"[Democrats] can't get elected unless things get worse - and things won't get worse unless they get elected,"
- Jeane Kirkpatrick
Conservatives and liberals.
Republicans and Democrats.
Fascists and communists (Aren't all Communists fascists in practice?).
Plenty of labels exist for those who expend the minimum effort required to pay attention and become involved in politics. Roughly one-third of Americans identify as liberal or Democrats (as most of you reading this do, for now). Another one-third identify as conservative or Republican (as I do).
This hard division lends a reassuring stability to American politics. The Republicans/conservatives overwhelmingly support the actions of the Bush administration. Democrats/liberals overwhelmingly oppose them. The two balance each other out, meaning one cannot do too much "good" or "bad," depending on your point of view.
The final one-third of Americans runs the gamut from the sainted moderates ("moderate" can also be viewed as a synonym for "feckless" or "cowardly"), to those who identify the president as "that dude from Texas."
Perhaps the great uncommitted are simply overwhelmed by the voluminous amount of issues and choices presented. Christian conservatives, Blue Dog Democrats, Libertarians, Greens: it's quite a lot to take in. Undoubtedly many Spectrum readers are confused about their true political persuasion like a 15-year-old boy is confused as to why his favorite part of gym class is when everybody changes in the locker room.
Perhaps a winnowing process is in order. If the clear and real distinctions between parties and ideologies are illustrated, their relevance will be obvious, or at least opaque. Then, choices made and democracy served.
You readers can decide if you fall on the side of conservative/Republican: the party of Lincoln, hard work, less government, more freedom.
Or liberal/Democrat: wrong.
Today's exercise will work like so: an issue or conundrum will be posed and the positions provided will best represent the typical response of each ideology. Simple, effective, and most importantly, I get a column out it.
At ten paces, turn and fire. Begin.
Liberal: While it is every American's constitutional right not to be judged by the color of their skin, we cannot figure out any better way to do it. We will not, however, judge Americans on the color of their eyes. Well, probably not.
Conservative: It is wrong to judge Americans on things as arbitrary as skin color or gender. There are plenty of other ways to judge the worth of potential attendees to a university - physical attractiveness, social standing of family, ancestry traced back to the pilgrims - any number of factors.
Scenario 2: A candidate with name recognition based upon a family member's past success is running for national office. Despite a lack of experience pointed to by political opponents, the candidate is surprisingly running ahead in the polls.
Conservative: Bush for President.
Liberal: Hillary for Senate.
Scenario 3: A downturn in the economy has created a multi-billion dollar budget gap. To remedy this lack of revenue, economists recommend either raising taxes or cutting spending, two actions with potentially negative political consequences.
Conservative: Clearly we need to cut spending. How can we waste money on programs like aid to families with dependant children when our tanks starve for shells, when our bombers thirst for napalm? We must make sure to leave no weapon behind.
Liberal: Clearly we need to raise taxes. How can we allow parents to save for their children's college education when homosexual, anti-Israeli San Francisco street performers need government grants to protest patriarchy by burning American flags? We must leave no freak behind.
Scenario 4: With the Middle East perpetually teetering on the brink of all-out war, the need for reliable sources of petroleum is more pressing than ever. Exploring for alternative sources of oil within the United States, particularly in Alaska, is suggested, though highly controversial.
Conservative: It is imperative we press our search for new sources of fossil fuels. Not just oil, but coal, tar, tobacco, asbestos, spent plutonium rods - all must be maximized to meet America's energy needs. Don't worry about those liberal buzz words "spills" or "pollution." Mother Nature is quite absorbent.
Liberal: We must not disturb the natural environments of the 23 non-sentient, feral creatures that make up the sole inhabitants of the arctic wastelands of Alaska. Americans must learn to use ecologically-friendly technology in their daily lives. Bicycles work well in New York City. Surely, they can be used effectively in Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Montana, etc.
Scenario 5: The president of the United States is accused of lying to the American people, obstructing justice and abusing the power of his office. With the commander in chief resisting calls for explanations of his actions and evidence coming to light proving his guilt, Congress takes steps towards impeachment.
Conservative: Impeach Clinton.
Liberal: Impeach Nixon.
Scenario 6: Terrorists attack New York City and Washington, D.C., killing thousands of Americans almost 60 years to the day the last time an ambush against Americans occurred. American forces just captured the masterminds of the awful assaults, and debate their fate.
Liberal: You know when the Road Runner stops just before the cliff, but the Coyote keeps going and falls into the chasm? Let's make those guys the Coyote. While on fire.
Conservative: That's exactly what I was thinking! What about cat-o'-nine-tails using rusty barb wire?
Liberal: Brilliant! Say, you want a beer?
Conservative: Lead on, my friend. Lead on.
Does that help my confused countrymen and women? If not, take heart. As long as Americans can unite around brutalizing our enemies and booze, there will always be hope for the future.