Monday’s Mtg, Part I: Liberal Versus Conservative Principles

This is a rather incendiary topic for our first meeting in our new home, the Coco’s at Friars and Zion.  Let’s remember to be civil and not too loud.  Ordering something and being respectful to the staff would help, too.

I think it’s a perfect time for this topic all the same.  The GOP’s leadership may be in disarray, but its most conservative faction remains dominant  at all levels, not just in Congress.  Liberals are aching for more of their agenda to be enacted now that Obama has won a historic victory.  But, why these agendas and not others?  Anybody can list lib/con policy priorities.  Can we come up with lists of the reasons behind the lists?

In one sense, even listing liberal and conservative principles is harder than it might sound, for several reasons.

  1. Whose principles?  Both parties are coalitions of interests and the meaning of “liberal” or “conservative” varies by who you ask.  Think of the GOP’s corporate wing versus its Christian conservatives, or affluent liberals versus downscale Democrats .
  2. Policies are not principles.  “Low taxes” and “universal health care” are not principles, the way I think of them, or at least we shouldn’t really think of them that way.  They are means towards ends.  We want to know the reasons for wanting certain policies.  Why do Democrats want all citizens to be insured, and why do conservatives not want it enough to have the government make it happen?  The underlying values behind a policy can be hard to discover because often people don’t bother to state them out loud, because the values are assumed to be shared by whomever is listening.
  3. Rhetoric deceives us– often deliberately.  Baiting and switching on the real reasons for your political views is a staple of American politics.

Still,  I don’t really think this is that hard.  All we have to do is look at what the parties do, rather than what they say.  This is easier to do for conservatives than liberals, since conservatives dominate the Republican Party in a way that liberals do not control the Democratic Party.  Yeah, progressives have a lot of influence in the U.S. House and some state parties, but, since the Left is not in the drivers’ seat the way the Right is in the GOP, they are not the ones making the policy choices.  So, I think we’re going to have to rely more on progressive rhetoric to try to get at their underlying values.  People with power making governing choices reveal their preferences and their values more than people on the sidelines.

On Monday, I’ll open us up by suggesting some liberal and then conservative principles, based on what I think we’ve all observed in politics over the last few years.  I’m going to base my choices on what the parties actually have done when in power and, in the case of liberal values, lean more on progressive wish lists than on actual governing for the reason mentioned above.

FYI:  We may want to focus on Monday more on either (1) general issues of defining political values or (2) liberal principles.  Two weeks from now, of January 21, we are set to debate, “When will the GOP moderate?”

FYI, II:  I have a zillion links on conservative principles, what they have been and what they should bwe.  I’ll post them in Part II, on Friday.


On Liberal versus Conservative differences –

On Liberal Principles –


One response

  1. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    I do not like these terms, and I do not use them myself. “Progressive” and “reactionary” might be better.

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