November 5, 2002

Right as usual

I have elected to adopt a less confrontational tone in my column. This change is largely because my ignoble visage now accompanies my byline, and I am wary of my readers recognizing me on the street and pelting me with batteries and lemons. Therefore, this column is the first in a series in which I will try to thoughtfully explain why I hold the positions I do. This installment answers the question of why I am not a liberal.

It's simple, really. Most liberals do not seem to listen to or care about the average American. Liberals claim to speak for the people while ignoring or holding in contempt the vast majority of the people. This is primarily because a lot of liberals are secluded in college campuses or dwell in affluent areas like Manhattan and Beverly Hills. In these enclaves, liberals are isolated from anyone who disagrees with them, and so they reinforce each other's views, making themselves less and less receptive to contrary positions.

This also happened to conservatives in the '60s. Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate for president in 1964, was crushed because he was too extreme. He had called for pre-emptive attacks on the Soviets and the dissolution of social security. Conservatives subsequently moderated their views, coming to accept social security and other popular programs, and adopting a less apocalyptic view of the Soviet Union. As a result, conservatives started winning elections and their views became widely accepted by the majority of Americans.

The fundamental lesson that extreme liberals need to learn is that the vast majority of job-holding, law-abiding Americans look to their government first and foremost for security and peace of mind. They want a government that is willing to sacrifice some innocent people in other countries if that is what it takes to protect American lives. They want a government that gives them, not criminals and thugs, the benefit of the doubt. But all the old state-of-nature theorists we read in winter quarter Classics found the origin of government in the desire of people to minimize their insecurity. Sure this is selfish, but liberals want to reform people into disregarding their own interests.

Liberals claim to represent "the people" and they cast around phrases like "grass-roots movement," but the evidence contradicts their claim. There have been but two truly liberal major-party candidates for president in the last 30 years, George McGovern and Walter Mondale. Together they won two states and lost 98. Outside certain wealthy states like Minnesota and Massachusetts, a liberal cannot get elected to high office. Liberals insist that low voter turnout is to blame for their woes. This argument makes no sense because people of strong convictions, liberal or conservative, are likely to vote already. The people who do not vote are generally those who have no beliefs one way or another. Even if they lean towards liberalism, this lean must be very slight otherwise they would go vote and make their numbers felt.

It is not just in elections that liberals have hurt their cause. On issues, they commonly pursue their goals with a rabidity that brooks no compromise or delay. For example, in an attempt to bring real integration to schools, they pushed busing down the throats of white city-dwellers. The whites responded by moving out of the cities and taking their tax revenues with them. Obviously this was selfish, closed-minded behavior on the part of whites that moved to the suburbs. However, it was equally closed-minded for liberals to disregard the consequences of their social policies. Their motives were pure enough, but they did not see the big picture. Now everyone is worse off as a result, especially the minorities liberals were trying to help in the first place. A more considerate and gradual approach to school integration would have been more successful.

Conservatives can also get so wrapped up in their rhetoric that they make mistakes. For example, a conservative would try to cut a budget by cutting the money allocated to parks and recreation programs. By eliminating an outlet for kids to use their free time, they increase the number of kids who get into trouble with the law. The cost of policing and prosecuting these kids ultimately outweighs what the original cost of the programs designed to keep the kids busy. However liberals hurt their own cause in this manner far more frequently than conservatives.

Consider the issue of Iraq. There is a very strong case to be made for us not to attack Iraq. We are doing it ostensibly to preempt an attack on us, but every time Saddam Hussein has taken aggressive action it has been because he believed he could get away with it. Look at the Iran-Iraq war, the attack on Kuwait, and the persecution of the Kurds. Preserving his own power has always been Saddam's top priority and he knows that attacking the United States would seal his own death warrant. Meanwhile, toppling Hussein would cost this country a lot of GIs and a lot of money. It may not be worth it.

But that is not the case anti-war liberals make. Instead they bandy about phrases like "stop imperialist American aggression" and "no blood for oil." They have undermined their own cause by alienating the average American with their rhetoric, which, in light of September 11, is disrespectful and offensive. Americans find it more difficult to oppose war because they do not wish to associate with anti-American sentiment.

Liberals claim that what distinguishes them from conservatives is that they care about people and want to help them while conservatives do not. But when you're talking about people, you have to consider all of the people, not just the slim minority who are down on their luck. By showing an almost cavalier contempt for the views and interests of the mainstream American, liberals have ensured that Americans will not trust them with real power. Only slightly less importantly, they guarantee that it will be a long time before this columnist starts taking them seriously.