What makes a liberal or a conservative? | VailDaily.com

What makes a liberal or a conservative?

Alex Miller

Liberal or conservative or something in between?It seems I’ve evolved into a liberal, although like most people, I didn’t set out to be one way or another, and I still dislike the labels that accompany political leaning. For one thing, the other side has done a pretty good job over the past two decades making “liberal” a dirty word. For another, the pigeonhole conservatives would place me in aren’t all true by a long shot. I’m too cheap to drink lattes, like to shoot guns, have done plenty of manual labor and don’t think we should tax ourselves to death to hand out money to ne’er-do-wells and illegal immigrants. But I don’t believe in magical beings or supernatural phenomena of any kind, strongly believe religion has no place in public institutions, oppose unprovoked wars, support science over superstition and pursue progressive rather than medieval thinking at every turn. I don’t believe we should turn our natural skepticism off just because we’re fighting a so-called “war on terror,” and I think the neocon approach to pre-emptive war, spying on Americans and flouting the Geneva Conventions is wrong on nearly every level.Mostly, though, I believe what I think is right, not what I think is a “liberal” thing to believe. For example, I think half-a-trillion dollars spent annually on defense is too much, especially in a country where 44 million people lack basic health insurance. I believe we need a strong military, and I don’t mind paying a reasonable amount of taxes, but do we really need a fleet of aircraft carriers anymore (might two or three do?), or new attack submarines or two new jet fighters? Enabled by Congress, the military-industrial complex has run utterly amok, and our entire country is suffering for it.I believe there’s way too much hot air expended on relative non-issues like same-sex marriage, abortion and illegal immigration. More pressing to me is the state of our health care system, our schools, our infrastructure and our energy problems. I also have a problem with a government that goes out of its way to smooth the path for millionaires while the middle class is in decline and poverty is on the rise. What happened to the “compassionate conservative” we were promised by George W. Bush? Dead, it seems.I know a lot of voters of all political persuasions are sick to death of politicians – mostly Republican but also Democrats – who use obvious wedge issues to divert our attention from their multitudinous failings on the real problems. For some reason, though, conservatives seem to have a harder time seeing this. While deregulation, globalization and tax slashing have hugely benefited corporate America, the whole notion of an attainable American Dream seems to be slipping further and further away, yet a majority of people lined up to vote these guys back in because they’re supposedly more pious? Gimme a break. I don’t know, I guess I can understand why people lean right if they think it’s going to make the country safer, holier or less taxing. To me, the whole approach is wrong. All the money we’ve thrown at security and defense – not to mention this stupid war – hasn’t made us any safer. As the Brits just showed us, good police work is more to the point. No amount of government intervention is ever going to make America holier, unless it’s to firm up the wall between church and state. And as far as cutting taxes goes, I’m all for it. Let’s just get our priorities straight and use the money for people, not more weapons, corporate welfare and pork.Many of the good things Republicans supposedly stand for are seemingly a thing of the past. The GOP is now the party of big, intrusive government. Instead of “tax-and-spend” we have “cut-tax-and-spend,” which makes no sense whatsoever. Out the window is fiscal conservativism, and the notion of government keeping its nose out of our private lives is a quaint throwback to yesteryear.If that makes me a liberal, I’ll take the label and be proud of it. I’m eager to see more people of this persuasion rise up in November 2006 and 2008 and give the bum’s rush to the Republican-led Congress and White House that’s screwing up my country in the name of “god.” In the process, I’d be happy to see some of the do-nothing and misguided Democrats get shown the door as well.Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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