Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.
- Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut was a brilliant author whose work included the classic novel, Slaughter House Five, looking at his political pronouncements particularly toward figures I tremendously favor, it would be odd for me to start a conversation with a quote from his observations, but wow! does this statement ring true today or what?
When watching the news or reading the rag sheets, all most every issue from foreign policy and energy conservation to what your neighbors are supposed to do with their dog-doo, has to be defined somewhere on the liberal/conservative axis. If no label (liberal or conservative) is associated with a speaker or issue, you can assume it's a liberal position. If an idea originates from someone to the right of Nancy Pelosi or the spokesperson is Republican, the conservative label will be quickly applied. When the media speaks of "Mainstream American values" they mean their values that are very Liberal. John McCain and Joe Liebermann were generally considered "moderates" before the current Presidential election put them in opposition to their anointed one. Generally, "moderate" means bordering on conservative but one who can be persuaded to be more "mainstream." Conservatives wear "conservative" as a badge of honor.
As mentioned in previous columns, we noted how much of the Republican debates focused on contestants fighting over who the "real" conservative was. Liberals generally eschew the liberal designation. They prefer calling themselves progressive. However, what does progressive mean? One who has solutions and wants to see progress in our day-to-day lives, that's progressive, right? Then how can people like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid possibly be called "progressive" when they consistently stand in the way of measures that would make a real difference in the state of society whether its their obstructionism on Energy policies, blocking judicial appointments, stalling economic reforms, and wanting to raise taxes so we can't decide as much how to plot our own progress because the government has robbed us of more of our money.
There have been some surveys which have an "x" axis which is generally the left and right wing perspectives on politics, but they introduce a "y" axis that deals with authoritarianism on one side but anarchy on the other. That might help more closely identify a person's orientation but it seems to still be lacking the whole picture. It converts a linear distinction and redefines concepts on a plain. Right Minded Fellow would suggest perhaps there is a "z" axis that would truly make the whole process three dimensional with the addition of a spiritual axis where one end would be one of absolute faith or theocracy where the other side would be spiritual indifference or atheism. Both would be on the far end of the spiritual line. The anarchistic side would be more agnostic of indifferent. The authoritarian side would be atheism as those mean angry people are very resolute in their denial of spirituality.
Right Minded Fellow is, well right wing, on most issues. Some would consider the Right Minded Fellow an extreme conservative even reactionary. Let's go first person and have some straight talk.
My basic philosophy is the government that governs least governs best. The institution closest to the people is the best agency to affect meaningful results and that a government solution on any level should be the means of last resort. The government should keep its fingers out of our pockets, noses out of our business, and eyes off our daily affairs. The Federal Government first and foremost must defend us from foreign threats military and economic where the actions of other governments affect our ability to conduct economic affairs in a fair, free, and competitive fashion. Government subsidies, protections, and restrictions imbalance a free economy. In a mobile society, the Feds are now called upon to maintain a national infrastructure, some basic standards that help maintain our national well-being by setting guidelines but not micromanaging our affairs.
As Right Minded Fellow has the chance to elaborate on more issues, surely some will be puzzled that some viewpoints will appear anything but mainstream conservative. Most of those would be ones that deal with the government being used as the morality police on some issues. We'll articulate some issues where we see racism alive and well while society at large would tend to sing everything is beautiful.
My emphasis rests on what kind of solutions make the most sense. What's workable, and what isn't. A lifetime's worth of experience shows big government and a nanny state mentality solves nothing while causing tremendous problems for everyone else.
The issues are what matters. First and foremost, which political party and what candidates are going to protect the world from the threat of fanatic Islams. This world safety issue now has an ugly second dimension: Russian imperialism. Second, our economy and way of life is dependent on reliable, cheap, energy meaning between tapping our own petroleum sources and developing alternative sources, gaining complete energy independence. Imagine a future where our leaders might have to consider a war of conquest to secure fuel resources for the sake of our society's survival? Yes, it could happen. It's bad enough we're in as deep as we are in the middle east. Third, our government must ensure it functions to make sure the United States maintains its leadership in science, technology, and engineering. We must maintain the lead in developing the latest and greatest in defense, communications, aerospace, medical, and transportation products. There are many issues involving education, health care, and providing for senior citizens and the disabled that must be addressed that can't be addressed by any sweeping policy statements. There are hundreds of individual challenges that require careful judgment. Few of these are truly liberal or conservative issues until the Democrats and Republicans have to respond with the television cameras cranking. Workable, cost-effective solutions aren't inherently liberal or conservative, but the Democrats and Republicans have shown they both have their own peculiar ways of screwing things up whether its in the interest of one party refusing to concede anything to the other or dedicating themselves to narrow self-serving measures, the set-asides, the earmarks, the pork barrel spending which only benefits the politician and some narrowly defined special interests not the public at large.
The Democrats with the arrival of the Obama phenomenon have raced far to the left of what anyone would have thought possible on the national level unless observers saw MoveOn.org as a harbinger of the future. Clearly, citizens can't help but notice the sniveling negative tone, the constant whining, the absolute lack of vision key leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Chuckie Schumer exhibit.
The Republicans lack vision, leadership and charismatic candidates. Mitch McConnell is a quite capable senate leader, but where other more energetic, media friendly candidates are lacking, he comes across as rather bland. House Minority Leader John Boehner is so cold and doctrinaire it's hard to imagine how he commands much of a following. Perhaps the real bright spots for the Republicans' future are found at the state level with governors like Bobby Jindall in Louisiana and Tim Pawlenty. Maryland has two fellows who'd be bright rising stars in just about any other state than perhaps the most devote Democratic state in the union, Maryland. Former Governor Bob Ehrlich and Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele are both articulate, smart on the issues, and very personable who even defeated a member of the Kennedy Dynasty, Kathleen Kennedy Townshend, to gain the state house. Sadly, it would be a one term deal as the Democratic machine mobilized behind the detestable and wicked mayor of Baltimore, the narcissistic, opportunistic, and thoroughly mean-spirited, Martin O'Malley, the rock star governor the darling of the Baltimore and local Washington media. What's not to like about Condoleeza Rice, but will her association with the George "Dubya" Bush administration tarnish future opportunities for her beyond cabinet levels. In the waning days of the administration, one has to dig down to the assistant cabinet level to find potential. A rising star, first as a senior science advisor and then as an assistant cabinet secretary, Diane Auer Jones, showed limitless potential working on such vital projects as the American Competitiveness Initiative before moving to leading the Office of Post Secondary Education where the student loan mess needed strong ethical leadership to reign in. Alas, short-sighted policy objectives reflecting total ignorance of the intrinsic benefits of vital academic programs demonstrated by attempting to impose vocational tests across the board as a certification requirement even for Liberal Arts majors forced Jones to resign. On that issue, she is now one of the administration's harshest critic. Looking at the office Ms. Jones inherited, one might say there were too many Texans on the ranch. Even if Ms. Jones had political ambitions which apparently she does not, being a Maryland resident she'd have two strikes against her seeking office. As the pundits say, the Republican brand is in trouble. They need to nurture their new talent and recruit articulate leaders who can speak over the wall of a hostile media. Is avuncular John McCain the right man to draw fresh blood into a struggling party?
The media habitually reduces everything to formulaic twenty second sound bytes and makes every issue look like a sporting event where their hometown team is the Democrats facing those awful other guys, the Republicans. Political coverage tries to make yes/no, true/false distinctions about issues that can't even be addressed by multiple choice considerations. It's easier to keep score that way to fabricate that their team is winning. In reality, it's not that simple.The public eager to learn is the first casualty.
In 20 seconds or less, it's more important to determine if a position is liberal or conservative the hell with the practical aspects like will the solution work. If it feels good, do it. Don't worry, your local news has the latest greatest weather forecast the can even show the number of raindrops falling right outside your front door and all will want to see tonight's featured lifestyle report, "Yoga and Yogurt, the Secret to a Better Life." After spending the first segment of the news on endless reporting on the latest beautiful white girl from toddler to twenty something who has met a horrible fate getting the all out reportage, there might be eight to ten minutes of news time devoted to real issues. Don't forget to cover the local hot-dog or apple pie eating contest so we know if the winner is a liberal or a conservative.
If ignorance is bliss, then the news media must be doing a great job keeping everyone happy.