How relevant and helpful is the liberal/conservative polarity?

My greatest anger and frustration while experiencing the recent confirmation battle over the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court arose from having to listen to the conservative Republican Senators whose only interest seemed to be, not in getting at the truth of the allegations whatever they might be, past or present, but in blindly supporting their President, and turning the Kavanaugh nomination into a win for Trump. And in that way, of course, assuring their own eventual reelection to the Senate often from Trump country.



Were they even ever thinking that the Court ought to reflect the interests of the people. For example, the country by a large majority supports abortion and same sex marriage rights, (not to mention voting rights for minorities), and the Republican Senators would do away with both while clinging to the narrow interests of the Republican Party.

Did the Republican Senators consider anything other than their own selfish career goals while blindly supporting a demagogue president who admittedly doesn’t read and clearly doesn’t think?  Other than Kavanaugh being a conservative like them (whatever that may mean, and we were not told by the Senators what their being conservative means), and even minimally  qualified for the position given his 12 years as a judge on the US Court of Appeals DC circuit, and of course being a favorite of Donald Trump, what did Mitch McConnell et al. ever say of substance in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination? We know only that they did frequent the same social circles.

Now I ask myself, and have for years, is the liberal/conservative polarity, that which at least seems to separate the Senators into two political parties, still important, vital to the country, still somehow relevant to the functioning of our democracy?

I’m coming around to thinking it’s not but rather a Red Herring, something that keeps us away from addressing what’s much more important. In this case what’s more important than the  liberal/conservative differences, to the extent that they are even real, are not those differences but that which we share, that which we all, for some tens of thousands of years, have, with a preponderance of evidence revealed by the legions of evolutionary scientists, in common.

For from the time of the Enlightenment, if not before, aren’t there  liberal and conservative shared values, more or less,  those of a free press, free elections, representative government, individual rights and freedoms, freedom of religion while at the same time maintaining a wall of separation between church and state?

And I could go on with any number of others, tolerance of individual  differences, a respect for others with different views, and then one particularly important in the world today, given the huge movements of peoples looking for greater security, safety, homes and jobs, our supporting these movements of larger and larger numbers of immigrants, not turning away and excluding them as so many would now do, following the demagogic lead of Donald Trump .

In any case the  movements  of people are going on in spite of Trump and other leaders who would return us to the closed societies of the past.  And in fact today in the present time Trump is not making us great again, far from it, but by sealing off our borders to others he is making us not great but little, much less than we were through most of our history. Immigration, open societies, that sort of thing should be at the heart of both liberal and conservative discussions and programs. Why aren’t they?

And finally back to Kavanaugh, there is the great value of a federal court system staffed with strong and independent minded judges. Did the Senators ever tell us about how strong and independent minded was Brett Kavanaugh?  Are there liberals and conservatives, those freed from the unhealthy attachment to Trump, who wouldn’t agree about these kinds of things?

Aren’t the Enlightenment values shared by all of us, although the Republican Senators for their own selfish reasons, while publicly professing to be the only true conservatives (and again not saying what that means) have in fact bound themselves at the hip to an intolerant and thoroughly bigoted president who is probably without any personal knowledge of the historical movement called the Enlightenment, let alone the particular liberal and conservative values contained therein. This is apparently true for most if not all of the Republican Senators, certainly for Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, John Thune, Roy Blount, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz to mention just the first few Trump followers that come to mind.

Let’s look a bit now (although I’ll have more to say in a subsequent blog) at what we’re told are the real differences between liberals and conservatives, to determine  if they are in fact real and relevant to our public lives. I think we’ll see that other than single issues, such as the death penalty, same sex marriage, abortion, etc. about which people do strongly disagree, even liberals among themselves and conservatives also among themselves, that in fact, there are no substantial differences.

Take the size of the government. Don’t both liberals and conservatives agree that governments are too large, have taken on more than they can possibly chew, and need  to be cut down to a more manageable size? And taxes, don’t they all want to reduce taxes, and don’t they all want not to wage wars and not to increase the national debt? But, and alas, don’t they all go on waging wars and increasing our nation’s debt?

Equality and inequality. Do conservatives not believe that there are societal forces at work that make opportunities fundamentally unequal for certain classes of people? They would have to be blind like the President not to believe that. For instance, a student who has to work a job to support his family and goes hungry every night can’t reasonably be expected to make the grades and acquire whatever else he or she might need to get into a prestigious college or University.

On the importance of work, and individual effort. Do liberals not believe that people should be free to succeed and fail according to their own actions and choices, and in particular that with the free schooling, subsidized housing, college scholarships, medicaid, and the many other services established by the liberals in the government that one will still only succeed by one’s hard work?  And don’t liberals believe that successful people have mostly earned their success and should reap the benefits without being overly burdened by taxes….

To be continued.

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