he pursued the goal I didn't agree with, then went ahead and got middling results at best. Capturing Hussein was an accomplishment. I won't deny him that. Capturing Bin Laden would have meant more for America's safety.

Plus it's been nearly five years since said capture. Take a look at the American occupation of Japan post-WWII to this and compare in terms of establishing demilitarization and a stable economy. I'd say this has been a failure by a reasonable standard.

I don't begrudge you for your opinion but I find it surprising. Given that you think this president was better than Bush Sr. & Clinton, I'm curious as to whether you think Bush Jr. also exceeded Carter, Ford & Nixon (I'm going to assume by where you drew the line of "last three," that you do think Reagan was better).

Regarding THIS post, I actually agree with some of your points and the idea that the country has suddenly "gone liberal" is a gross overestimation. You essentially call for the appreciation of moderate politics although the fact that current third-party politicans are instantly written off as "radicals" and "wingnuts" should already tell you that America already DOES champion moderate politics. I think the "wedge issues" cause people to spout off and make proclamations that "Bush is Satan" or "Obama is a Muslim socialist." Etc. If people took a closer look at just how wide ranging political opinions can be, they'd be surprised how much they have in common with the person they trade political barbs with.

Anonymous said...

Since my reply was denied in the thread that these comments emanated

Funny. Same thing happened to me. I replied to DJ's comment in that thread with a fairly long, detailed response that included references to books about the Iraq War and Bush's mismanagement thereof. But I guess that sort of comment just doesn't make the grade around here.

- Sauropod

DJ Drummond said...

What Sauropod fails to mention, is his attempt to use my blog as a stage for lies and smears.

I am open to discussion, including differing POV. I am not obliged, however, to allow abuse as I see it by anyone. This is my blog and there are plenty of places where you can throw vitriol, but not here.

I can and have removed inappropriate comments and attacks, from both ends of the spectrum. That's how things work here.

And in advance no, Suaropod, it's neither unfair nor open to debate or complaint.

Anonymous said...

What Sauropod fails to mention, is his attempt to use my blog as a stage for lies and smears.

I honestly have no idea what you're talking about, DJ. But I would again suggest that you take a look at the two books I mentioned - Fiasco, by Thomas Ricks, and Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Ricks (a longtime military writer) is certainly no liberal, and his book, published in 2006, called explicitly for using Petraeus' "surge" strategy. I don't know if Chandrasekaran is a liberal or not, but his book - based on his own experiences in Baghdad's Green Zone - is well documented and shows that many of the Bush appointees in charge of the reconstruction effort were clearly unqualified, as some of them admitted in candid interviews. You don't have to take my word for it. Take a look for yourself.

Of course I recognize that it's your blog and you can delete any comments you wish. But with all due respect, I do think you're mischaracterizing my remarks when you call them "lies and smears."

Anyway, we'll just have to disagree about President Bush. History will be the ultimate judge. As the author James M. Cain said, the only critic who counts is "Old Man Posterity."

- Sauropod

Anonymous said...

really commenting on the Bush perspective since comments were disabled. while Bush is not a true conservative, especially fiscally and we have run up a huge debt, i do think he did a great job in protecting the country after 9-11. if you told me on 9-12 we would not have any more real attacks during the next 7 years, i would not have believed it.

the Iraq war seems like a dumb idea, with all the facts on the table, but it has not yet played out. it could be that it turns out to have been quite positive when history is permitted the time to unfold.

i could wax on some more topics with regard to his presidency, but, depending on the outcome of the current fiscal problems, i think history will judge him more favorably that some assert at present.

i certainly disagree with a bumper sticker i saw today..."W- worst ever".

more later is you want to carry further.

Rick E