Thursday, February 09, 2006

What Conservatives and Liberals Did Right

Yesterday I criticized conservative and liberal vices. Today I want to praise their virtues.

What liberals did right was the Civil Rights Movement. Faced with a manifest evil, liberals pushed against it for decades until we all won. Most remarkable was the great forbearance that the leaders and ordinary activists showed in not responding to endless violent provocations with endless violence.

What conservatives did right was the Cold War. Faced with a manifest evil, conservatives pushed against if for decades until we all won. There was quite a bit of violence around the edges of the struggle, but the Cold War stayed a cold war at its heart.

Every virtue has its vice, and vice-versa. We become like the person with a hammer, for whom all problems are, therefore, nails.

The problem that liberals now face is that they tend to see all issues through the lens of the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the condition of women, handicapped people, homosexuals, and, next, polygamists, is not the same as that of African-Americans. The same response will not produce the same result.

The problem that conservatives now face is that they tend to see all issues through the lens of the Cold War. Yet the condition of Al Qaida, Iran, North Korea, and, next, Burma is not the same as that of Soviet Communism. The same response will not produce the same result.

Still, the self-restraint that liberals exercised in the Civil Rights Movement, and that conservatives exercised in the Cold War, is a valuable model in dealing with today's problems. We should notice and honor such self-restraint when we see it now. We argue about offensive cartoons – we don't riot, murder, and burn over them.


SPorcupine said...

You've chosen one grand policy for each "side," and I think they're the right ones for understanding current politics.

I suddenly understand more about my own politics.

I want liberals to ALSO see the New Deal as pivotal, putting updated underpinnings under capitalism to create "the greatest sustained prosperity in the history of the known universe" (as Cuomo called our age). I want them to analyze those structures and keep them sturdy. They usually don't.

I want conservatives to ALSO see the earlier alliance with Stalin as something that had to be done. I want them to realize superpowers regularly have to trade one evil against another. They usually don't.

If you have four competing models of great social decisions in your head, does that automatically make you a centrist?

Charlotte said...

Well said, both of you, and very interesting.
My concern for a long time has been simply to monitor myself for knee-jerk reactions and to try to think things out without partisanship.

Gruntled said...

I think having complex models in your head, and seeing the costs and benefits of each policy choice, tends to make one a centrist about any policy.