Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In Defense of Liberals

I promise this keeps in accordance with the moratorium on ants and grasshoppers. It addresses a point made in the comment chain, but it was going to be the subject of my post this week anyway. I saw a quote while going through the Daily Caller (blah!) that promoted it, but last night was the national championship game. And it's not controversial or angry or an olive branch. It's another topic entirely.

I am not liberal because I am emotional. Yes, I have a soft spot for Elliott Smith, I can't help but be empathetic in almost every situation, and I think that reason doesn't trump feelings, it works in accordance with them. That's true. But I'm a liberal because of experience. It's why I don't believe equality of opportunity exists. It's why I think the debate shouldn't be about equality of opportunity vs. equality of outcome--because equality of opportunity doesn't exist. Even in Friedman's "equality under the law" argument. So here's the experience, and I post it not as a pity rant because I'm actually damn proud of it. I post it to put my politics in perspective.

I did not grow up in the upper middle class. My family moved all over the mid-Atlantic renting house after house. At one point, we had to live with my grandparents around the time my sister was born because my parents just weren't in the financial situation to get a house. I've got a house now--lived there a while. It's nothing special, but it's home. I remember the feeling going over to it and working on the front porch with my dad before we moved in because I knew it was OUR house, and we wouldn't be moving again. It's a powerful thing, even as a small child.

We got lucky in a lot of respects. My mom got the chance to go back to school at night when I was in 5th grade or so, got her teaching degree and now works as a teacher. Before that, she'd been working whenever she could and raising three kids largely on her own because my dad was working 70, 80, 100 hours a week at less-than-glamorous jobs, and for a period of time at two jobs, making sure our financial house was in order. He worked that way from my earliest memories until I got to Hamilton. I even joined him for a few summers because I had to work those hours to get the money to afford my future. "Vacationing" was a day trip to see my grandma at the Shore. I've been out of the Mid-Atlantic states twice in my life, both times to go to Disney World. They're also the only times I've ever been on a plane. But I'm cool with it. It made me who I am today.

I look at the future and freak out. I want to go to grad school, but is it economically possible? How the hell am I going to pay off my debt? Even with that stipend I spent all weekend applying for, can I afford to take another unpaid internship this summer? I guess that's what I get for trying to reach out of my tax bracket, eh?

But then I think about it. And I was middle of the road on the class ladder my entire life. There is nothing to feel sorry for or look back on and complain about because there's still 40-50% of people looking up at me, including a lot of people I know. And I look at a tax cut on the wealthy justified because they "earned their money?" Hell. I don't even feel like I've earned what I've got when I look at what others have to put up with.

That's why I'm liberal, it's why I'm intoxicated by my populist streaks. There's no emotion there. It's experience. I've never read the liberal equivalent of Hayek or Friedman. I think the philosophy is nice to debate, but you can only use reason and rationalism so far. You have to live it. And when you live it, you see a lot on the liberal end that is truth. It's why I look at the Ryan plan and the Romney campaign and just don't get it. If you take a look at the world the way it is and the way people live it, the attention there is just focused in the wrong places. If I have to elaborate that, so be it. But that's not my point. My point is it's not emotion. It's experience.


gslayen said...

Great post, Dylan!

Nick Solano said...

Hell yeah, Dylan. I could not have said it any better myself.

TJE said...

Thoughtful post Dylan. Questions: Which policies are most likely to provide opportunities for the group you describe? How do we preserve the safety net as we face yawning deficits and unsustainable entitlement programs?

Dylan Wulderk said...

Thanks! To answer your questions as succinctly as possible, Professor, the answer is "I don't know." I'm not a policy wonk, my interest in politics is more at the politician-person, communication, messaging, and strategy level. Every solution I can think of right now has a "yeah, but" attached to it and I don't like "yeah, buts."

But I'm not casting your questions off. I'm pretty darn dedicated to figuring out the answers to them. I want to get it right. As cynical as I can be with some things, I'm a little to optimistic about people's ability to solve problems. The clock's certainly ticking though. I gotta get to work.

And yes, that work might involve some conservative policies. I'm willing to do what works. I just have a lot of reservations about the negative costs of some conservative policies on poorer Americans.