The Story of the Liberal and the Conservative and the Need for Consensus . . . . .

Ah, politics. In the United States, our current presidential election race started in March of 2015. Here we are, 19 months later, and the presidential election is almost over.  The general election is November 8, 2016. With only one more week to go until the 45th president is determined, many in the United States are bracing for the end of this very long, very frustrating, and very bizarre presidential race.

Those in my house have wanted all this turmoil to end some time ago and there is a very good reason for this. We have a unique situation in my house, so I am going to digress from my usual talking points and discuss this unique situation. 

My husband is a conservative and I am a liberal. You can probably imagine the arguments we get into.  Finding middle ground is considerably difficult, especially on issues where our passions are very strong.  Then mix in the fact that I am autistic, which inherently leads to social and communication difficulties on my part. My husband is not autistic, but he does have his own form of communication difficulties.  He struggles with expressing himself effectively, particularly when it comes to issues where emotions are involved.

Two people living under the same roof with opposite views when it comes to which direction this country should go. We basically want the same thing, but it is in the “how” that we differ. This “how” comes from how we see the world. Basically, our perspectives, our values, and what we feel is really important. The different ways that our brains are wired, and our ongoing difficulties to effectively communicate with each other, cause a lot of tension in our house, particularly when it comes to political issues.  

Student News Daily breaks down this conundrum of Liberals vs. Conservatives:

We all want the same things in life. We want freedom; we want the chance for prosperity; we want as few people suffering as possible; we want healthy children; we want to have crime-free streets. The argument is how to achieve them…

Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems.

Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. Believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.

NOTE: The terms “left” and “right” define opposite ends of the political spectrum.  In the United States, liberals are referred to as the left or left-wing and conservatives are referred to as the right or right-wing.  On the U.S. political map, blue represents the Democratic Party (which generally upholds liberal principles) and red represents the Republican Party (which generally upholds conservative principles).

Many times when a person hears the word “conservative” they tend to think “Republican”. This thinking also applies to the word “liberal” being connected to “Democrat”.  In my house this is not the case.  I am an Independent.  I am not affiliated with any political group.  My husband leans towards the Libertarians.  He doesn’t agree with everything that is on the Libertarian Party platform, but he agrees with the general idea of their platform – limit the government and leave us the heck alone so we can make choices for ourselves!

From the Libertarian platform Preamble – “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.”

The simple definition of individualism is “the belief that the needs of each person are more important than the needs of the whole society or group”. That might work for some people, but not for me.  I feel if we are going to be able to have equality and equal opportunity for all then the federal government has to play a big role in accomplishing that.  Again, this is just my view.  There are many that feel that individual states should have more rights over what happens within their borders and that there is too much overreach by the federal government. That is their view and they have that right.  I fight for social justice, so this idea of individualism and autonomy over the needs of the whole society is counter intuitive to my desire for a healthy society for all.

According to Don Young, a healthy society has some underlying values:

  • The economy is an integral part of any society; the economy of a healthy society is governed by democratically developed principles.
  • A society should be judged in terms of the well-being of all its members.
  • A healthy society protects the weak while creating opportunities for the strong to flourish; it respects the cultures and human rights of all sectors. The dominant culture of a healthy society promotes co-operation and collaboration as checks and balances on competitive forces.
  • A healthy society needs robust laws and their fair enforcement, as well as creatively governed autonomous institutions that function to promote well-being. It uses law both to deal justly with those who cause harm or threaten the peace, and to protect freedom of expression and assembly.

When it comes to the Republican Party, I have voted for Republican candidates in the past, but never for president. I cannot in good conscious go along with the current Republican platform.  I feel the current party leaders are trying to take this country backwards, not forwards. 

Then there is the Green Party and the Constitution Party. Nope, not for me. The Green Party is too far left and the Constitution Party is too far right.  I think I am more a centrist that is leaning more to the left side than the right side when it comes to the political spectrum.

This is why I currently find myself leaning towards the Democrat platform. I don’t agree with everything that is on this platform, but the current Democrat platform is focusing on the issues that are important to me.  My passions lie in equality and equal opportunity for all, including marriage equality, separation of church and state, health care for all, education (supporting public schools), disability rights, maintaining a woman’s right to choose, science, and the environment – a very much liberal type of platform.

My husband is very much a gun enthusiast, very much a proponent of the constitution, very much supports individual freedoms. Any sense of infringement on these hot-topic issues causes considerable emotional outbursts. This is where his passions lie. There is nothing wrong with this. I support people defending their passions and expressing their feelings.  The problem is that any talk of services that everyone is required to take part in order for all to have access, any talk of gun legislation, and any legislation that could be construed as potentially impeding individual freedoms causes a lot friction between the two of us.

I think society as a whole needs to be addressed and he feels individualism is more important than society.

The story of the liberal and the conservative and the need for consensus . . . . .

From Don Young in What makes societies healthy?:

Poisonous Parties

In both the UK and the US, government is dominated by two political parties. Historically, political parties grew their strength out of their members, primarily at local and regional levels. The rise of mass media, the 24-hour news cycle, and the take-over of party leadership by ambitious men (and a few women) with little or no local regional roots have fundamentally changed the parties. As the party system is not underpinned or constrained by either broad based memberships or any effective collaborative frameworks, they have become largely representative of special interests. This is a tragedy, because as each party’s base becomes narrower and less diverse, the processes of government are more and more bent to serve the interests of the powerful at the expense of the whole people.

Party funding in the UK and the US

The Conservative Party is nearly entirely funded by finance, industry and super-rich individuals; and the Labour Party by trades union bosses supposedly representing their members. Both parties have lost the bulk of their grass-roots memberships. Few members of Parliament have had any significant careers outside of Westminster; their leaders are largely drawn from much the same small pool of party interns and graduates of elite schools or universities; with women’s and ethnic minorities’ barely represented. Membership subscriptions have become insignificant, and both parties rely on special interest donations. Smaller parties seldom get a real chance of attaining power. The electoral system also prevents a wide range of interests from being represented. Britain’s current attempt at coalition government has been characterised by internal conflict and increasingly poisonous relations between the Liberal Democratic party and the right wing of the Conservatives. The Labour Party is now in conflict with union bosses, who believe that their members’ subscriptions should give them the right to appoint Labour Party candidates for safe parliamentary seats. The small regional parties merit barely any attention on the national scene, and the three major parties each face a nation with large geographical areas where they are barely to be seen.

In the United States, Republicans and Democrats seem to be fighting to the death in Congress, preventing most legislative action, even that which could be beneficial to the nation as a whole. The Republicans in particular, are in thrall to extremist forces that oppose whatever the President and his party proposes. In effect, the government is paralysed. (Highlighted for pertinence.)

The prevailing politics in both the UK and US, funded by massive lobbying interests and powerful commercial institutions, has become a negation of democracy. The interests of the rich and powerful trump the common interest. This has become evident to the wider population, who have lost trust and faith in politicians, big business, big unions, and in particular investment banks, hedge funds, private equity houses, and other financial institutions.

The consequences

As a consequence, it is almost impossible for political parties to come together to agree on issues of extreme national importance. Even when they might agree in principle, many politicians emphasise differences to satisfy increasing number of extremists who make up the rump of party membership. There are no powerful counter-weight institutions to bring together the interests of the work force, business, and regions. The result has been serious economic decline and a widening of the gap between the privileged and the less fortunate. Without national consensus, especially about the nature of a healthy society, it is hard to see how either Britain or America can re-build healthy societies with economies and public services that support the interests of all. (Highlighted for pertinence.)

So, here we are in the United States, trying to find consensus in a world where our government has become paralyzed. It is difficult to navigate such a world, especially when you find yourself living with someone who is politically opposite you and you live in a part of a state where you find yourself the minority when to comes to political matters.

I fear the outcome of this current presidential election. Due to obstructionism and extremists, it doesn’t look good one way and looks even worse the other way. I prefer one candidate over another for very specific reasons, but with everything that has been happening in this country, the world as we knew it under President Obama’s eight years of leadership is over and I don’t do well with unknowns.  

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