Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Noah Webster Spins

There's an old saying about religion and politics not being suitable topics for polite conversation. Which is why I'll cover them straight away.

First, I want to thank Newt Gingrich and Lee Atwater for fouling the waters regarding the use of the word "liberal" as if it were profanity. I admire their success at changing the meaning of the word completely. They took a simple political philosophy and turned it into a euphemism for all of society's most loathsome traits.

This from the duo that brought us Willie Horton. If you recall, ol' Willie was a repeat offender released from Walpole prison during Micheal Dukakis' reign as Massachusetts' Governor. Mr. Horton committed more crimes after his release so he became the lens through which the Republicans burned Mr. Dukakis beyond recognition. Never mind George Bush Sr. releasing at least a dozen Willie Hortons during his tenure in Texas. We only remember the original Willie but I digress.

The ever-expanding definitions of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” do a great injustice to the majority of Americans whose personal beliefs defy simplistic attempts at categorizing them as either. Both sides manipulate a very simple concept by adding religion and lifestyle considerations having nothing to do with the meaning of either word.

The classic political definitions of liberal and conservative pertain only to the role of government in people's lives. Liberals believe a strong central government can be a positive force for good while conservatives want the federal government limited to maintaining infrastructure and the military. Both views are important for checks and balances. All the other stuff about churchgoing, "family values," the Bible, etc is irrelevant. For instance, true liberalism and conservatism have nothing to do with one's stance on gay marriage. It has everything to do with one's stance on a separate gay marriage bureau.

The way I see it, there is one main difference between today's liberals and conservatives. Liberals will spend more than the country makes, then raise taxes until we pay it off. Conservatives will spend more than the country makes, then weasel out of paying anything off until the dollar is worth nothing and our kids foot the bill. The national debt broke records during the last three Republican presidential administrations. What's conservative about that?

Neo-conservatives coined the phrase “tax-and-spend liberal” to bridge the gap between what liberalism really means and what they want America to believe it means. They also know tax-and-spend liberal sounds a lot catchier than don’t-tax-but-spend-even-more conservative. A "conservative" friend once told me, "It's not how much money you have, it's how much money you can borrow."

The lifestyles of many so-called conservatives are hardly that. How can one be called a conservative while ransacking one’s company to support a totally unsupportable lifestyle? These people live like there's no tomorrow. Is that a "conservative" value? Liberals go to church, worry about their kids, and hate wasting money just like conservatives do. They also believe money for the GI Bill and after-school programs for kids is money well spent.

Here's my new rule: If conservatives want to co-opt every worthwhile value in America, they should actually conserve something. A natural resource would be nice. Maybe cutting out cowboying around with the military would be a good thing. Many people identifying themselves as conservatives want disaster relief, help with college loans, and protection against tainted food and dangerous drugs. Sounds pretty liberal to me.

For what it's worth I am registered as a non-partisan moderate who leans ever so slightly to the left these days. Sometimes I lean to the right. Right now, the left is more right than the right so that's where you'll find me.

I had to laugh when Senator McCain called Barack Obama's economic policies "socialist." Especially after he himself just signed a bailout bill giving the US government an equity stake in some private institutions. When it comes to sharing their debt, the right switch hits.

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