If I had a dime for every time someone has said to me: “I’m socially liberal, but fiscally conservative”, I would almost qualify for the 1% club. I know the person who makes that statement thinks it proves they are enlightened and responsible, but I find it somewhat insulting.
A big part of the problem is labels. Labels we are marked with it seems, increasingly define us. All one must say is that they are a Republican, Democrat. Tea Party type, Libertarian, or Green Party, and we think we know everything we need to know about them. If they are Republican, they are for guns, God, and limited government. If they are Democrats, they are for gays, giveaways, and the environment. This stereotypical labeling prevents people from finding middle ground as both sides retreat to their highly partisan corners.
Typically, the conversations that cause non-Liberals to claim they are socially liberal have to do with sensitive issues such as gay marriage rights. The non-Liberal wants to make it clear they are not bigoted, but as tolerant as the next guy. At the same time though, they want to make it clear they are not real liberals because they are don’t believe in wasting money.
That’s the point at which I get a little peeved. After all, I was a Colonel in the Air Force. I grew up in a family that never owed any money; my parents paid cash for everything. I know how to maintain a budget, I believe in not spending more than I have, and I learned a long time ago to take care of my belongings. I don’t believe it is anymore appropriate for conservatives to claim fiscal restraint than it is for them to claim patriotism and religion as their own. After all, since World War II, Democratic presidencies have created more than twice the number of jobs than Republican presidencies. As for deficits, they have been more than twice as large under Republican presidencies, contributing early $4 trillion more to the national debt than their Democratic counterparts. Growth has also excelled under Democratic presidencies with business investment growth 165% higher and GDP growth 52% higher than under Republican presidencies. Finally, the need for social welfare programs has been higher under Republican presidencies with unemployment 23% higher than under Democratic ones.
I know, I know, don’t confuse us with the facts. It is so much easier just to listen to the talking heads spewing forth rhetoric that incites fear and hate. The problem is, that those who do not remember the past are destined to repeat it. If we ever want to move beyond extreme partisanship and failed policies of the past we must know the truth, look beyond labels, and be willing to make the tough calls. We must model this behavior ourselves and demand it from our leaders.