I’ve been having trouble writing for this blog for a while now because I live in a very conservative part of a blue state and pretty much everyone I regularly talk politics with is a conservative. This has lead to me having to explain the left side of things to them and generally play devil’s advocate for the left in most of my discussions. The more I do this, the more I worry that I am not truly in the center, where I have made it my mission to remain.
On top of that, it is increasingly difficult to find the center of America. I have argued that we are not a center-left country or a center-right country, that we are a center country, balanced mostly by strong feelings on the right and the left. I’m not sure if that is the case anymore. If we look back on history, it seems that today’s establishment left is to the right of Richard Nixon in a lot of areas. I’ve been thinking on this subject even more after reading this article describing the political spectrum not just in terms of conservative or progressive, but also in terms of freedom vs totalitarian. I think Mr. Ferris’ chart is off slightly, but it did get me thinking about my place in the political spectrum. I will therefor substitute my own chart for his.
It seems like the conversation in this country has, for as long as I’ve been alive, been relegated to the lower half of this chart. Conservatives talk about small government when they are out of power, but whenever they are in power, they grow it. I think that instead of having two sides in a political debate, there should be more like nine. Going from the chart, I’ll take them clockwise from upper left.
Libertarian Progressives, or as they are more commonly called, “Hippies” are those who believe the government should stop harshing their buzz, man. They are Utopian idealists who believe that the government should be unnecessary because we should all just get along.
Straight Libertarians believe the government is too big period. They don’t necessarily want to abolish government, just shrink it down to the point where it can’t interfere in their lives. A favorite of today’s youths and Ron Paul supporters, they generally get ignored by the “mainstream” press and marginalized by both right and left.
Conservative Libertarians are your typical Tea Party protesters. I think that makes them essentially conservative hippies. They want less government because they do not think government can or should solve people’s problems for them. Conservatives tend to become this when out of power.
Straight Conservatives are essentially your grandfather. They believe that the country was better off years ago and would like to return to a simpler time that may or may not have ever actually existed. Like your grandfather telling you about walking to school in the snow up-hill both ways, and this was somehow better than today, Conservatives want to return to an idealized Leave-It-To-Beaver 1950’s, just minus the turmoil and racism that was actually going on then.
Conservative Totalitarians, while saying that Government can’t do anything right in order to placate their libertarian brethren, believe that the government CAN do stuff right, mostly rounding up “illegals”, running a military capable of conquering the rest of the world on it’s own, monitoring the citizenry for signs of dissension via wiretapping. They’ll try to outlaw unseemly acts as they see fit. It’s basically your conservative grandfather with the added step of shaking the fist and saying, “There ought to be a law!” And then going out and making a law. At a lower setting, they’re the prohibitionists from the early 1900’s. At their worst they’re hyper-nationalistic, scapegoating, jack-booted thugs who will round up anyone who doesn’t fit with their vision of what a good citizen should be and throw them in the gas chamber.
Straight Totalitarians believe that government should be in complete control. This can be either magnanimous or sinister depending on the government. A typical monarchy would be one side and complete control by a despotic ruler on the other. It’s the belief that people should not be free to chose because when people are free they abuse their freedom in many harmful ways.
Progressive Totalitarians believe that they can use the power of government to make everything fair. At it’s worst it leads to the idea that if government controls everything, it can redistribute the wealth so everyone is equal, comrade! Of course, some are more equal than others. Like the hippies, this idea ignores human nature and those in power use that power to stay in power. At best, it results in government welfare programs that do a lot of good but leave a lot of people dependent on the government for their existence. At worst, it results in millions of people dying in Siberia.
Straight Progressives are in favor of moving the country forward to a glorious time of mutual cooperation that will likely never exist. Like the Conservatives they believe in an ideal, just based on the pie-in-the-sky future instead of an ephemeral past. They’re in favor of socialism, which is like communism lite, employer owned businesses, “fair” wages, healthcare for all. They’re constantly disappointed that humans just aren’t as fair minded and evolved as they hoped they’d be and that people aren’t inclined to change things, even given the promise that their untested theories will make things “Better.”
And now to the center. True Neutral. This is where I like to reside. The belief that big government or little government isn’t the issue, efficient, smart government is. The belief that the idealized past of the conservatives and the rosy future of the progressives are both stinking piles of BS. You have to take a view of history that includes both the good and the bad. Likewise the future is going to be somewhere between the Jetsons and a post-apocalyptic nightmare. I want government to stay out of people’s private lives and do their job of making things work, protecting the people from tainted meat, predatory financial institutions, and terrorists. I’ll gladly pay my taxes (well, maybe not gladly, but at least less grudgingly) if they’re actually going to make people’s lives better through roads, infrastructure, and yes even healthcare.
Looking back at politics in my lifetime, it seems that the argument has always been between the factions on the lower side of the board. Hippies and Tea Party protesters get laughed out of the room when it comes time to actually legislate. Between the tax and spend progressive totalitarians and the cut taxes but keep spending anyway conservative totalitarians, I don’t place my trust in any of them. I continue to believe that government can be a solution to our nation’s woes, but it should not be THE solution. I cannot place myself in any one of the eight outer camps. I must place myself in the center where I can pick and chose from the good things in each camp, and reject the bad ideas and divisive tendencies of each one. That is what I mean when I say I am a Centrist.