An Interesting Question Posed
August 23, 2005

Reader "Terence" asks the following in the comments section of this post:

I have been reading some of the comments on this Blog and I would like to ask a question to the Black conservatives out there. I don't consider myself a liberal or a conservative. Depending on the issue, my opinion could fall into both camps. Just like you get offended when "liberals" talk to black folk like they are dumb or dont know what is best for themselves. I get offended when "conservatives" talk to black folk like they some how are being tricked into liberalism but they are too dumb or self-hating to know what is best for themselves. Also, since you use the word so much, what is a liberal? If I am Pro-life and believe in affirmative action am I mixed? Suppose I am Pro-war and anti-gun? Please help me understand.
Any answers?

Posted by Ambra at August 23, 2005 3:00 AM in Politics
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I think what you're running into is based a lot on the fact that the "conservative"/"liberal" spectrum is really oversimplified. I think an intelligent person finds wisdom on both sides. Like many, I think labels, although convenient, tend to be a way to dumb people down. ("oh, you're a XXX? good now I know to hate/love you, and that everything you say is a lie/truth") But as far as finding your political "place", I think this an interesting and easy place to start. http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz.html. It expands the political spectrum to two dimensions, which, in theory, makes for more a more accurate summarization of one's political views. There are also links to political views in three dimensions, and even a layout of where various people fall on the map.

The questioner is an anomaly. Most people naturally fall into a category. (there are far right-wingers that support abortion, there are far left-wingers that oppose it, but they are pretty constitant in their other views.)

I get the same thing Terrance! It seems incumbent on individuals to pigeonhole folks. On my blog, 90% of my post are what one would consider traditional conservative (not that fake neo-con crap), and then 10% I hammer hard on race as I believe in reparations, and direct solutions to racism induced disparities.

Ironically, though, I am considered a moderate, and have even been called a liberal because of this, when in fact, if you lined me up toe to toe with the average so-called conservative, I am probably farther right on most of the issues.

So hang in there bro, don't let the chumps and the demagogue-idealogues fakes hustle you from what you know to be the truth.

We know racism isn't dead, we know racism has consequences and that the consequences of historic racism are unresolved. Within the midst of that knowledge, we can also hold on to pro-life, small government, positions of faith, and belief in the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that our black forefathers put in extra time and extra deaths to get us to.

Although I call myself the Urban Conservative, I am really simply a pro-black American.

Your voting record -- assuming you give each vote careful thought -- will help clear up which side of the fence you tend to favor. There's a long list of issues to deal with, but somehow with each vote you manage to prioritize the ones that are most important and make a judgement.

The longer your voting record, the more clear it should be. Not that it matters much. But feel free to be a left-leanin Conservative or right-leanin Liberal. Figure out the balance.

Heh.

You are what you say you are.... but by looking at today’s political debate the fact that you are pro-life would automatically get you a right wing label. That leads me to believe it’s all up to where you stand on the key issues at hand. Condi Rice isn’t pro-life nor is she against Affirmative Action but she is called a right wing extremists by some because they disagree with her on today’s prevailing issue: the war. Such is the case for Colin Powell and even Dubya (far from the uber conservative he‘s labeled as).

Personally, I consider myself conservative because I have the conservative views on social and fiscal issues over 90% of the time. Some people might think that’s awfully simplistic but I don’t create my values out of thin air (I aint Madonna) so they don’t just change because some people think it’s not cool to wear a label.

Oh yeah, I can’t speak for the rest but I don’t think blacks are being tricked into liberalism…I just think blacks love the pointless pander. Who wouldn’t? Though I don’t know how much being patronized to death will help the community…

Terrence,
You are an independent thinker. You actually support issues on the merit of the issue. I suspect MORE people would be like you in that reguard if they merely took time to educate themselves and rely on more than source of information.

Wrong BH, I look to no party platform to figure out what I believe. I truly think independently and come to my own conclusions. While there are a few positions that I hold that leftists also hold, there are right-wingers that think the same thing.

The "independent thinker" is garbage trying to cover sloppy thinking.

Steven,
Categorizing issues into simple left and right is sloppy thinking. Or just plain not thinking at all. Terrence follows classic conservatism on some issues and against it on others. THAT is independent thinking. You also find that such people can disagree with someone and yet are still open to the possibility that a reasonable person can have a different opinion about something. They are even open to the possibility that they might actually be wrong about something if given a reasonable persuasive argument. Instead of just accusing him of "sloppy thinking."

I don't think the terms even make sense anymore. think of all the former liberals who are now prominent "conservatives". Bernie Goldberg, Dennis Prager, David Horowitz etc etc etc. The list goes on and on. These guys will say that the democratic party is no longer liberal, because THEY are liberals who agree much more with the republican party, and in a sense are intellectual leaders of that party.

I really don't know how to define myself either. I am for small government, small taxes. Domestically I guess I am "conservative" although these are evidently "classical liberal" ideas!? A lot of my ideas in this area could even be described as Libertarian. In foreign policy I am pretty liberal, which means NOT an isolationist and pretty much in agreement with the republican party. Man it gets confusing.

The terms "Liberal" and "Conservative" are so vague and fluid at this point that I really don't think they even describe anything when it comes to politics. We need to make up some new terminology so we can just wipe the slate clean.

I am more than happy to change my position if I am wrong--I hate to be wrong.

Sorry to say though, on all political; questions normaly only have two answers. Is a policy good or bad? Will this program work or not? Is this right or wrong? Shall we take action to solve this problem or should we not do anything so as to not cause more problems.

"Categorizing issues into simple left and right is sloppy thinking."

Keeping in mind that there is a point where we cross from sloppy thinking into the pedantic, I'll say that it's not the issues, per se, that get categorized, but more the opinions (re how to resolve that ish) that get slotted.

[Well, I guess if you wanna get real nitpicky, issues *can* be categorized depending on the framing but let's not go there today, mkay?]

To me, this isn't so difficult. If your opinions on issues don't uniformly fall under one category/party, which is probably the case for most of us, then you'll just have to weigh them. Figure out which issues are MOST IMPORTANT to you and then assess which party best aligns with them. It's not a binary, zero-one switch here; there are degrees of Republicanism/Democratness. And that's ok. Breathe easy. No one's going to "get" you for saying you're mostly D or R.

Close your eyes, stand on one leg, listen to your gut and observe which way you lean.

p.s. where's rhh?

A liberal is somebody who values the alternative more than the standard.

In politics this means that the liberal activist will hunt out all the alternatives, whether or not they make sense, and attempt to form a coalition with them. In this way they claim to be the majority and seek to wrest power.

This is a problem.

Seems like Kelso has a problem with complexity of thought. I grant that given our two party system, there are limited ways in which to meaningfully express our political viewpoints (e.g. the polls); however, having complex arguments distilled into buzz-worded "talking points" belies honest discussion of most of the issues that face our country.

Respectfully, I submit:

1) Measured thought is not sloppy; rather it is so rare in modern culture as to be a welcome respite from what passes for political "dialog" today.

2) Policy decisions are not as simple as "good or bad." If that were true, we wouldn't need 475+ White guys and a handful of "others" to collect a paycheck while they yammer about being good Americans (whatever THAT means).

As a Black (African-American is such a buzzkill), tax-paying father and husband, I understand many of the opinions espoused here. Progressives have enjoyed decades of reliable "free pass" status because of Democratic efforts during the END of the civil rights era. And, yes, I know Bull Connor AND Strom Thurmond were Democrats at one point during that struggle. That fact in and of itself illustrates the weakness of falling prey to labels.

I also know that for all their jabber, modern Republicans are no more the "party of Lincoln" than Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Black Panther. The Right's "lament" that progressive Blacks have been hoodwinked rings a bit false when too many Black Conservative "thinkers" appear to exist only to regurgitate GOP groupthink.

In the words of today's most brilliant lyricists, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, "Freedom isn't free, there's a hefty f**kin' fee...." Our soliders and the Iraqis are learning that the hard way. If all I have to sacrifice is some extra debate time with folks on the opposite side of an issue, I think it's time well spent.

"And, yes, I know Bull Connor AND Strom Thurmond were Democrats at one point during that struggle. That fact in and of itself illustrates the weakness of falling prey to labels."

No. Nuh-uh. In fact, just the opposite, if anything it proves the power of (properly applied) labels. At some point them boys realized that the values of the mainstream of the donkey club didn't align enough with their own and/or that the values of the mainstream of the pachyderm society's did.

These party values aren't necessarily static; they "evolve" over time (but slowly). As with any other kind of label, it's all relative and usually a matter of degree.

Cobb, a liberal is someone who isn't satisfied with the standard, and proceeds to torture himself or herself exploring the potential of alternative approaches.

I'll meet you halfway, memer. The 35 proto-Dixiecrats who bolted from the party in 1948 to protest Truman's civil-rights-laden platform had been Democrats because the Republican "label" equalled "emancipators" and "reconstruction Negroes" to the South.

As national priorities shifted and moderates from BOTH parties came together on civil rights, the Democrats got the "Black eye" because their guy signed the big legislation (and he was a TEXAN, dadgummit!!!).

HOWEVER, Republicans are trotting out the "party of Lincoln" meme to convince folks that their party of TODAY is the same as it was then. They are depending on that label to cover up their record on a host of issues. They have sniped so many layers of "Lincoln" and "boot-straps" and "Condoleeza" that the complacent citizen can't see through the other crap on the history wall.

That's why labels are particulary insidious. They tempt people to respond to the surface wrapping rather than seek the truth that may be buried under a paper-thin veneer of glue and pretty colors.

Most of the time, a label should be viewed as a starting point, but the only time applying a label, whether to yourself or someone else, may be a sin is when it's consciously innaccurate.

Republicans have been trotting out the "party of Lincoln" meme for some time now. It's an attempt at rebranding some of the perceived negatives associated with the "Republican" label. It's not a brand new trick. Obviously, it (along with a few other spin moves) haven't had quite the traction we presume they want (massive emigration to their party).

As ever, no matter race or creed, you can only fool some of the people some of the time. Don't fret it. Most people eventually catch on when you're persistently obfuscating (of course, there's labels for that behaviour as well). When you're being genuine and up-front, the proper label is clearly transparent anyway.

We're not too far from each other on this issue, so I'll just toss out one last thang, memer... In today's political "discourse," concepts have been distilled to nothing but labels. Further the labels have been loaded with such emotional definitions that their mere use serves to obfuscate real discussion.

I am old enough to remember when the word liberal did not in an of itself cause folks to frown up. Try saying it now... For many, Pro-choice conjures images of bra-less, armpit-haired, granola-munching lesbians screaming, "Keep out of my uterus!" If the label calls that image to mind, who would want to seek common ground???

Ditto-heads, wingnuts, femanazis, liberals... Once upon a time, Words were used to build bridges of communication; now they have become shorthand for making sure you don't even want to listen to what the other side has to say.

Well, we can def agree, AD, that too often labels are a kind of shorthand for some (many?) people. It's lazy, sloppy thinking to stop immediately at the first image conjured and build defenses. Again, I say it's a starting point, a description re how you tend to lean. Then it's a process of tweezing out the details and exceptions (if any).

But who is to blame for knee-jerk thinking? The label? Come now. I suppose this can drift into the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" arena, but there is something to that here. Folks just have to be more responsible in the handling of loaded labels is all. No need to fear or ban them outright in order to "protect" people from themselves. The silver, if not golden rule, is use in moderation (and knowledge).

The problem with people who abuse shortcuts is that they have blinders affixed -- they know exactly where they're going before the journey's even begun. There's really no point in "discussing" anything with those kinds of people. Unless you happen to wholeheartedly agree -- at which point it ceases to be a discussion. And that is fine if you happen to enjoy the accoustics of an echochamber (ahh, the sound of your own voice!).

Shortform or longhand, slashcutters are not open to exploring any trails other than the one track they're on.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hindsight
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
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Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
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