Many of the functionsof the modern-day federal government, including Social Security and other social-service programs, were not envisioned by the framers, nor did the enumerated powers of the Congress specifically comprehend such programs. But neither do these federal roles violate a principle of our system or run counter to the prescient mindset of the founders. The federalist founders created and interpreted a constitutional system that allowed for the emergence of modern America, one in which the federal government would be strong enough to shape global events and to guarantee a minimal provision for the poor, ill, and elderly. Such federal roles may require examination and reform, but they are not inherently illegitimate.
To live and work successfullywith others requires more than faithfulness to one’s concrete aims. It requires an intellectual commitment to a type of order in which, even on issues which to one are fundamental, others are allowed to pursue different ends.
In a world whose 21st Century inter-connectedness and complexity are no doubt entirely beyond the visions of even the most imaginative among those of prior generations [and surely beyond the capacity of our Founding Fathers], insistence on narrowing our focus and policies in honor of the earliest conservative interpretations of “limited government” is to disrespect the greater principles upon which our nation was formed.
Our political system is set up in a way in which it’s very hard for an opposition party to be open to participating in any solutions to that because that would legitimize the party in power, which would keep them from getting there. And so they are engaged now in an ever more permanent campaign to obstruct, defeat, discredit, repeal anything that is done by – usually defined as – the president’s party…. But I think just as importantly, it’s [the Republican Party] become a party that believes it’s essential to stick to your principles and not engage in any kind of collaboration with – negotiating or compromise with – the enemy, which is defined as the other party. That’s unusual. And then you put that together with simply no respect for facts, for evidence, for science, and add to that the willingness to simply reject the legitimacy of the other side…. The peaceful transfer of power, the respect for the office of the presidency, the willingness to say, ‘We have our differences, it’s important to discuss those but in the end we’re all Americans,’ and so on, that’s rejected by a whole lot of Republicans right now.
Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty of self-love. They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments. Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind. Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.
For the first time in our history,’ says [Jonathan] Haidt, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, ‘the parties are not agglomerations of financial or material interest groups, they’re agglomerations of personality styles and lifestyles. And this is really dangerous. Because if it’s just that you have different interests, that doesn’t mean I’m going to hate you. It just means that we’ve got to negotiate, I want to win, but we can negotiate. If it’s now that “You people on the other side, you’re really different from me, you live in a different way, you pray in a different way, you eat different foods than I do,” it’s much easier to hate those people. And that’s where we are.’
Conservatives tend to be pessimistic because they doubt that more possibilities will make lives on the whole better. They believe that there are obstacles that stand in the way of the permanent overall improvement of the human condition.
Our Constitution granted each and every one of us the freedom to believe or not believe as we decide. That protection applies to all of us. When one group has decided by some form of spiritual osmosis that their version of the unverifiable and occasionally insane has been decreed to be the new Law, and thus their political mission is to ensure that is so, then it is up to the rest of us to put that crazy back where it belongs: away from public influence. Continue reading →
Liberals and conservatives don’t just differ in their opinions, they have fundamentally different ways of processing information, which in turn leads them to hold markedly divergent sets of facts. Even more frustrating for those who view politics as a rational pursuit of one’s self-interest, facts don’t actually matter that much. We begin evaluating policies emotionally, according to a deeply ingrained moral framework, and then our brains often work backward, filling in – or inventing -“facts” that conform to that framework.