In an online debate about the meaning of the word liberal, I found myself typing back and forth with another participant. He had read Mark Levin, a commentator who is a couple of big steps above a lot of the conservative bloviators lurking around the infosphere. Mr. Levin had told my counterpart that there is a difference between a leftist and a liberal, so he knew that much; but he was still hazy on some of the finer points of the distinction.
Like a lot of self-styled conservatives, his world view seems to be a mash-up of anything and everything he listens to on talk radio. He tried to say that the distinction between leftist and liberal was slowly and inevitably disappearing. He had the mistaken impression that once voters endorse any tenet or facet of social justice, they are doomed to be sucked into a communist vortex and end up as red, or redder, than Karl Marx.
Democrats, he implied, lack force-of-will, unable to maintain their own beliefs. He characterized most Democrats as statists, which is code for communists.
It is sad to find out how little confidence some people have in their fellow citizens. True, a degree of muddled thinking is clearly prevalent on both sides of the political spectrum these days. Imagine a Venn diagram with lots of voters joining the band wagons and weighting down both extremes, but those people are mis-guided, and they do not define us.
Towards the end of our discussion, and in an attempt to put me back into a more comfortable pigeonhole, my debate friend asked if I consider myself to be a liberal. He was still having trouble with the connotations of the word, but he also wanted me to use it in a definition of myself.
Here is my answer:
I am, and always have been, a Dual Extremist, or, if you prefer, an Extreme Moderate! By the way, I am starting a new club, the Extremely Moderate Club or EMC. I hope you will all join.
I am 1. Conservative on Fiscal issues. We are killing ourselves with huge Deficits. We cannot continue, on both sides of the aisle, to spend big, accumulate interest debt, and pretend the future will bail us out. Our crazy lack of respect for frugality and careful money management makes us the laughingstock of the world, and it makes us more and more vulnerable.
I am 2. Moderate on social issues. In a Democracy, everyone’s voice must be heard, and to the extent fiscally possible, all concerns of all citizens must be addressed. Everybody should be equal before the Law. If that much isn’t true, it isn’t a Democracy anymore.
I am 3. A Liberal. Historically speaking, I am in agreement with the Founding Fathers on the benefits of emphasizing individual freedom, and, like the Founding Fathers, I am idealistically committed to a freer and more egalitarian future.
If you have been keeping score with me, that adds up to one big check mark in all three columns. Like most of us, I suspect!
This is the way!