Liberals and Conservatives, Unite!
Liberals and conservatives must work together to establish a balance between expanding our liberties and preserving the valuable things from our past.
There should be moderation in all things, except perhaps love and fishing. Moderates have become concerned lately about the divide between “Conservatives” and “Liberals” in today’s politics. Sound decision-making must be based on evidence and reason and not on ideologies. It seems Conservatives and Liberals tend to bash each other across a divide that cannot be bridged by reason. Some use “liberal” to mean “evil and without values” and the other side uses “conservative” to mean “ignorant and selfish”. Calling each other names accomplishes little and tends to cut off any rational discussion. Ideas and issues must be dealt with as they are without attaching labels that vilify the other side.
Part of the problem is that the meanings of Liberal and Conservative have changed throughout history. Conservatives were at one time those who defended the Divine Rights of clergy and monarchs. Liberals opposed the idea making them seem evil, at least to despots and authoritarians. Today,
Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis, “of freedom”) is the belief in the importance of liberty and equality. Liberals support such fundamental ideas as constitutions, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, capitalism, free trade, and the separation of church and state.(1)
That doesn’t sound so evil. And,
Conservatism (Latin: conservare, “to preserve”) is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and opposes rapid change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity while others oppose modernism and seek a return to “the way things were.” (1)
As you can see, the words are not opposites. Canada for many years had a Progressive Conservative party and Europe once had a Liberal Conservative party. Many of the things today’s Conservatives wish to preserve such as constitutions, liberty, fair elections, human rights, and capitalism are a part of Liberalism. And, most Conservatives do not oppose change – just rapid change. They seek stability and continuity as we change and that is a good thing. Besides, the words are not mutually exclusive. It is quite possible for a person to be conservative on some issue and liberal on others, such as being socially liberal but fiscally conservative.
However, the Conservatives who oppose all change or who wish to “ return to the past” may have a problem. The world is rapidly changing and some adjustments must be made. Those who wish to return to the simplicity of the time of our Founding Fathers may wish to rethink that. Conservatives, at that time, were considered Tories and they were not at all popular in the early States.
Ambrose Bierce, to be fair, defines a Conservative as “the statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. “ That’s cynical, but replace “evil” with ‘policies” and it contains a bit of wisdom. It expresses the tension between the two sides. The world needs both liberals and conservatives working together to establish a balance between expanding our liberties and preserving the valuable things from our past. Liberals and Conservatives, rather than polarizing issues, need to work together and it is bad policy for either side to demonize the other.
(2) The Devil’s Dictionary
(c) 2010 J.C. Moore