Several recent online discussions have led me to think about how liberals and conservatives approach issues.
Liberals and conservatives both love the nation and want to defend it, using different models.
They also believe in the rights of the individual, yet use varying models.
I have tried to divine the minds of liberals for many decades, and let me tell you what I have personally determined. My analysis may be wrong, but it is uniquely mine.
Take Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as a prime example of my answer. Kerry says he strongly supports the defense of America; I believe he honestly does.
But, he voted against several large defense bills that contained many primary defense items currently in use by the American armed forces: Bradley fighting vehicles, Apache helicopters, body armor, B-2 bombers, Patriot missiles and F/A-18 fighters, among others.
To be perfectly fair, Kerry did not necessarily personally oppose each and every weapon, but did, at one point or another vote against bills containing all of the items mentioned. The Republicans tried to make Kerry seem totally against the military in the 2004 presidential election, but the fact remains he voted for 16 of 19 defense bills.
So Kerry strongly supports American defense, sort of, within limits, and on the other hand, he voted for it before he voted against it, and well, you can see where this goes.
Liberals contend that their solutions are more sophisticated, more complicated than the thuggish “conservatives” , more “nuanced,” to use their terms.
Using their frame of reference, they are probably correct. They really believe that they can defend our nation without defending the nation, let’s say, too much. They believe in an economy of defense , just enough. Sort of defense using the “just-in-time” model!
They are winning just barely, so as not to rile too many of the opponents. And they want a narrow victory on the cheap so that more money is available for social engineering. Money spent on defense early and often is “wasted,” in their minds. Not quite Quakers, they believe in “jaw, jaw, not war, war,” and are willing to negotiate right up to the moment the enemy attacks.
As liberals do in their management of public schools, they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by actually defeating the enemy, believing, sometimes correctly, that the opponents will regroup and come back for more. In sports talk, they want to take a knee with a four-point lead in the fourth quarter and two minutes left in the game.
Conservatives believe in winning early, winning big and over-engineering. They believe that there will be no social engineering or even freedom if we lose.
Conservatives want to stockpile those damn weapons in the closet, then build more closets! If one is good, 10 is better.
Conservatives believe in winning huge, overkill, salting the fields, stealing bases in the top of the ninth while enjoying a six-run lead, that sort of thing.
There are successful long-term models for each strategy, but conservatives are always asking, “What do we do if the liberals are wrong?” and they revert to overkill so as to limit the chance of a loss, and, short-term at least, the conservative strategy has the better historic track record.
I believe the difference between people insofar as their movement along the “left-right” continuum is primarily genetic. And the genes drive them to find different means to arrive at similar ends.
Even when there is general agreement on the strategy, the tactic is always debated. Liberals and conservatives agree on defending the country, and even managing the country in peacetime , just using different tactics.
Take, just as one example, the quote from an ACLU attorney who was a classmate of mine from our Naval Academy days in Annapolis. Our class has 250 members constantly in touch through a Yahoo bulletin board. He recently posited his preferable concept: “A governmental organization whose powers are always inferior to those of the individuals governed.”
He and I absolutely agree on the concept. We will, I suspect, disagree on the tactics needed to arrive at that lofty position.
Without trying to put words in his mouth, I believe he would prefer a large government constrained Lilliputian-like by law (and lawyers), to protect the individual.
I would prefer a tiny government too small and impotent to threaten the rights of the individual.
Again, common goals, different models.
Allen Polk Hemphill is a San Diego County resident.