I don’t think so, but…
Given my frequent advocacy for freedom, dignity, and basic human rights; and given my well documented disdain for our current president, I am frequently accused of being a liberal, or some variant thereof: “socialist”, “elitist”, “democrat”, or my favorite “libtard”. This is often accompanied by a disdain for my constant desire for and reliance on government handouts.
In the interest of full disclosure, since it comes up so often, I thought I should document my entire reliance on government handouts. One, I once received a partial academic scholarship to a public university. Two, I once received a single unemployment check, for $258. (To be fair, as a business owner I have paid far more than that into the state’s unemployment insurance.)
So now that you know how heavily I’ve been sucking on the public teat, maybe it’s time I provided some background, laid out the thought processes behind my positions, and let you decide for yourself whether or not I am a liberal. For what it’s worth, I am willing to fully accept you judgement on this, as I have no intention of changing my positions just to fit a label.
In simplest terms, I view myself as fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.
Let me address the second one first, because (gasp) I did use the “L” word there. To be more specific, I believe in freedom. I believe in the Constitution. It is the document that ensures that freedom. It is my Bible. I believe people should have the freedom to live their lives any way they like, so long as it does not harm others. This includes who they love, and who and how they worship, and what they eat, drink, or smoke. No one, especially not the government, should ever tell you how to love, how to believe, or what to do.
Now, based on that, I would think the proper term would be “libertarian” (small “l”), but if believing in freedom makes me a liberal, so be it.
Further, I believe discrimination is wrong. Fundamentally wrong. I do not believe “religious freedom” include the right to discriminate against others. I remember the 70’s, when religious folk used their religion to justify discrimination against interracial couples, the same way they do today against same-sex couples. It was wrong then, it is wrong now. It is wrong. I will fight you on this.
On the economic side of things, I believe government should limit it’s role to only those things which are best done by government. And I believe that to be a fairly short list, but it does include a social “safety net” for those who truly need it.
I believe the best thing for consumers, producers, and the nation as a whole, is competition. The best way to achieve competition is to start with a free market. However, the end result of an unregulated free market is monopoly, and monopolies are by nature anti-competitive. To expand, I believe government has three basic responsibilities regarding business, there are three basic things that business cannot or will not do for itself.
One is maintain a competitive environment, the mythical “level playing field”. This means anti-trust regulation, and enforcement. This means banning price-fixing, dumping, and other anti-competitive practices. There should be as little interference as possible, but like any competition, to ensure some basic fairness there have to be some basic rules.
The second thing government must do is ensure the health and safety of a companies employees, customers, and neighbors. There is no profit incentive to do this, an unregulated free market generates horrible working conditions, occasionally dangerous products, and all manner of environmental abuse and pollution. Again there should be as little interference as possible, but it is government’s responsibility to protect the public trust, and that includes our water, our air, and our health and well being.
The third thing government should do for business, is provide an environment in which business can thrive. Conservatives often only read that as tax incentives or reductions, but it goes far beyond that. It is infrastructure. It is roads and rail and ports. It is public transportation. It is science and information. It is support for research and development. It is support for day care, and health care, and senior care, and other employee needs. Companies are built on people. We cannot help one at the expense of the other. We have to help both together.
Okay, now that we’ve laid that background, here’s the fun part. How does a fiscally conservative, socially liberal vote?
I am unashamedly a Reaganite. I don’t agree with everything he did, but I do agree with most of it. Yes, he created a massive budget deficit, but in doing so he won the Cold War, the single biggest and most important geopolitical event in my lifetime. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was a direct result of the policies he set in place during his presidency.
Secondly, he knew how to get things done. He was not afraid to work with the other party to achieve something, a quality severely lacking today, and has been for the last decade.
Back in those days I did not vote. If I had, it would have been for Reagan, but he had more than enough popular support, and didn’t really need my help. To this day, his remains the one and only campaign rally I have ever attended.
George Bush (41) was the natural successor to Reagan. Everyone thought of him as Reagan Jr, despite the obvious fact that Bush, like all vice presidents at the time, was chosen specifically because he held views opposite those of Reagan, in the ridiculous attempt to “balance the ticket”. Still, Dukakis wasn’t much of a choice either. Of the two, I preferred Bush, but was perfectly content to go along with the crowd on this one. I did not vote.
George Bush found the end of his first term in a recession (mild by today’s standards, but a big deal then), and he chose to ignore it. His position was to do nothing and let it sort itself out, which of course it would have, but people wanted action, which meant…
Bill Clinton was elected on four words: “It’s the economy, stupid.” I had no doubt at the time that this would get him elected. Like Bush, I thought the economy would be fine if left alone, but if this conservative southern Democrat wanted to take a shot at fixing it, I was fine with that too. I continued to not vote.
Bill Clinton was the beneficiary of a budget surplus, the so called “peace dividend”. That was the direct result of the end of the Cold War, and I contend to this day that that was the direct result of the policies of the Reagan administration.
Still, he managed it well, so when he ran for re-election against the very stiff, very stodgy, and overall unappealing Bob Dole, had I been voting, I probably would have voted for Clinton. Maybe. It was only later that we found out Bob Dole had a sense of humor, and was most likely an actual human being. Oh well.
Lastly on Clinton, I don’t care who he played “hide the cigar” with. That’s a matter between him and Hillary, has no bearing on his ability to run the country, and quite frankly is none of our damn business. His biggest mistake there, was lying about it publicly. But honestly, of all the things a president could lie about, in today’s world this one looks downright quaint.
Bush vs. Gore. Honestly did not care. Two equally incompetent losers. Take your pick. I did not vote. Bush became president, but in more ways than one, there was no winner.
Then 9/11 happened. That changed everything.
In 2004, for the first time, I voted. Having politicians I like and disliked in both parties, and never being a blind supporter of any group, I registered as an independent. No party affiliation. I am still registered that way today, but…
I voted for George W Bush. I felt his response in Afghanistan was correct, and mythical WMD’s aside, I understood, and largely agreed with, his motivations for invading Iraq. I still believe both of those decisions were correct, however I was deeply disappointed by his administration’s lack of planning and attention in managing both of those countries after initial fighting was done.
There is probably nothing more symbolic of the Bush (43) presidency than the “Mission Accomplished” banner. It was clearly not accomplished, and the last thing we needed as a nation was a long, drawn out occupation. Sun-Tzu should be required reading for all presidential candidates. Once a year.
In retrospect, I was disappointed with Bush (43), but I’m not sure John Kerry would have been much better. I will reluctantly stand by my “don’t change horses in mid-stream” position.
I did not vote for Barack Obama. I wanted to, I really really did. But I just didn’t feel he had the necessary experience and qualifications to be President.
Let me just pause here and emphasize something. Back in those days, that was a thing. We wanted experience. We wanted expertise. We wanted substance. We wouldn’t let just any half-bit celebrity in a bad suit become president. My how the world has changed.
Also, I had liked McCain. This despite my disappointment in his pandering to the far right during his campaign, and his serious lack of judgement, of lack of attention to detail, in select crazy Alaska woman as his running mate. In the end, I thought experience mattered, and voted for McCain. It was largely symbolic, I had little doubt Obama would win. And given the historic significance of that, I was okay with it.
Obama didn’t do a great job, but he didn’t do a bad job either. Given the nature of the opposition, it’s a wonder he was able to do anything at all. There is something to be said for a president not doing a bad job. Yes, the economy was recovering slowly under his leadership, but at least he wasn’t making it worse. And if you don’t think a president can take a bad economy and make it much worse, you don’t remember Jimmy Carter.
Obama’s not bad job of things, combined with the fact that Mitt Romney was an out-of-touch hyper-elitist rich guy who wore magic underwear, meant I didn’t much care who won the next election. If only Romney had known that an elitist could be elected if he just pretended to be a down-to-earth racist, things might have been different, but it looked pretty certain, especially after his “47 percent” comment, that Obama would win again.
I thought this might be the time for a third party to make a significant showing, given the general dissatisfaction with both candidates. I voted for Gary Johnson, hoping this would be the year they made a blip on the map. My optimism was reward by this: Gary Johnson got 1% of the popular vote.
I will not make that mistake again.
That brings us to the 2016 election. First, let’s talk Democrats. There were really only two near-viable candidates. I did not think Bernie Sanders had much of a chance. And to be honest, I thought he was a bit too progressive. Democratic socialism works very well in Europe (surprise, they still have their freedom, they’re not commies), but we’re just not ready for that here yet. Baby steps.
I did not like Hillary Clinton. I do not think she is the spawn of Satan, but, and I cannot emphasize this enough, I did not like Hillary Clinton. After Bill’s second term, when she moved to New York so she could run for the Senate, that told me everything I needed to know about her. She was an opportunist who cared far more about her career that she did about representing the people she was elected to represent. I still stand by that assessment.
There were 17 candidates on the Republican side. Seventeen. I was fully prepared to support 16 of them. Even the crazy ones, like Carson, or the spineless ones, like Rubio, or the downright loathsome ones, like Cruz. Personally, I liked Kasich, but I really thought this would be Jeb Bush’s year. I was okay with that. Literally, and I’ve said this before, literally any other candidate but Trump. Any. Other. Candidate.
I follow the comings and goings of business people. Always have. I watch their interviews, I read their books, I try to study what makes them successful. I knew before he announced exactly what Trump was. And while I still believe it might be useful one day to have a real businessman in the White House, I firmly believe Trump is not the kind of “businessman” you want anywhere near public service.
So, my absolute nightmare scenario was Clinton vs Trump. I never imagined it would happen.
It happened. And as much as I dislike Hillary, I reject the notion that “they’re the same”. They are not. They are demonstrably not the same. Intelligence, experience, and expertise still have to count for something. As do motivation. I did not trust Clinton’s motivation, but I trusted Trump’s far less. And of the two, only one had the experience to be president. So yes, I voted, for the first time in my life, for a Democrat for president. I stand by that decision.
We are seeing today what happens when we elect inexperience. And I’m not talking about Obama-level inexperience, we survived that relatively unscathed. I’m talking legit, I-have-no-freaking-clue-what-I’m-doing inexperience. So far the worst result has been the unraveling of decades of progress, and a general embarrassment on a global scale, but if that’s the worst that happens I will consider his “presidency” a success.
I am interested to see what becomes of the Republican party. I am deeply disappointed in it’s leadership, and their embrace of Trump, who is neither fiscally nor socially conservative. Not even a little. They have place party, not only above country, but above their own stated principles. This to me seems insane. It is my opinion that the party cannot survive in it’s current state, it must either change or split. As it is today, if it doesn’t change, I may never vote Republican again.
I am no fan of the Democratic party either, but I am a fan of sanity. And I will continue to value experience and expertise above change only for the sake of change.
If that makes me a liberal, I can live with that.