Since most of my Facebook friends are liberals (about 2/3rds at last count), my newsfeed on Facebook provides me with a steady stream of consciousness from the liberal perspective. Take for example a friend of mine who lives and works in Hollywood. He takes predictable positions on issues and inevitably concludes that all problems in our society are caused by the opponents of the progressive agenda. I hold my tongue. When the Occupy movement was in full-swing, his posts and the comments of his friends (he has 6x the number of friends than I do on FB) demonized the 1% and belittled anyone else who questioned the authenticity of the Occupy crowd or the intelligence of its slogans. Fast forward two years later, and the same friend who demonized the 1% supports tax breaks for millionaires in the form of subsidies encouraging liberal movie moguls like Harvey Weinstein to keep movie production in California.
I am not pointing this out to show how stupid my friend is. Quite the opposite. He’s an intelligent man who has built a very successful life for himself. There is nothing wrong with pursuing policies that are in our own self-interest as long as we don’t start believing that our motives are purely altruistic. As for supporting tax breaks for millionaires while at the same time demanding for them to “pay their fair share,” we are all prone to cognitive dissonance regardless of our ideology and more importantly we are all manipulated by our leaders, although some more than others. It is our job as social beings living in modern society to be naturally skeptical of what we are told, and to also question as objectively as possible our own deeply held beliefs. I have my blind spots just as he his, but at heart I believe he is a good person even if he does spout off like an idiot sometimes*.
After my personal beliefs have moved through the ideological spectrum I am becoming increasingly aware of the limits of our two-party system. Take for example the Republican Party, the one I am currently registered with. Within the party there are people who have chosen the party because it reflects their beliefs. I am one of these people. While I don’t subscribe to everything the party stands for, I believe that it reflects my views at this time better than the other party. But that could change.
Ralph Nader is proposing a libertarian/progressive alliance. Under such an alliance my progressive friend and I would be united under the same banner. It’s an interesting idea to consider especially since the top GOP candidate that he mentions, Rand Paul, is one of my current favorites. I noted that at a recent speech at UC-Berkeley Paul received a standing ovation from the crowd. That told me that perhaps there was an awareness among the left of the common ground the two groups shared. After all drug decriminalization, the expansion of individual freedom and an end to crony capitalism were once celebrated by the progressives of the 1960s. Today this mantle has passed to the libertarians who now find themselves a home in the Republican Party of all places, the more accommodating of the two parties.
Such an alliance would shatter both parties but in my view they deserve such fates. The GOP leadership has shown little interest in the ideas of the libertarians or other ideologues in their party, choosing instead to sideline anyone who dares question their authority (like the grassroots Tea Party organizations). It seems to me the only thing that John Boehner and his ilk care about is taking power, and they will do anything, say anything to keep it.
The Democrats now act like the Republicans of the 1970s and 1980s. They stifle thought and expression through politically correct dogma just as the GOP did when the Moral Majority called the shots back in the Reagan-Bush era. Is selling arms to Iran to pay for guns for the Contras any worse than the NSA spying scandal under this administration? Is Watergate really worse than using the IRS to target administration enemies like Tea Party members? Is the Meese Commission any different from the anti-pornography crusade by Obama’s Department of Justice?
What’s the difference exactly between John Boehner and Harry Reid, or Reince Priebus and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz? One party wants the government to control your life and is in power, the other wants the government to control your life and is out of power. Both parties want tax breaks for their friends and to end tax breaks for the friends of the other party. The only difference is the libertarian wing of the GOP and a small cohort of progressives who recognize the danger of government as exemplified by the IRS and NSA scandals.
Will such an alliance happen? It is impossible to say. Everything changes and what may seem impossible today becomes inevitable tomorrow. All I can say for sure that it’s in the best interest of my Facebook friend and myself to stay friends, to let the rants slide, and to never forget what bound us together in the first place.
- Note: It’s been said that conservatives think liberals are misguided while liberals think conservatives are evil. The above essay reflects this, and it would be interesting to hear what my Fb friend thought of me. Does he think I’m evil because I support the Tea Party and am a die-hard non-Jewish Zionist? In order for an alliance between Left/Right to take hold both sides must stop demonizing the other. It’s not possible if either side continues taking the low road, and so far I’ve seen similar essays as the above written by conservatives and libertarians but as yet to have seen one reaching out to the Right from the Left.