Sunday, January 09, 2005

Liberal or Conservative?

One thing I've noticed in my brief blogging career is the importance of the labels "liberal" and "conservative." Bloggers often tag each other with one of these labels, either as a compliment or a condemnation. They sometimes label themselves prominently on their sites, and some even use one of the labels in the titles or descriptions of their blogs. Often entire arguments are simply dismissed because the writer is considered to be one or the other, which apparently disqualifies him or her from discussing the subject.

Of course, this also happens outside the blogosphere. You hear the labels thrown around anywhere there is political discussion, often as a counterargument of last resort. The labels also intrude into other kinds of discussions, including those on economics, religion, and so on. Sadly, these labels also often define the kinds of ideas that are tolerated in classrooms, and not just at university level. More and more, children of all ages are subjected to ideological censorship by their teachers, the very people who should be most influential in promoting tolerance for ideas of all kinds.

The liberal-conservative paradigm isn't some sort of evil. In fact, it serves a useful purpose, like most intellectual constructs that define the boundaries of discussion and belief. However, it fails when it ceases being merely descriptive of a general set of beliefs and becomes just another worn-out stereotype. Then we're into generally true attributes being applied rigorously to anyone who holds certain specific views, regardless of nuance or the total body of that person's opinions and beliefs.

For most of my life I've described myself as a slightly left-of-center Democrat. Liberals often label me as a conservative, and conservatives are often convinced I'm a liberal. That doesn't bother me until it gets out of control. I've lost a few liberal and conservative friends along the way who couldn't abide the fact that I disagreed with their particular orthodoxy. I've also been the subject of pity by a few people who couldn't believe I could be so stupid or stubborn as to disagree with their vision of revealed truth. Even worse, I've been ideologically stereotyped now and then because of such things as my profession, where I was born, or where I went to school.

I have to admit that during the past few years events have probably driven me a little further into the conservative camp. I don't think the red-blue divide is as profound as some pundits seem to think, but there's no doubt that true believers on both ends of the spectrum have been diving into empty swimming pools lately. The difference, it seems to me, is conservatives have been diving into the shallow end, while liberals prefer the deep end. The upshot is I find myself admiring Zell Miller's description of his position--he didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him.

So, for the benefit of those who think it's important to have me in the correct pigeonhole when they read my opinions, I thought I would do a brief inventory.

I've already written on some specific issues. I'm pro-choice, although reluctantly so. I agree with Bill Clinton that abortions should be legal, safe, and rare. I'm strongly in favor of overarching federal gun control, and I'm against the death penalty. I also believe in the absolute necessity of two strong, viable political parties in our remarkably successful two-party system. I don't much care about gay marriage, and it doesn't bother me that there are gays in the military.

I guess I must be a liberal, and a Democrat.

But wait. I'm a steely-eyed pragmatist in foreign policy (this post was remarkable if only for a one-word comment from a reader named Anonymous: "Boring."). I strongly support the U.S. military, of course, and I don't like seeing them blamed for the failures of their political leaders. I believe the federal judiciary, and especially the Supreme Court, should be practical enough to know that times change but should depart from the literal Constitution and the expressed intent of the framers only with great reluctance. I think illegal immigration is illegal, period; however, I support a reasonable guest-worker program except for those who have broken the law to get into the U.S. I think trial lawyers in general are parasites, and personal injury attorneys are the worst of a bad crew. And I think the UN is a disaster; the only reason it should continue to exist is because it's all we have.

Well, maybe I'm a conservative after all and should be a Republican.

There are those who tend to reduce the whole matter to how one votes in presidential elections. As I wrote before the election in Kerry or Bush?,

I voted for only one Republican presidential candidate in nine previous elections. Yes, I voted for Dukakis and Mondale and the others. I'm even one of the 14 living Americans who will admit that they voted for McGovern. The one Republican I voted for was Nixon in 1968 because I bought the line that he intended to end the Vietnam war within six months. Stupid me.

I explained in this post why I didn't vote in 2000 and why I voted for Bush in 2004. In terms of policy views, I could have voted for either. But, as I explained, for other reasons I could never have voted for Kerry.

I then discussed in What If Kerry Wins? the strong possibility that Kerry could be our next president. Using regrettable nautical metaphors, I tried to make the point that the republic will survive no matter who wins.

By the standard of presidential elections, I guess I'm a liberal after all.

Or maybe not. I try to regularly sample media sources of all persuasions. I'm convinced that the "mainstream media" is consistently leftist, and I think the New York Times has descended to the level of being little more than a propaganda rag. I hold the somewhat quaint view that news should be reported factually, without embedded opinion, and not selectively to fit an agenda. Editorials and opinions are fine, but they should be clearly separated from reporting. I've written about this in a number of posts, but Liars and Damn Liars and Twisted Truth may be most representative.

Maybe this preference for straightforward, factual reporting makes me a conservative; I don't know.

And then there are those issues I don't know enough about or understand well enough to comment on. All I can say in my own defense is that unlike some folks, I know enough to know that I don't know enough to say much about them. These include (but certainly aren't limited to) social security, trade policy, genetics and cloning, monetary policy, the trade deficit, post-modernism, and brain surgery. And of course, regardless of what I may know or think, I avoid discussions centered on religion.

I'm afraid I haven't been very helpful if it's important to you to know whether I'm liberal or conservative before you consider my ideas. If you find it hard to resist attaching labels to me and others, try remembering the words of a great old song: "Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself." The words have the same meaning, whether you prefer to hear them from Eric Clapton or Creedence Clearwater.

50 Comments:

Blogger Funky Dung said...

Well done. You've just earned a place on my blogroll and in my news aggregator. :)

9:04 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger FatherofFour said...

Tom,

Strong post.I think you and I share much of the same political ideology. I hadn't thought about it before, but I guess the name of my site leaves the first impression that I am some sort of liberal pinko. It's actually just a reference to Shrek because I liked the movie.

I do find myself passing on any blog that has beating the drum of the far left or far right. I believe the answers are somewhere in the middle. I don't think too many folks from one camp or the other can be swayed to change their minds through this medium, and I try to avoid referencing articles that I know have been spinned for political gain.

Thanks for stopping by http://flyingtalkingdonkey.blogspot.com and inviting me to comment.

9:17 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger Gindy said...

Funny. I consider myself a non-parisan right of center on most issues Democrat. I don't find that either party meets my needs. I really don't believe in following the two parties, although I believe in the two party system. The constitution is the best guide.

Your Zell Miller comment speaks to me. I wrote him a letter after he chalenged Chris Mathews to a duel. I wrote that I used to consider myself a JFK Democrat and now consider myself to be Zell Miller Democrat (there are a lot of good reasons why).

A great post. This message often gets lost in the middle of all of the rehtoric. This the most partisan time in recent memory. I would be curious to know if that is your recollection as well? I don't recall if you mentioned that or not(I am sure the '60s were at least as partisan, but I wasn't around to see it myself).

9:31 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger RomanWanderer said...

Very interesting. I labeled you as a conservative at first, then some posts made me doubt that. Now that you clarified your position, or lack thereof, we can safely say that labels are for clothes and that's all they're good for.

9:34 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger Robbie said...

This is a well-thought and well-written piece, Tom. You and I share a lot of the same positions on many areas. It's interesting that you are a "slightly left-of-center Democrat" and I a left-of-center Republican. I guess this goes to prove your point that the political divide isn't as wide at many pundits would like for us to believe.

Labels are apparently a very important part of America. We have to be neatly sorted into races, religions, political affiliations, tax brackets, etc. Sure, these things don't adequately describe who you are but people here just can't seem to function unless they can box you into some category or another.

As a side note, I prefer reading people who hold a different opinion than I. The only way to learn and grow is to be challenged. You have posted some things that have given me pause to think, and your posts are always a good read. It doesn't matter to me if you are liberal or conservative. What does matter is that you are intelligent and open to debate.

9:42 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger sygamel said...

Tom, I'll make this brief--you and I are political soulmates (brief amnesia on the issue of gun control)

9:53 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger USMC_Vet said...

Outstanding writing, Tom. You have amde several very powerful statements that are right on the money.

Regarding labels leading to stereotyping, you just hit the ball dead-solid-perfect. The terms 'Liberal' and 'Conservative' have become caricatures of themselves.

I am decidedly and confidently conservative (not that anyone here should really give a damn). But I say this only to demonstrate how I detest being lumped into the 'mean Republican' crowd by non-conservatives and how I equally detest the card-carrying cheerleading that other Republicans assume I will join in.

On Zell Miller, he is a personal hero. Most assume it is because he spoke at the Republican convention. It is because he may indeed be the only living Democrat in Washington that remembers the Democrat party of JFK. You see, Zell Miller lives his life as I do and by the same principles. Therefor, on any specific issue we can agree to disagree without my thinking he would like to rip this nation from its foundations. Zell loves America...the country, the idea, the values. I am convinced that the far left has co-opted the leadership of the Democrat party and have tried to push the bulk of their base to their position. Fortunately, whatever you may label them, the majority of rank & file Democrats LIVE conservatively (much like you Tom) and are beginning to recognize that they have been wearing a jersey for the D team, and the coach has lost his mind. The party shifted decidedly left while its members' lives did not. And so they begin to remove the jersey.

The R Team has its fair share of jersey sportin' cheerleaders, too. The coach just hasn't lost his mind.
Yet.

On your critique of the media, I would agree that if you said you wanted "just the facts, ma'am" you would indeed be targeted as conservative. Nearly the whole of broadcast and print media are stridently to the left. I once wrote a rebuttal to an Andy Rooney column where he said (rightly) that we were over using the term 'Hero' describing our military. But he just couldn't stop there. He went 'Michael Moore' on us. I called him on it. He hasn't called back yet.

On Kerry, I believe I know your issues with him. In August, passion overcame me and I wrote another article that was picked up by a few sites. (It was what caused me to create a blog in the first place.) Like you, Tom, the issue at hand had nothing to do with Liberal or Conservative, the D-Team or the R-Team.

But, the jersey wearers of both camps likely had opposite and predictable reaction to what I wrote.

Lose the jerseys and we can agree to disagree. Keep them on and it's a showdown deathmatch from 'Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome'..."Two men enter. One man leave."

Personally, I think it's those of us who refuse to wear a jersey (like Zell Miller and Col. Tom Carter) who keep this nation from collective psychosis.

11:00 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger sygamel said...

USMC Vet - With your permission, I'd like to post your comment on my site.

11:08 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Yup. That pretty much describes my views, although a basic inability to forget the fear in the eyes of some of my older European relatives and their friends whenever they saw a policeman makes me wary of federal gun control. Not that I particularly like guns; I just feel safer when one governmental entity isn't controlling them. But I also think my fellow citizens have the right to overrule me on that point.

Furthermore, I think you just described the basic perspective of a majority of American citizens. Everyone I know who voted for Bush was not exactly thrilled about it, and everyone I know who voted for Kerry was extremely dubious. Except for a few of my relatives who work for the federal government and live in Washington, most of the people I know are essentially pragmatic in their political positions.

What the people I talk to, live around and work with worry about are the lack of good non-governmental jobs, the security of those who are having trouble, the military personnel in harm's way, terrorist attacks and their effect on the economy, crappy schools (if they have children) and the economy. They are largely pragmatic in their outlook and their first question about anything is how it will work out in practice. They could care less about the details of how we deal with fiscal or political crises, as long as the solutions work and are as fair as possible. Me too.

When I read the agendas of various political factions, I am often amazed at the vagueness and ideological nature of their positions. I don't see how our country can have evolved toward this. Much of the public discussion I see in the press on political issues is ungrounded in facts or evidence.

I think the problem with the press is that it is simply lazy - whenever I run into articles about non-political issues about which I have a lot of knowledge, the poor quality of the reporting is glaringly obvious. It's screamingly evident that no real research was done and that nobody who really knew anything about the topic was interviewed, and errors I find in one article are propagated for years.

The vast majority of our press seems to be reporting on what other reporters say rather than getting out there and doing a little digging themselves.

I think the political bias in the press has emerged in the same way. They simply report on lists of talking points handed out by various political organizations, and since they give more credence to Democrats, those handouts are largely the ones they use to prepare their articles. But if a particular Democrat is trying to argue a point the main Democratic organizations don't agree with, they ignore or misreport it in exactly the same way. It all leads to stupid and uninformative reporting that does a real disservice to the population by ignoring new perspectives and innovative solutions.

I like NPR because they have a lot of content in their reporting. I don't really care whether a particular news organization's editorial bias tends left or right, as long as I get some real news and factual reporting with it. I went half-crazy trying to find a detailed analysis of what Howard Dean had done during his 10 years as the governor of Vermont - puff pieces abounded, but it was terribly difficult to find anything substantive about his record on the ground. I finally found one good article in the Washington Post. Sometimes the Washington Times has good coverage of neglected international news.

I can't understand how, when most of the people I know are basically competent, thoughtful, responsible people our political dialogue can have degenerated to this idiotic reality-ignoring level. I do understand why most of the people I know feel pretty disconnected from the political process.

The worst thing about the situation is that you're right - no one can be an expert on everything. So when you keep finding that what's being reported is false when you know enough to detect it, it's natural to suspect that subjects you don't know anything about are also misrepresented.

What I've done recently is simply ask people. When questions about the military emerged, I asked military people. When questions about medical issues came up, I asked doctors, nurses, and the staff in medical offices who process insurance claims. When questions about taxation arise, there I do know enough to do some decent number-crunching myself.

This is a very inefficient process, though. I think the rise of private publishing on the internet is a response to many individuals' sense that something is wrong. This country has a tremendous number of educated people with experience in various areas, and it seems to me the blogs and various forums are gradually evolving as a way for us to share our knowledge and background. Probably neither party really likes this movement; certainly the news organizations don't. I don't care.

I don't think the labels "liberal" and "conservative" have any real correlation with set of perspectives in the population of the US any more. I think that "libertarian" and "progressive" might, but only in the broadest sense. The real distinction is between those who want to get something done and solve problems, and those who are narrowly focused on winning elections.

You see both types blogging, but I think the problem-solvers dominate the population. All the national elections for the next fifteen years or so are going to be dominated by the people's guess as to which politicians are more credible and focused on results, so the idea that the Republicans are gaining or the Democrats are waning is ridiculously off the mark, IMO.

11:52 PM, January 09, 2005  
Blogger howard said...

I suspect, as your post seems to demonstrate, that there are really very few who comfortably fit into the normal labeling patterns -- and this includes many who unabashedly cling to one label or the other. I think I share your sense that the liberal v. conservative paradigm has a more-or-less pragmatic origin, though the paradigm is often wildly misapplied.

Of course, it is much easier (intellectually) to lump someone in one camp or the other, simply based on two or three opinions, things like the death penalty, abortion, religious preference, etc.

That aside, I really like your points with this post; it would be nice if more people allowed themselves to think this way, to analyze more and assume less. But alas, we would have to do without the convenience of easy conclusions, and in our instant gratification, internet capable, high-bandwidth world, who has the time to think like that?

But this makes it all the more refreshing that you seem to have found so many readers who can accept your "complicated" nature...

1:23 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Anselm said...

Great post, no doubt it reflects a large segment of the populations's feelings. You seemed to have settled out in the middle, though as you say, slightly left of center. I started out left and have been moving right for years, against my will, for I am into social justice and I abhor discrimination of any kind. What I believe has happened is that, in general, the republican party has at least tried to find new approaches to intractable problems. Like Newt or not, he was not your father's republican, though after the raping he got by the media, very few actually know what he was proposing. I certainly don't buy everything he was or Bush is for; often I'm more conservative, often more liberal, but as many note, those labels seem to apply less and less.

8:40 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Thanks to all for your great comments!

Gindy, I know the country's pretty divided right now, but I don't think it's as bad as some say. There have been other periods of significant partisan division, going back to the beginning. As far as the late 60s and early 70s period is concerned, I'm not sure that time really compares with what we see today. The great division then was the Vietnam war, and many conservatives joined liberals in opposing the war. This is an obvious oversimplification, but I think it was mostly a single-issue problem, as opposed to the deeper ideological divide we seem to have today. I'd forgotten about Zell challenging Chris Matthews to a duel! I guess it won't ever happen, but if it did, I think Matthews would be in deep do-do.

Wanderer, thanks! I strongly agree that labels are best for clothes, not people. But then, it might be cool to have a friend with a stylish "Liberal" tattoo on his forehead, to match the jeans label on his butt!

USMC_Vet, thanks for the thoughtful comment. One thing I really admire about politicians like Zell and McCain is their willingness to break out of the box and say what they mean, whether I agree with them or not.

MOM, as usual, I love your ideas and your writing skill. Thanks! I agree with you and couldn't add anything. Except...you know, I think you, Scott, and I should have a talk about gun control. While I generally prefer less centralized government, the problem with gun control is only federal law will work. And I think it's infinitely more likely that a punk or an amateur gun owner will shoot one of us than that the government's "black helicopters" will descend on suburban neighborhoods. And in any case, the vast majority of guns in the possession of non-criminals wouldn't be of much use against the government, should it ever come to that. One American infantry platoon or a well-trained police SWAT team could handle an average neighborhood if they weren't restricted in their use of force.

h2, I think you're right...it's often so much easier to label the writer than to think about his argument. Maybe we've just gotten too lazy.

9:29 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

I honestly don't get the fascination with Zell Miller. Particularly after his speech to the GOP convention. In I think it was '98 Zell gave a speech where his praise of Senator Kerry was absolutely glowing, particularly Kerry's military experience. Then Zell turns around and slams Kerry for opposing many of the very same defense appropriations that Cheney opposed.

Why isn't that seen as a major league flip-flop? That's certainly what it appears to me to be. Maybe I'm missing something but it seems self-evident to me that Zell in fact simply switched jerseys rather than refusing to wear any jersey as his fans claim.

9:53 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, I think you're mostly right about Zell. But in regard to switching jerseys, I think he would say that his original team pushed him across the field and the other team took him in.

But you got to give this guy some style points! His speech at the Republican convention was a real bell-ringer. We need more politicians like him. Most of us don't take them too seriously anyway, and too few can give us that kind of entertainment. And let's face it; challenging Matthews to a duel was pure showmanship of the best kind. (He couldn't have picked a better guy to skewer in a duel, either.)

10:03 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Ms. Lori said...

Tom, labeling is unfortunate, and, of course, oftentimes leads to dangerous division (which our country, unfortunately, is fighting against right at this very moment). The U.S. is slowly slipping into creepy Civil War-esque “Us and Them” mode, and that frightens me. It’s the labeling that’s the culprit here, not our current administration; sadly, it’s human nature to label, and there‘s nothing much to be done about that. By sticking a defining tag on ourselves or others, we are comforted by the illusion of “place,” of belonging to a static, dependable group, people like ourselves. We feel powerful when we can say “I belong here! I’m a member of this club, and we’re better than you” -- it’s grammar school mentality. But it’s very human to want that sense of safety in numbers, to want things put in their familiar place.

I believe in choice, but am for the death penalty (only in especially heinous cases, such as child murder and serial murder); I hate guns and wish that Bush hadn’t allowed automatic weapons to once again threaten our streets, however, I do believe in the right of law-abiding citizens to own as many hunting rifles as they want. I don’t believe in censorship, yet I’m appalled at the adult content geared toward children in film, music, television, and video games -- I believe there should be regulations pertaining to all media readily accessible to minors. All adult oriented media, however, should be labeled as such and viewed at our discretion. I like Howard Stern, for example, but I’m glad that he’ll be moving to satellite radio -- I truly hope they remove his program from the E channel and move it to premium. Stern would think me a hypocrite for saying that, but his brand of humor simply does not belong in the mainstream. Many liberals say, "If you don't want your child seeing that stuff, then change the channel, dammit!" or "Watch your kids, for cryimg out loud." But see, when our culture is innundated by adult images, that would be akin to nailing Jell-O to a tree.

I support a woman’s right to choose, but I believe there should be strict regulations there, too, such as disallowing abortion beyond the second month unless the mother is at risk. I also would support court-ordered sterilization of repeat drug offenders and child abusers, but that’s not ever going to happen. I consider myself liberal, but many liberals would gasp at that last statement, I’m sure.

That being said, I also believe that Bush is one of the worst examples of Democracy ever to darken the White House’s doorstep. I would, however, love to see Powell as our president. So, what am I? Well, I guess I’m someone who just wants the best for our country and its people, but I’m also aware that there are many differing opinions on how best to achieve that. And, really, I’m okay with that. I only wish that when our commander-in-chief lies, he is taken to task. You know, like when Clinton did that naughty bit in the Oval Office and the Republicans jumped on his horny little behind as if Clinton had, oh, lied about weapons of mass destruction thus entering us into a horrid and unnecessary war or something...

10:21 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger sygamel said...

Tom, I agree federal gun laws are the only way to go. However, setting definable restrictions on ownership as you did in an earlier post I find very problematic. As I wrote, I believe this is the only issue upon which we disagree. Like Anselm, I grew up in a liberal household and have been moving right since "leaving the nest" 12 years ago. When the Democratic party finally scares away people like my Dad, a retired FBI agent and conservative-living citizens, I know it will be DOA.

11:03 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

Tom, you say that we need more politicians like Zell. I can't fathom how you reached such a conclusion given the facts.

I don't see how one can look at the content of Miller's speech to the RNC and not conclude that he was simply whoring himself.

If he had such a problem with Kerry then he had to have been whoring himself when he praised Kerry in '98. And there he was at the RNC to support a ticket, one half of which had vociferously fought for deep defense cuts on par with what Miller slammed Kerry for. Again... whoring himself in the most dishonest way imaginable.

What am I missing? Don't we already have a glut of dishonest politican whores in this country?

11:15 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger carla said...

"Liberal" has been turned into a dirty word by those on the right. I self identify as a liberal...part of it because in general I espouse those beliefs most generally associated with liberals. Part of it because it pokes a stick in the eye of those who would put that label into the four letter word type category.

To be candid...I don't like centrism (moderate) in general. I've blogged about this at Preemptive Karma and I've argued it in the comments of other blogs. I don't think that all of the answers necessarily lie in the middle....maybe even most don't.

After reading your laundry list of beliefs here Tom...I'd call you a liberal. You line up on most things pretty close to me. I want to take special note on the military stuff. The idea that liberals are against the military or don't support the military is a tale perpetuated by the right to push support from the left. The same with the SCOTUS. Liberals believe strongly in founder's intent. Most liberals that I know are students of history and well versed in founders intent. That's one of the reasons we're liberals.

I think your positions on Kerry are wrong. We can go into why if you like. I'm appalled that you voted for Bush...and we can go into that if you like as well.

If you've got a preference for straight up, factual reporting...you resemble nothing having to do with being a conservative. Witness the rightwing talk machine.

You may regret asking me to comment on this now. LOL But having read through the other comments...I feel the "middle ground" espoused by many of your commentors is a cop out. The idea that labels are false may have some merit...but there is some validity behind the self identifying labels.

11:40 AM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

Heh... just read your email invite to come take a look at this post.

In general I agree with you on most of the issues. Abortion and Gun Control... ditto!

On the two-party system... I disagree. From where I sit, as a long-time Indie, it seems that the two-party system is little more than a grand scheme to divide and conquer. Sure, they fight like cats and dogs between them. But, together they form a united front to keep power between them. Just look at how hard it is for other candidates to get invited to the Presidential Debates.

I strongly disagree with you about Kerry and Bush. But, c'est la vie. That's water over the dam at this point.

In general, though, I can identify with you politically. You call the individual issues as you see them without feeling the need to toe a party line. I very much concur with that and try to do the exact same myself.

BTW, Dukakis was the first Dem I ever voted for. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat. At the time I was still a Republican, albeit a pissed off one. It was a year or so after that when I switched my registration and allegiance to Independent, where I remain to this day and for the foreseeable future.

12:21 PM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Ms. Lori, I think you're making the same point I was. All of us except the most zealous ideologues are going to be all over the spectrum. I think that actually reflects an open mind. But you know what? If you had begun your comment with a statement like, "I'm a ______, and this is what I think," some people would have stopped reading right there, assuming you couldn't possibly know anything. Of course, there's the other question--why would anyone need to self-identify like that?

Kevin, I absolutely agree that "we already have a glut of dishonest politican whores in this country." What we don't have is enough funny dishonest politician whores in this country. I mean come on, who was the last politician who challenged someone to a duel? Aaron Burr? And like I said, you got to love a guy who can give that kind of bell-ringer speech!

I think the two-party system, while it has its faults, has served us well. If you look closely at the alternatives, they aren't that attractive. Ditto the electoral college.

And by the way, you need to work on Carla about this moderate and independent business.

Carla, I never regret being exposed to your ideas! I think you're right that conservatives have done a fairly good job of turning "liberal" into a four-letter word, but I have to say liberals themselves have sometimes helped. I don't agree with you, at least in part, regarding the liberal view of the military and the Court. I agree where "moderate liberals" are concerned (labels can sometimes be useful), but those much further left are not prone to view the military with any degree of respect, and they tend to see the courts in general as social engineering tools useful for establishing programs and policies that couldn't survive the legislative process. One last point, and you probably won't like it! You and Rush Limbaugh have the same opinion of moderates and independents. (Yes, I sample him, too, once in a while.)

2:04 PM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Zelda said...

Hi Tom,
Sorry for the delay in commenting on your post. I just checked my Walla.com email today.

I have to say, your post is very well thought out, intelligent and well written. But I am surprised that you would describe yourself as slightly left of center. Judging from the comments you've made on my blog, you came across to me as being conservative. Also, you never called my blog invective or hateful, as another blogger did a little while ago. (If you want me to give you the link to his site, I will.)

Regarding labels, I totally agree with you here. It's not always easy to classify people as strictly conservative or liberal. I consider myself a conservative, even though I'm pro choice. But then again, I'm not as rabidly pro choice as when I was younger. Just as an example, a very dear friend of mine was unable to conceive and had to have fertility treatments. She ended up giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. She and her husband then decided they wanted another child so my fried did the fertility stuff again and got pregnant with twins. She now has three beautiful children. But what really bothered me was that she initially considered selective reduction, because she didn't want three children. That really upset me.

But on another note, I don't think it's fair to tell a woman who has been raped, or whose sonogram shows severe birth defects that she cannot abort.

Regarding guns, I have mixed feelings. I think many murder victims would still be alive today if they had guns with which to defend themselves. As an example, have you heard of the Wichita Massacres, which occurred about four years ago? I think those people would still be alive if they have guns.

In terms of psycho kids going on shooting rampages, I think what needs to be done is to give the parents equal jail time. But then again, you would be correct in pointing out that something needs to be done before hand to prevent psycho kids from getting guns.

Otherwise, I'm not a big fan of a bloated government with a gazillion entitlement programs. I think that most of our public schools are a joke, in that they only serve to keep a whole bunch of bureaucrats employed forever, as opposed to teaching.

I'm also for the death penalty. If you arbitrarily take someone's life not in self defense or in defense of a loved one, then you pay with yours.

I am against illegal immigration, and think that Bush is too far left on this issue.

I am also against the U.S. being involved in the U.N. which is a corrupt organization of rogue states. Again, I think President Bush, whom I mostly like, is a bit too far left in this regard.

Regarding foreign policy, I don't especially care what France, Germany, Russia or the rest of Europe thinks of us. Acting unilaterally, as John Francois Kerry would always say, is fine by me.

But getting back to labels, take the example of the author and radio show host Tammy Bruce. Ms. Bruce is openly gay, and the former head of NOW's L.A. division. However, she voted for Ronald Reagan, is pro-choice, pro death penalty (I think), definitely pro-gun, and she's a Bush supporter. What do you all think that makes her?

Or take the case of the feminist author Phylis Chesler. In a column on Frontpage Magazine.com, she wrote about how she was going to vote for President Bush in the 2004 election, because of what he did for the women of Afghanistan. And mind you, this woman had never ever voted Republican before. What do you think that makes her?

Anyway thanks for your time.

8:35 PM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Zelda, thanks for your comment. I think you nicely illustrate the point that people can't be defined by one label in terms of how they think on specific issues. However, the "liberal" and "conservative" labels can be useful to generally define arguments and point toward a person's overall outlook.

To take up just one issue, I've read quite a bit about the Wichita Massacres, and I seriously doubt that a few handguns in a drawer somewhere or a long gun in a closet would have saved those poor people. As any soldier or police officer can tell you, having a firearm is one thing; being ready, willing, and able to use it to kill another armed human being when it becomes necessary, often with little reaction time, is quite another thing. I really think the self-defense argument for having all these weapons, especially handguns, in private hands is very weak. Any way you figure it, getting rid of the mountain of handguns in the U.S. would save many, many lives.

8:53 PM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger sygamel said...

Tom, getting rid of handguns will not take handguns away from the criminals who are desperate enough to illegally procure and use them to terrorize. Passing legislation that sets definitions of ownership is also not the way to go because it allows criminals to know who will and won't have equal firepower against them. I believe the future of handgun control is usage and responsibility laws, not gun ownership laws, i.e. how to store them, when to use them, etc. What we do agree upon I think is these laws should be passed at the federal level.

9:19 PM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Evan said...

Your views on lawyers aren't very original. But hey, they're an easy target, aren't they?

11:37 PM, January 10, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Your views on lawyers aren't very original.Well, I have to plead guilty on that one. Seems like a lot of people feel the same way. I wonder why that is?

4:08 AM, January 11, 2005  
Blogger Rick Heller said...

Tom,

Most Americans are in the middle, but most political partisans are to the left or right because of the structure of our political system. I've linked to this post on Centerfield, the blog of the Centrist Coalition, and made some additional comments

http://www.centristcoalition.com/blog/archives/001628.html

I invite you to join the Centrist Coalition (it's free) and to participate in our efforts to provide an alternative to the liberal and conservative drumbeats.

9:07 AM, January 11, 2005  
Blogger Denise said...

I honestly didn't think there was anyone out there with whom I could agree on every single issue. It appears that I was (happily) mistaken. Thanks for spelling it all out so eloquently!

11:38 AM, January 11, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Rick, thanks for the comment and the invite. Unfortunately, I'm already committed to one other blogging group, and I'm not contributing enough to that one. Never seems to be enough time!

12:10 PM, January 11, 2005  
Blogger cass said...

Heh. I knew there was a good reason why I added you to my blogroll. :)

12:12 PM, January 11, 2005  
Blogger thatcoloredfella said...

Tom,

I came here via Carla at Preemptive, who requested my comments on her post which links to this one.

I wrote a similar post recently - Who Am I? Why Am I Here? - asking aloud the same fundamental questions that have baffled you.

We must've been separated at birth politically, and would probably need to share the same square in the crowded Middle. I'm pro-choice and pro-Death Penalty, Gay, Black and a fiscal Conservative. You had me convinced of your pragmatic sanity - until your vote for Bush in November.

Listen, as a Vet, I can no way understand your beef with John Kerry, the way Whites and Conservatives cannot understand why I have no problem calling Armstrong Williams a 'sell-out' or 'Uncle Tom'. I can understand how Kerry's anti-war comments and charges of atrocities further deepened the shame and hurt of Vietnam Vets, yet I cannot understand why the extraordinary amends he made for such youthful stupidity, has not healed some wounds.

With all due respect, I just cannot understand how with a disastrous first term Bush had, how people can still vote out of long simmering revenge, intolerance of gays, etc.

9:23 PM, January 11, 2005  
Blogger USMC_Vet said...

Scott:

Cut & Paste away. Once it's said in here or posted outside my own humble blog as a comment, they're not exactly my words anymore.

Kevin:

At first glance, one would tend to agree with your assertion that Zell Miller himself 'flip-flopped'. However, have you ever heard him speak directly to that issue and cite his own previous words for Senator Kerry that you reference?

To try and keep this comment brief enough to maintain readability, I will try my best to judiciously summarize. (On second thought, this is gonna take some 'splainin' and there are no shortcuts. Sorry...but stick with me here.)

Zell's words for Kerry that you cite have several circumstances surrounding them, not the least of which he was a newly appointed (not elected) replacement Senator in Georgia. Not that he was a new politician. He was after all governor of Georgia. But he was knew to the DC dog and pony show. He had always been a 'good Democrat', as he puts it. To him, that meant (among other things) that you disagree privately amongst your own party and support each other once the doors open. He did not particularly know Kerry very well, or at least not nearly as well as he did once Kerry became more assertive in his positioning as a potential Presidential candidate.

Zell did what he figured a 'good Democrat' should do. Support him as he is a member of your own party.

But as his time in Washington DC wore on, he began to realize just how much of a real 'Dog and Pony Show' it really was...camera time, mike time, face time, back biting, self interest...all he knew were part of the atmosphere, but the degree to which he saw it astounded him. Say anything, do anything to get the sound bite out there and worry about the details some other time, but get the dig in for effect. This he saw going on on both sides, mind you, not just within his own party.

But let me ask you something: Two men are cheating on their wives. One is your friend, one is your brother. Which one saddens, angers or hurts you the most? Your brother, of course. He is your family and you expect more from family.

That's how Zell Miller saw it.

Now that in itself did not alone push him to write his book nor to speak at the Republican convention. One could argue it was National Security and Zell's perception that his party had abandon its responsibilities on that issue for sake of opposing the president (a view I would agree with). One could argue it was the venomous fury they employed opposing anything and everything the president said, did or supported for sake of opposing him regardless of the merits. I would suggest that those ancillary views would be myopic and largely miss the mark.

The fact of the matter is simple.

It wasn't too long ago (relative, depending on your age)that the Republican and Democrat parties were really not all that far apart. They were close enough that they could disagree and debate issues and usually find some sort of middle ground to meet at and accept the outcome.

Truth be told, the Republican party has drifted leftwards toward the center and has for years. But this is the natural reaction to a Democrat party that has been, in a crescendo fashion, building to a sprint off the left-most regions of the charts over those same many years. (One could make the parallel arguement here that as a result, many conservatives feel under-represented, but that is another discussion for another day.)

Please note here that I have said 'parties'. I mean 'parties'. I am in no way suggesting that the American public has followed the trend of the political 'party' leadership. And that in a nutshell is what drove Zell Miller to write his book and make that speech at the Republican convention.

Zell is one of those vast majority of Democrats who have never moved, but continued to support their party. The top leadership of the party has been dragging the platform and rhetoric so far to the left that it is barely recognizable as what used to be the Democrat party. The voting base has never really moved.

We Americans are what we have always been. But the move of the party so far to the left has put a tremendous strain on itself and a great many long-time Democrat voters no longer recognize the party line as consistent with the way they actually live their individual lives.

...and the base becomes porous...danger lurks for the leadership.

Do you realize, Kevin, that if the constant drumbeat of anger from the Democrat leadership and the largely leftist-dominated media tandem were not able to stoke the fires of hatred (and I mean hatred) for President Bush that no one would have shown up to vote for the Democrat candidate? Pick any of them that ran...don't settle for Kerry. Without the hatred, there's no incentive. Nothing to vote for. Nothing for the party faithful to identify with.

The press and the party will have you believe that the Democrat candidate was a dud or that no sitting wartime president ever loses. Or that evangelicals came out in droves to vote for 'values'. (Where are these 'droves'? How many 'evangelicals' do you know?) They would have you believe anything and everything but what they themselves are closing their eyes to...and Zell sees it as clearly as I do.

The Democrat party has taken a sharp left turn while the Democrat voters have remained right where they have always been...and this strains their system.

You can load up all of the sand in California and move it inland 150 miles. Some may be proud of such a feat and still call it the beach, but after a while its just a pile of sand out of place. The ocean is where the ocean is.

The beach lies at the edge of the ocean. The ocean does not lie at the edge of the beach.

11:59 PM, January 11, 2005  
Blogger USMC_Vet said...

Thank you for the inspiration Kevin.

The Word Unheard: In Defense of Zell MillerNow, if you could please give me a call around...say...6:00AM and make sure I get our of bed for work, it sure would be appreciated.

(I've done it again...4 hours of slepp does not a healthy man make...)

Thanks for that too, Kevin.

When will I ever learn?

....sigh....

1:16 AM, January 12, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

thatcoloredfella: I read the post you linked to, and I agree that we average out about the same.

But then...you imply that I lost my "pragmatic sanity" when I voted for Bush. Why would my vote be a surprise of such magnitude that it would lead you to think I lost my mind? Is that a "centrist" or "moderate" or even tolerant view? In the post we're commenting on, I explained that I agreed about equally with the policy positions of both candidates. In Kerry or Bush?, I further explained that point and why Kerry was not a choice for me. I'm not sure where you find a lack of sanity.

You seriously miss the point on Vietnam and Kerry. As I said in the earlier post linked above, Kerry was one of us, just trying to stay alive while he did what his government asked him to do. Then he came home and betrayed us for personal gain. That has nothing to do with revenge or some kind of "shame and hurt." That has everything to do with lying and betrayal by a man motivated by personal political gain and a desire for cheap attention. Making contradictory statements later in "amends," when he needed votes, doesn't cut it.

3:31 AM, January 12, 2005  
Blogger Lancelot said...

If you think the liberal and conservative labels are out of date, I propose a new set of labels to play with: Guelf and Ghibelline.

Re: "I think illegal immigration is illegal, period." Ask yourself: If a good friend of yours dearly wanted to visit loved ones in the US, or came here to earn money to send home to their family, and couldn't get in (or stay) legally, but had an easy opportunity to slip across the border (or over-stay a tourist visa), would you report them to the police? I think a lot of people are willing to back a law in theory, but when it touches them personally they recognize it as unjust. I support both legal and illegal immigration with equal ardor.

1:28 PM, January 12, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Lancelot, thanks for your comment. I look forward to checking out your blog and "Guelfs and Ghibellines."

I think I understand your argument. Let's see if I get it: A dear friend of mine, a good family man, loses his job. He really wants to have money to support his family, and he has an easy opportunity to rob a bank. It's a small, out-of-the way branch, the elderly guard is usually dozing, and the bank isn't busy. Would I report him if I knew he was planning a bank robbery or had actually robbed the back? You bet your ass I would. I don't support both legal bank withdrawals and bank robbery with equal ardor. If I ever reach the point where I think laws against bank robbery or anything else are unjust, I'll work to have them repealed. Otherwise, I'd be nothing more than another silly amateur anarchist, wouldn't I?

You were pulling our legs, right?. You weren't serious, were you?

3:48 PM, January 12, 2005  
Blogger thatcoloredfella said...

Sorry if I offend Tom, but anyone who voted for Bush in my mind, lacks pragmatic sanity.

And, maybe here is where I will bow out of a debate on Kerry and Vietnam, confessing my ignorance to make a strong argument. But, I will state this. The fact that John McCain and numerous veterans Kerry served with and supported him publicly have unchallenged integrity and credibility, compared to the lies, distortions and smears of the Swift Boat Veterans, speaks volumes.

10:24 PM, January 12, 2005  
Blogger Bruce -- Harper Blue said...

A man I shall add to my roll, for the fact that you realize the labels the political pros, propagandists and hacks have been using for years now are bogus as a four-dollar bill.

While I call myself a Democrat, there are a few things that should be done from a more conservative standpoint; and while I cannot abide the current President's policies, one must admit that he knows how to unite a country in time of crisis.

I suppose that the Guardians of Ideological Truth on both sides would label me outcast. So mote it be. I know now there are others out there. Maybe it makes you and me centrists (grin).

Thank you for a good piece. I hope you'll check me out in exchange.

[BTW: Came in through BlogExplosion.]

5:30 PM, September 04, 2005  
Blogger Marc Lance said...

I agree with most of your political opinions. So how is it that you could possibly vote for this....? Do you really think he has been positive for america?

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