|Source: The Aspen Institute- Columnist David Brooks-|
If you just arrived on Planet Earth yesterday and were an adult and two of the first things you observed were supposed to be what it means to be a Conservative and Liberal and what conservatism and liberalism are supposed to be, you would probably think Conservatives are simply bigots who hate anyone who isn't of European especially Anglo-Saxon background, who isn't a Christian especially a Protestant and who isn't male. That conservatism is simply an authoritarian bigoted political philosophy that is about conserving everything in society for Europeans especially English-Europeans in America and especially Protestant males.
And that Liberals are simply statists. In some cases democratic, but in many other cases communist who believe European-Americans are all bigots, unless they come from the Northeast or West Coast and were educated there as well. Who hate European-Americans again unless they come from one of the coasts and were raised there. The Northeast and West Coast, that is and believe the role of government is to take care of non-Europeans in America and to punish Europeans for being successful.
That Liberals are supposed to be people who believe that anyone who doesn't look at the world as they do are basically idiots who need to be babysat by government. That freedom is dangerous and it only gives people the freedom to make mistakes. That free speech is only the freedom to offend non-Europeans. That capitalism and property rights are selfish. That even education and self-inprovent are dangerous things, because it means that people would be able to obtain the power and freedom to live independently and be able to think and act for themselves.
Now, I just gave you a pretty good idea about what conservatism and liberalism aren't. What it doesn't mean to a Conservative and what it doesn't mean to be a Liberal. The anti-conservative views when it comes to conservatism and the illiberal views when it comes to liberalism. Now, how about what it actually means to be a Conservative and what conservatism actually is and what it means to be a Liberal and what liberalism actually is.
I agree with David Brooks about one thing which seems to be a common theme when I hear him speak, at least about public policy and philosophy. That conservatism is about conserving tradition and a certain way of life in America. Which is different from saying that the role of government is force a way of life on the rest of the country and force everybody to basically live as straight fundamentalist Protestant Evangelicals. Which is what Christian-Conservatives who today are basically Christian-Nationalists believe, that the problem with the America is personal freedom and individualism and that Americans shouldn't have the freedom to live their own lives and have their own lifestyles.
My personal view of what it means to be a Conservative in the political sense, comes from Mr. Conservative Senator the late Barry Goldwater. Who said that he wanted big government out of our wallets, bedrooms, boardrooms, and classrooms. He wanted big government out of our personal and economic affairs. He believed in limited government and federalism and that the role of government was to protect Americans from predators both foreign and domestic, but not try to protect Americans from themselves and punish Americans for their own personal decisions. And that a big role of government was to conserve the U.S. Constitutional and our constitutional rights. Not conserve some fundamentalist Protestant Christian way of life and to force everybody to live under the same religious and cultural values.
For me as a Liberal, defining Liberal and liberalism is very easy for me. A Liberal is someone who believes in liberal democracy what some people might call classical liberalism, but what I just call liberalism and liberal democracy. That government should be limited and there to defend our constitutional rights and civil liberties, including our property rights. That everyone in America is the same at least in the sense that no one is better simply because of their race, ethnicity, or gender and that everyone has the same civil rights and are all entitled to the same equal and constitutional rights. Liberals believe in limited government, the U.S. Constitution, civil liberties, individual rights. A safety net for people who truly need it, but not having a government big enough to manage people's lives and to force everyone to live equally from an economic standpoint. Socialists believe in forcing equality on everyone. Liberals believes in quality opportunity for everyone, which is different.
Now, if you just watch Fox News and MSNBC, you might think Conservatives are from Mars and Liberals are from Saturn. Two completely different planets with very little if anything in common. Thousands if not millions of miles way ideologically. But if you look at the American political spectrum Conservatives are on the center-right and Liberals are on the center-left. Ideologically they're political opponents ( not enemies ) but have the most in common ideologically of any two political factions on the American political spectrum. With the Socialists ( both democratic and communist ) and the Christian-Nationalists, having the least in common. Conservatives and Liberals both believe in the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, our federal form of limited government. But differ when it comes to government's role in the economy and national security. But don't live in two on two different planets ideologically. As much as Fox News and MSNBC may disagree with this.