*A teammate of mine from high school who is solidly conservative consistently points out on Facebook things that paint the president and/or the Democratic party in a negative light. The most recent example was the scandal regarding the IRS auditing tea party organizations.
His posts specifically, and posts of this nature more generally lead to numerous comments rebutting the details of the issue to conclude that the Democrats aren’t doing the bad thing, and/or comments conceding that what Obama is doing is bad but not nearly as bad as what Bush did.
This pattern of behavior speaks to the stubbornness of people in their beliefs and the hesitancy to accept negative truths about themselves or their perspective. But more importantly it shows the repetitiveness of political discussion among the general population.
Everyday conservatives see President Obama and the Democratic party as the enemy and so everything they do is automatically wrong. The opposite is true of everyday liberals vis-à-vis the Republican party and its leadership. So it can be concluded that while actions should be the determining factor in whether a person is good or bad, actions are seen through a specific prism that clouds judgement.
An alternative perspective is examining a person or party’s motivation or philosophy.
Generally speaking liberals are about expanding the vision of the United States to include as many sub-groups as possible. So it’s liberal movement when African-Americans attempt to gain and exercise citizenship privileges, or women, or Native Americans, or various ethnic groups, or homosexuals. Liberals are all about having the country reach its social and cultural potential.
Generally speaking conservatives are about consolidating the strengths of country and making the country as strong and profitable as possible. So it’s a conservative thrust that yields American military growth, or increasing corporate profits. Conservatives are about having the country maximize its economic and political potential.
Of course these two visions are not always compatible.
But the point is that the details in many debates are inconsequential. The overriding philosophy is what people need to understand and support or oppose. Notice that although I am firmly in the liberal camp (you see the title of my article, right?) it cannot be disputed that it is a reasonable decision to align on the conservative side. I do have reasons that argue for the liberal side but this is not the space for them (perhaps next week).
The question is what is most important to you (politics, economics, social considerations, or culture), and what most easily leads to an expansion of the other areas.
Most presidential policies are an extension or slight refutation of what their predecessor did – there was only one New Deal. So to place too much blame or credit on one President is silly. But it is meaningful to look at what direction a President wants the country to go, and how they pursue that goal. In fact that is what we should pay attention to the most.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.