Thursday, August 08, 2002

Evolution of a Conservative-This morning’s Instapundit post on Mickey Kaus and his “seduction” towards a conservative position got me thinking of the process of people leaving the liberal camp. In some cases, it is people who’ve been more-or-less conservative all along, but saw the party drift to the left; ”I didn’t leave the party, the party left me.” In other cases, it’s a liberal who’s seen that liberal policies don’t work and that the radical ideas of their youth don’t work as well when they have kids to raise. In a large part, the liberal position combines well-intentioned do-goodering, a fear of the stereotypical conservative bigot, a fear of the free-market system, hedonism and selfishness. All but the last tend to wane with age. While there might be some liberal areas where people will become liberal as they go native, the typical maturing adult will tend to become conservative. Honest Do-goodersOne aspect of liberalism is the desire to help the little guy and the downtrodden. By proposing larger solutions to problems, liberals look like they are on the side of the angles. I remember one of Tom Lerher's song lyrics that hits it on the head-
We are the folk song army, Every one of us cares. We all hate poverty, war, and injustice Unlike the rest of you squares.
Lerher's quip cuts to the chase; most everyone hates poverty, war, and injustice. However, the liberal solution may not be the best solution. Welfare might be better design to help people not need it, injustice to minorities need not require a quota system or reparations and even the staunchest hawks would rather kill them off by peaceful means. The young person looking for an honorable policy to follow is easily lead towards the broad-stokes of modern leftism. There's a honest part of us that says "There oughta be a law!" However, as we know more about how things work, we'll sometime find that laws can cause more harm than good. The media helps to play this area up. If you haven't seen the Network Investigative Template before, do so. The standard tendency of the media is to see a problem and propose a solution. It takes though and discipline to ask the extra question that would show whether the solution would help solve the problem and whether the costs of the solution outweigh the costs of the problem. As people mature (some sooner than others), they will often see that government programs have a poor track record; frequently, the best solution to a problem is none at all. This is the core of the old quip of the neoconservative being a liberal mugged by reality. The neocon wants to help the little guy, but knows the unpleasant fact that big government isn’t the answer. The corollary quip is that the difference between a neocon and a neoliberal is that they’ve both been mugged, but the neolib is reluctant to press charges. I think Kaus and Sullivan are beginning to start pressing charges, which angers liberals. Breaking Through Stereotypes-The more people travel and get to know other people from other areas, the more they can discard stereotypes. We nearly had a Jerry Springer moment in my MIS class last month when a discussion of neural networks and pattern-recognition went on a racial profiling tangent. Army and Air Force guys who served in the Gulf were going to bat for the humanity of the average Arab, getting hot at the stereotyping of some of their less-traveled brethren. A black policeman in the class was able to talk about being pulled over for Driving While Black. A small-town kid like me (who's international exposure is limited to travelling to Toronto and who could count the number of blacks in his high school class of ~450 on one hand) will learn something from that exchange. This stereotyping works in the liberal camp as well. To the campus liberal, all conservatives are closet bigots and all Fundamentalists are [enter pejorative phrase of choice]. The young skull-fulla-mush will think that the Republicans and church-goers back home weren't that way, but that his home town must be atypical. It might not be until the kid graduates, sees other parts of the country and notes that these mythical conservative bigots aren't out there in large numbers. Yes, they'll be the redneck at the barber shop who rants about the blacks-outbreeding-us-moms-with-8-10-15-babies-all-on-wefare-they're-taking-over (I heard one of those this week while getting my ears lowered. In Winter Haven's defense, they have Michigan counterparts), but they are the vast minority. In fact, the church-going people are less bigoted that the ones that don't. Even in gay stuff, they're more in "Hate the sin, love the sinner" mode rather than looking to beat the crap out of one of them. I've seen a number of liberals gradually come to the conclusion that conservatives are good, decent people. Once that wall is breached, people are free to look at conservative policies with a fresh look. A hatred of the stereotyped conservative will keep liberals from agreeing with a conservative. I remember the reaction of my arch-liberal friend Dave when the Grenada invasion went down. Dave admitted that rescuing Grenada from a bunch of Communist thugs who had staged a coup was a good thing, but that he didn't like it because "it made Reagan look good." I had voted for Carter in 1980 (sins of my youth), but even I found that to be a head-shaker of a response at the time. I think 9-11 helped some of that, where most liberals saw what we have in common far outweighs where we differ. Jews started to wonder why they are going to bat for the liberals in the Democratic party when they have little in common with them. Secular liberals saw the difference between Islamic fundamentalists and the evangelical type and often noted the positive difference between the two. While there are some liberals that are stuck in their ways, others are slowly coming to the realization that they have more in common with conservatives then they think. Learning to Love the Market People are naturally fearful. This gives liberals a focal point at which to pitch their big-government message. The more people fear an unstructured free market, the more they want safety nets and guard rails in the economy. These protective devices will slow the economy but are designed to help the misfortunate in the bad times. While getting a job is hard, it’s not as hard as people make it out to be. As much as the elites like to bash Joe Sixpack, Joe’s got more on the ball than either he or Jacob Journalist thinks he has. If you look at things, most people are net taxpayers, paying more in taxes then they get back. One of the beauties of the Bush tax cuts of last year is that nearly everyone got a check. The liberals might complain about tax cuts for the rich, but Joe S. thought that $300 check was nice, whether you got a DVD player or paid down your credit card debt with it. People tend to have more confidence in themselves as they get older, and thus know they can do better than the liberals think they can. You can make a case that as seniors get older, they’re more susceptible to big government, but not to a large extent. Growing more conservative Here, I’m talking about small-c conservatism, being careful and playing things close to the vest. I remember an old football quip-“there are old quarterbacks and bold quarterbacks, but there aren’t many old, bold quarterbacks.” Youth is frequently a time of experimentation, of doing things you were told you shouldn’t do. Trying pot, getting plastered at the college watering hole or megakegger frat party, seeing the speedometer hit three digits (in miles, you can do that legally in metric) and (I was too shy for this one) the pickup and one-night-stand. As you get older, your parents make more sense then they did when you were in your teens. As you get older, the libertarian/libertine streak wanes, as you see the downside of those hallmarks of the bohemian life. Booze isn’t the answer; it just lets you forget the questions. Drugs are more painful then pleasurable, speeding isn’t really that much fun when you factor in the risks and extramarital sex is not worth ruining the relationship with your spouse (or spouse-to-be). Boomers are often in an awkward spot, having to preach against the things they did as a kid. However, the older person has seen the OD’s, car crashes, abortions and break-ups that the cocky teen hasn’t. Some of today’s teens have seen the body count from the Sexual Revolution and want no part of it; Gen X is a bit more conservative then the boomers on this front. People tend not to learn from other people’s mistakes too well, but we’re seeing some improvement in this area. People become more conservative parents as the get older. I don’t have a link for this, but there was a good column in the Lakeland Ledger a week or so ago from a liberal guy on how progressive parenting ideas are suitable for use as fertilizer. Kids need guidance and authority from their parents, not a permissive buddy. The older people get, they learn that the latest trend usually doesn’t work. They see where a swift whack on a rug-rat’s be-hind can be useful in moderation. Conclusion-Add these things up, and you see people tending to become more conservative over time. Some people’s views are stuck, but others have room to evolve. The undertalented, minorities wanting a break due to their grouping, and the people who look after them all have a vested interest in big government; they’ll always be a market for a statist agenda. Some people don’t lose their libertarian view of sex and drugs, and thus there will always be a market for a culturally- permissive agenda. Add the people that think a bigger, permissive government is better than a smaller, morally conservative government and there’s your Democratic coalition. However, it’s a group that has to recruit new followers. That’s while focusing on the youth, giving them a good academic and moral education, confidence in themselves and a healthy respect for everyone (even white evangelicals) is important for the country. It will help keep them good citizens and make them less likely to become young statists.

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