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.