Over the years, life has convinced me the primary difference between left-leaning and right-leaning in politics can be summed in the difference between the reaction, “That is bad. There ought to be a law,” and “That is bad. What can I do about it?”
Oversimplified, certainly, but I ask you to agree. People who lean left in politics generally want to have laws against all things they think are bad. There are, of course, two areas of politics, the civil and the moral. Again, oversimplified, and nebulous regarding the division between those two categories, but the simplification lets me explain.
The left-leaning that’s-bad-so-make-a-law group tends to identify as Democratic in the USA for individuals who emphasize the civil over the moral. Likewise, the left-leaning that’s-bad-so-make-a-law group tends to identify as Republican if they focus on the moral over the civil.
I suspect my readers have to pause and rectify my calling moralist-Republicans “left-leaning.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Left-leaning in general emphasizes government over individuals, or government for individuals, as that may be. Even when the government coercion is “for your own good,” or for the public good, it is still coercion, it is still restricting liberty, and it is left-leaning.
We see much tension between the Republican and Democratic parties because of an innate distaste for the otherness of this same thing in the two parties. That is, the morally focused left-leaning Republicans find it distasteful that the civilly focused left-leaning Democrats are wanting different laws, and vise versa. The key is that each wants to do the same thing: codify their priorities and restrict the freedom of others accordingly. Since the moral and civil focus is quite different, tensions arise. Still, the attitudes and political leaning are the same.
Right-leaning people tend to identify as Republican, but most are actually Libertarian. I know that is my situation. I like what the Republican party ideally stands for, but there are too many left-leaning moralists in it, and also a tradition of cronyism that I cannot stomach. The Republican Party is doomed for this reason. I doubt that it will ever shift its left-leaning moralist base to focus on liberty over government coercion, and it will probably never be able to find the better angels in its wealthiest members. The cronyism will always leave the party open to legitimate accusations of hypocrisy. The Democratic Party has the problem the same. An example is Solyndra. If a Republican wins the White House, especially if that is Trump, there will be a new Solyndra, and the opposition will legitimately cry foul. (And the opposition is a lot better at making the cry stick.)
I believe the unrest right-leaning people have felt dealing with the whole political process is rooted in these two attitudes. From the outside of politics, the right-leaning people are trying to throw off government restrictions and laws, and trying to make the world a better place on their own, be it with a kind gesture at the street corner, or be it a coin in a red-kettle, or be it something grand and far-reaching. Regardless, these people see the government as impediment, not assistance, not the authority to appeal to for coercive might.
However, from the inside, the legislator suddenly finds a new answer to his question, “What can I do about it?” She finds that she can pass a law to do something about it! So, suddenly, our right-leaning heroine, who champions liberty, finds herself thinking exactly like her left-leaning opponents across the aisle. They, of course, still differ in the details, but the attitudes are now the same. Right-leaning individuals tend to view the government as impediment, obstacle, and cost. The government is to be avoided for liberty-loving people. However, now this right-leaning legislator is suddenly part of the government, and the only obstacles in sight are those across the aisle.
This is an innate, fundamental flaw in governance. Government cannot but grow.
Those who strive to restrict and reduce government cannot retain sight of that goal once within it.
It is the nature of the thing.
If you favor government over people, well, that is sad. If you favor individuals and liberty over coercion and the power of the state, then join me in refusing to continue to look at each other down the gun barrel. Let freedom ring.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a moralist. The historical proof is in the traditional moral pudding. I just happen to have realized the only possible self-consistent stance is in being the change you want to see. I can best show the value of traditional morals by living them and being a good example. No force, law, coercion, nor even persuasion efforts required.
A final thought: There are no morals without an absolute. If there is no ultimate lawgiver, no final judge, then there is no standard for aspiration. I don’t need anyone to agree to my God, but we must agree to some ultimate basis, and with traditional definitions, we call that god.
We humans are religious. It is even this religious bent that makes us suppose we should have a governing authority.
We believe. We simply do believe.
It is foolish to suppose we can truly kill off god. It is our need. It is basic. It is our basis. We know innately that we, individually, are not the center of the universe, the only definer. And that, my friend, is the true question. Will you accept your smallness and try to live for the divine, or will you be selfish?
Yes, it is that simple. Be selfish, or try to live for the ultimate. That may not be orthodox, but it is true.