Being A Liberal: It Feels Good

Mill Valley's Closet Conservative

The 1980s Los Angeles talk show host Dr. Toni Grant often told couples who were arguing, "Do you want to be LOVED, or do you want to be RIGHT?" Her point was that in the micro world of human interaction, in the long run of a marriage, it is much more constructive to be loved by your spouse than to prove a point to be right, resulting in your better-half being angry about your insistence and gloating.

In the macro world of business, politics and public policy, it’s often more practical, effective, fair, and ultimately better for society (and in effect, the world) to make hard decisions that may seem unpopular or heartless. Hard choices often mean making decisions that in the short run may seem harsh, unfair, unpopular, mean, and insensitive. In the galaxy of Star Trek, the great philosopher Spock once said, as he sacrificed his life so that all on the Starship Enterprise would live, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

"Life is complex." Spoc did not say that. Yogi Berra did not say that. Jesus Christ did not say that. But your mother said that. Your grandfather said that. Liberals and Conservatives say that. For all of their complexities and difficult dilemmas, one of the primary forces behind modern day liberalism, and modern day conservatives, is a key distinction. 

Liberals (i.e. most Democrats) tend to make policy based on “feelings." It's about what feels good, doing the right thing so no feelings get hurt, i.e., no one is poor, no one suffers. It's about compassion, peace on earth, love to all men. Sounds good, right? Who could argue with that?

But as your mother told you, life is complex. Life is not fair. Conservatives (Republicans) tend to make policy on what is best for the majority in the long run. Their policies and positions may seem selfish and uncaring at the outset, but in general, are more focused on what will happen to the majority in the future. For instance, how will over-spending now effect the budget of the city or state? On national defense, should we continue negotiating with terrorists, and impose sanctions? We might avoid a military conflict now, but what will the effect of avoiding confrontation lead to later?

Feeling good, being liked, doing the right thing for the little guy and the minority are positions the left relishes and supports. Conservatives in turn also want to do the right thing, but their vision of the right thing is more for the general good of the whole, and not is as much the small minority. It’s the difference between the adults and the children. A mature adult knows when to say "no" because of the consequences in the long run. The child does not understand the benefit of “no” because they have not lived long enough, or are not mature enough to know that there are prices to pay for all actions. They want it all….NOW! 

How many times did your father or mother say, “You can’t have it all”?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

katy Kuhn March 20, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Tim! I was hoping for more... If I ever thought "conservatives" wanted what's best for the big American picture I would surely be one! But I do not see core conservative issues with that as their aim, in fact most conservative platforms seem the opposite. Exploiting finite resources in the search of "cheap" energy. Defending the second amendment beyond any logical original intention. Social ordering a la California's Prop 8. Disregard for separation of Church and State. Repealling EPA laws under the guise of job creation. Etc. These are not long-term what's-best-for-the-majority principles and platforms; these are conservative issues that protect the status quo and often the elite. (okay maybe the 5% and not the 1%...) Prisons over education. Social mores over individual freedom. Anti pro-choice but no welfare assistance on the other side. NO, I don't think being a liberal is about feeling good... Not everyone gets to eat at the same restaurant. But it isnt about expedience and "the next general election" either.
Ken Broad March 20, 2012 at 02:24 PM
"Liberalism is more concerned with the kind of symbolic action that gratifies the passions of the reformer rather than with the efficacy of the reforms themselves" -Irving Kristol (former liberal). MEA and SMART are two perfect examples of this. @ Katy, I think you are right on the social issues - it is imperative to distinguish between social conservatism and fiscal conservatism (and by "conservatism" it just means government trying to spend within its means). A tangible, current example might help: Instead of truly reforming public pensions - the root source of most of our budgetary problems - Governor Brown and the Teachers Unions are looking to raise taxes materially on the wealthiest 1% in California, where taxes are already among the highest of any state. This SOUNDS good, but the unintended and inevitable second-derivative impact is that "the rich" will flee the State to Incline Village and other more hospitable tax climes, creating a negative spiral. For those who protest, 'but California is special...', Dr Art Laffer's new book "Eureka-How to Fix California" observes: "If a pleasant climate was the determinant of economic success, Greece would lead the world in per capita GDP."
Charles Martel March 20, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Katy, you present a good list of liberal perceptions of conservatives. But that’s all it is: a list. A list isn’t an argument or refutation. You include no specific examples of any of the items in your indictment. You just assume that by reciting them, readers will agree that you have answered Tim’s comments. One problem conservatives have with liberals is that much liberal thinking takes the form of what you’ve done here. Liberals won’t define terms, and often can’t. What do the quotation marks around “cheap” energy mean? Are you saying there is no such thing? How do you know what the original intention of the framers was regarding the Second Amendment? How is it “socially ordering” things for California citizens to vote to define marriage as it has always been defined (passed, by the way, with large majorities among liberals’ favorite victim groups, African Americans and Latinos)? It seems to me that it's social reordering to insist that the very definition of marriage be rearranged to accommodate the emotional needs of a tiny minority. You disdain social mores, as though they limit individual freedom, yet you contradict yourself in the very next line: You call for a social more, namely, that all of us be compelled to pay the way for welfare babies, even though the choice to have a child is a matter of individual freedom. I see: Your social mores are superior to ours—unless a social more gets in the way of your freedom. Charles Martel
Bud Wiesser March 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Conservatism: "I know what's best for you. C'mon you don't need welfare. If you weren't so damn lazy/stupid you'd have a job. And no, Men marry Women, not other Men. And that goes for you too Ladies! For those of you who think it's okay to kill, I mean, terminate your pregnancy, I'm sorry. You can't. It's murder. Really. Life is complex. I was very much against the Civil Rights Act too. Let the states decide if Colored People should be mixed in with the rest of us. Let the local citizenry decide what they want! And don't get me started on insurance: NO to big government telling me to buy medical, or mandatory auto insurance! Remember: Life's indeed complex and I know what's best for you."
Charles Martel March 21, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Bud, that is one nifty straw man argument you've got going on there. I think you've proven Tim's point: While the the left's positions are always deeply felt, they are rarely very well thought through.


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