A century and a half ago, there were three main political philosophies – the liberals, who said the most important thing was individual liberty; the socialists, which said the most important thing was equality; and the conservatives, which said the most important thing was to preserve the social order.
A century ago, there were progressives, who thought the most important thing is to create new good things, as distinguished from conservatives, who thought the most important thing is to preserve existing good things.
These distinctions were pretty clear until Franklin D. Roosevelt called himself a liberal, in order to distinguish himself from the progressives of an earlier era. But Herbert Hoover and Robert A. Taft called themselves liberals, too.
By the standards of European countries, the vast majority of Americans are liberals. Our self-described liberals are socialistic liberals and our self-described conservatives are conservative liberals.
My political philosophy is to strive for as much equality as is consistent with essential individual freedom, and as much individual freedom as is consistent with preserving the moral foundations of society. I want to preserve existing good things and restore previous good things, most of which were the progressive goals of an earlier generation.
I use the expressions “self-described liberal” and “self-described conservative” to avoid having to define true liberalism and true conservatism, or to avoid having to resolve the disagreements and contractions within the two groups.
I think the differences between today’s self-described liberals and self-described conservatives are more a matter of attitude than of well-thought-out philosophical tenets. That is not meant as a criticism; it is true of me. One group calls the other bleeding hearts; one calls the other mean-spirited. One has a strong feeling of sympathy for the weak; one has a strong feeling of admiration for the strong. I don’t have to say which is which. These are not things that can be changed by argument.
I call myself a liberal because other self-described liberals are kindred spirits.
I like the statement attributed to the late Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, the hawkish Democratic Senator from Washington state. He supposedly said, “I may not be a liberal, but I’m not ashamed to call myself one.”
P.S. Click on A Partisan Divide on Police Procedurals and Republicans Love ‘Modern Family,’ Democrats Favor ‘Dexter’ for reports on hard-to-explain differences in TV viewing habits.