Some of you have probably seen the comparison between the 2004 Presidential Election results map and the map of the Free States and Slave States, before the Civil War. I’ve reproduced them for you here. I do not take any credit for recognizing this and I thank whomever noticed it originally.
I am struck by this comparison mainly because I have been thinking about what it means to be a liberal and what it means to be a conservative. At dictionary.com we see that liberal means:
“Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.”
Conservative, on the other hand, means:
“Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.”
So, by definition, one side embraces change and one side opposes it. At face value there is not an intrinsic better or worse view of the two but in practice, in terms of the history of this country, there certainly is. One side fought for slavery and the other side opposed it. One side fought for women’s right to vote and the other side opposed it. One side fights for civil rights, for minorities including gays, and one side fights against it. When you say you are against change you are saying everything is perfect right now, or at least that change would take us further from perfect, and this is what is so god damn perplexing about the reelection of George W. Bush. 51% of the people in this country think a change away from George W. Bush would be a bad thing. They apparently are perfectly satisfied with how things are now. That leaves 48% of us wondering what the hell they are thinking.
As has been pointed out, what they are thinking is “God, guns and gays”. They love the first two and hate the third one. Apparently they think that a “culture of life” means executing doctors who perform abortions and not being overly concerned about the 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq. Apparently they think that Jesus would encourage us to deny rights and compassion to our homosexual brothers and sisters. Apparently they think that fear and bigotry are important American values.
Now I know that there are plenty of conservatives who are not religious. They see themselves as fiscal conservatives and don’t think we should reward failure in this country by having vast government safety nets. Many of them are pro-choice and support gay rights. To these people I would say two things. 1. The Republican party is no longer the party of fiscal conservatism. See my previous rant, The Myth of Republican Fiscal Conservatism. Certainly it is hard or impossible to argue that Bush is a fiscal conservative. The libertarian notion that government should not reward failure is also not fiscally conservative. Poor, sick people cost our economy much more than middle-class healthy people. It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but we cannot grow our economy if we leave a large percentage of our population to poverty and sickness. Like him or not, Paul Wellstone said it perfectly: “We all do better when we all do better.” 2. I think it is entirely non-sensical for fiscal conservative/social liberals to support the Republican party because they agree with a small percentage of the platform and doom us all to the radical religious extremism that now characterizes the party. Single-issue politics, whether based on small government, gun ownership or abortion, are irrational and dangerous.
The red states in this country are completely misguided by their so-called religious values. In these states you could probably easily make being homosexual a crime punishable by law. You could probably pass referendums that set civil rights for minorities back by decades. You could easily pass ballot measures making Christianity the state religion of the United States of America. This is what appalls the blue states and the rest of the free world about this election. It is what Thomas Jefferson called the tyranny of the majority. We are now being held hostage by the least tolerant, least educated, least compassionate and most self-righteous 51% of the people of this country and it is completely understandable why the blue states and the rest of the world are scared shitless.