As long as I’m writing entries on reader comments and e-mails, I’ll note a reader sent me an e-mail suggesting I’ve moved to the left politically since Bush came into office, and that my readership is far more lefty than it used it be, say, a couple of years ago.
My thoughts on both of these — eh. On the issue of whether my audience is more liberal than it used to be, I don’t know if I see it. Prior to March of ’03, it’s hard to judge, since I didn’t have comments enabled, and since then the comments seem to break slightly more to the left than right. But there’s plenty of representation from both ends as well as from the folks who prefer not to see their politics as being left or right but along “practical v. impractical” axis, which as it happens I tend to see myself along. I think during the run-up to the election things became a bit more polarized here, as they did on every site where people actually debated viewpoints rather than just doing a circlejerk with their ideological buddies. That’s the nature of living in a political system that offers you two choices. Since then, however, I don’t think the comments here have been particularly left or right, although that has as much to do with the fact that for the last six week’s I’ve mostly written about writing, and not about politics.
As for whether I am more liberal than I was before: No, not really. I’m certainly less stereotypically liberal than I was, say, when Clinton was in office. As an example, in 1995, I was pretty resolutely anti-gun and held the opinion that the 2nd Amendment didn’t specifically allow for a universal individual right to bear arms. Here in 2005, not only do I think that the individual right to bear arms is implicit in the formulation of the 2nd Amendment, I also recognize that with just about as many guns as people in this country, attempting to get rid of everyone’s guns is unfathomably impractical and would likely start riots — and armed riots at that. So for both philosophical and practical reasons, you can no longer call me anti-gun, even though I myself continue not to be a fan, particularly of handguns. I am also far more fiscally conservative than I was ten years ago, because I see the deficit as the single biggest impending crisis we have.
Socially, I am rightfully pegged as liberal, but I think that label comes down to two positions: Same-sex marriage, of which I approve, and the right of a woman to control her own body, of which I also approve. Why either of these positions are held as “liberal” is an issue for another time, but there you have it. The rest of my social positions are, I think, reasonably mainstream.
Politically, what I am, with a few notable positions both to the left and right, is a moderate, which is something you don’t hear too much about these days. But in actuality, what I really am is anti-stupid, and I think this is where my correspondent might indeed believe I’ve gone to the left, because this administration has been so unremittingly stupid in its actions that it’s all a thinking person can do not to have multiple simultaneous aneurysms trying to conceive how so much incompetence can be shoveled up in one place at one time — and elected to lead a nation.
Here’s my dirty secret about the Bush administration: I think it has some fine general concepts, but I’m appalled, over and over again, at how unremittingly awful it’s been in the execution. Tax cuts when the US government is running a surplus? Well, okay — I would prefer to pay down the deficit, but I won’t complain. Tax cuts while the economy’s struggling and we’re in a friggin’ war? Gold-plated stupidity is what that is. I like how Bush is running about, puffing his chest out about how austere his new budget is, but you know, I would have been rather more impressed with his fiscal-mindedness a couple of trillion dollars ago. Bush’s wanting to get credit for fiscal toughness after he’s spiraled up the US debt is like a drunk driver wanting to get credit for making it home without killing anyone.
Toughen security measures at home in the wake of 9/11? Absolutely. This is not the same as stripping US citizens of their constitutional rights, even if those citizens are brown and have an outside chance of being terrorists, or creating a Homeland Security department whose biggest security advance to date is color-coding and a one-time boost to sales of duct tape. Invade Iraq? Well, probably unnecessary, but for my own reasons I didn’t complain. But who honestly believes the occupation of Iraq hasn’t been one massive FUBAR-fest?
And now, Social Security: Who among us does not believe it should be overhauled? And yet I’d rather entrust my dog to come up with a workable plan to modernize it than the Bush Administration, because if there’s a group of people who can plow the thing into the ground and leave millions of men and women starving and homeless in their senior years, it’s this crew. Bank on this: If Bush somehow manages to push through his Social Security revamp, the USA is going to turn socialist in 2032 as all those dirt-poor retirees vote to start taking 70% of the younger generation’s income for their own needs. You’ve got 27 years to prepare, kids.
And it’s not just the administration. The stupid wing of conservatism is falling out all over the place, running about like untrained dogs, pissing on the constitutional furniture. To call the current crop of conservatives “unthinking” is too neutral — they are actively anti-thought, and that offends me enough that I generally choose not to be silent about it. Sadly, most of the the anti-thinking branch of conservatism also claims to be the “Christian” branch, which, if I were a Christian, conservative, and owned a brain, would offend me to absolutely no end.
Look, it’s simple: Give me a conservative who I can see engaging his or her brain to make argument and points — even points I disagree with — and that conservative will have my undying respect. Give me a conservative who thinks it’s a perfectly legitimate tactic to simply lie, ignore or bully, and I’m going to get out my whack stick. I’m not stupid and I’m not going to be bullied, certainly not by a bunch of smug dicks who assume both that they’re smarter than me, and that they have got God in their back pocket.
Yes, the left has more than its share of anti-thought folks, but a gentle reminder: The left’s not in power. I guarantee you if Gore had won and his administration had been as despairingly dumb as Bush’s, I’d have people wondering why I had suddenly swung to the right. However, in the real world, it’s the Bush folks who are running things, and doing so very poorly. It’s not about their politics, or at least, not all about them: It’s mostly about their competence.
Part of me wants to cringe when I say this, but at this moment, ideologically speaking, I’m probably closer to Arnold Schwarzenegger than any other high-profile politician out there. He’s socially liberal, apparently fiscally conservative, pro-environment and pro-business, open to compromise but also willing to take on the existing political structure (his current fight to de-gerrymander California’s congressional and Assembly districts? Swoon). He’s not a perfect match for me, and I loathed the way he managed to get into office (with the caveat that he was a far better person to have gotten in than the other grasping GOPers who manufactured the recall in the first place). But by God, he’s awfully close to what I’d want in an ideal candidate. I wouldn’t amend the Constitution on his behalf, but if it happened, oh the temptation.
That’s where I am politically in the Bush era.