Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why I'm Starting This Blog

It has been almost three years since Mitt Romney lost his bid for the White House.  It is no coincidence that my last political blog post was dated October 22, 2012.  In fact, I didn't listen to news radio, watch political news shows, or visit political websites for many months after the Great Defeat.

Yes, I was disappointed with Romney's loss.  And yes, I was sick of politics.  But far from being disengaged, I took the opportunity to cool down, take a step back, and reexamine what I truly believe when it comes to public policy.  In many ways, my views and opinions have changed over the last couple of years.  In some ways they are still evolving.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am and have always been a conservative.  Of all the political philosophies I have explored, conservatism still rings truest to me.  Of course, conservatism means a lot of different things to different people, and I will make no apology about advocating some positions that may not ordinarily be considered conservative.

Political Agnosticism

What I have discovered in my recess of reflection is that I don't know everything.  Moreover, I have concluded that nobody does; what people know barely scratches the surface of the necessary wisdom to effectively run a nation of 300 million people, much less each of the (approximately) 196 diverse and disparate countries on this earth.

The problem is that economics is a notoriously inexact science, leading to Harry Truman's infamous quip about wanting a one-handed economist.  Every conservative knows that Ronald Reagan's tax cuts led to the economic boom of the '80s and '90s.  On the other hand, every liberal knows that the big government programs of the '30s bailed us out of the Great Depression.  You will find a multitude of scholars who disagree on both of these points. 

Unfortunately, there are too many variables to definitively prove which model is the "correct" one, or which policies are driving which results.  Even case studies looking at individual countries are inconclusive.  Yes, we have the failed Soviet Union, but what about communist China, which is as powerful today as it has ever been?  What about the seeming socialist Utopias of Scandinavia?  Conservatives will point to the success of countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, and of course, the United States as proof that economic freedom brings prosperity.  But why have capitalism and democracy failed to prevent corruption in Russia after the end of the Cold War?

Outrage Fatigue

What has bothered me most in American politics is that every issue quickly becomes polarized.  Sometimes I observe in astonishment as the world divides into two camps on every issue, battling to the death from supposedly irreconcilable sides, and I wonder – am I the only one who understands both perspectives?  Doesn’t anyone else think the other guys have a point?

It seems we are more likely to run to the defense of the politicians on our side of the aisle and attack those on the other.  This phenomenon leads me to believe that politics is often more dependent on social factors than conviction.

I have what I call "outrage fatigue."  I'm tired of everyone being outraged about everything, especially the trivial matters like the latest open mic blunder.  The fact that President Obama reached over the sneeze guard does not discredit Obamacare, nor does George Bush's difficulty in opening certain doors have any bearing on whether it was wise to invade Iraq.  

Might you say I am outraged over all the outrage?  Meh.

There is plenty going on in the world that truly deserves our outrage, but it’s far more productive to take a level-headed look at a situation and determine what can be done to solve the underlying problem, rather than hurling slurs and accusations at a perceived opponent.

I am of the perhaps naïve belief that most people are trying their best to do what they sincerely feel is right most of the time. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than nitpick every word they utter.  We should be capable of cutting through the noise and seeking to understand the sentiments of those we might be tempted to criticize or condemn, even if they give us ample reason to.

A Voice of Moderation 

There are incredibly talented and intelligent people whom I trust (both among friends and among public figures) on both sides and at every point along the political spectrum.  Which is more likely -- that one side is right 100% of the time?  Or that some ideas work well in some circumstances but not so well in others?

How likely is it that Republicans (or Democrats) are right on taxes AND guns AND abortion AND gay marriage AND immigration, foreign policy, health care, and so on?

Not to mention the concept of nuance.  We may be led to believe that there are exactly two diametrically opposed viewpoints on every topic.  But in reality there are an infinite number of solutions that lie between each end of the spectrum.

Most political discussion these days is geared toward those of the same side.  But believe me, the choirs of America have been sufficiently preached to.  They’re converted.  Congratulations.

In short, the world needs more moderate voices.  I don't mean lukewarm voices who don't have principles, convictions, or scruples.  I mean voices who are willing to admit that they don't know everything and that the other side might be right some of the time.  Voices who understand that one political ideology is unlikely to solve all of the world's problems.  Voices who don't think "compromise" is a dirty word.

And that is why I have started this blog.  Primarily, this blog is a place for me to sort out my thoughts and come to some conclusions on what I believe.  To the extent anyone else stumbles upon it, I intend to be one of many voices moderating (note the double meaning there) the political discussion in America.  I will do so from the conservative viewpoint; I hope others will do so from other perspectives.

In the coming months as we approach the presidential primaries, I intend to lay out my opinions and thoughts on some of the (primarily conservative) principles that resonate with me.  

I already know that some people disagree with me.  But what do we disagree on exactly?  Whether George Bush was an idiot?  Whether capitalism is a good thing?  Or whether the tax rate should be 34% vs. 35%?  Most of the time when I read any discussion of politics, the answer to that question is lost among preconceived notions, hubris, and disrespect.  I want to create a place where humble seekers of truth can find common ground and fill in the blank spaces together.

Three Rules

My goal is to open a dialogue so that I and anyone who reads this blog can better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the conservative argument.  I hope to convince some on the liberal side that conservatism isn't as bad as they might think; I also hope to encourage conservatives to recognize the limitations of their ideology (hence the "Sensible" Conservative).  In doing so, I will follow three rules:

1) Respect all people and their perspectives

No insults, condescension, character assassination, or cheap shots.  You will not find me citing the latest scandal to discredit my political opponents.  Nor will I defend everything a Republican or self-proclaimed Conservative says or does.  I will make a distinction between principles or ideals and the people that espouse them.

2) No sensationalizing

If facts and reason are not enough to support a position, no gimmicks, fear-mongering, or straw-men will help.  This doesn't mean I won't broach controversial topics; but I will do so with sensitivity to other viewpoints.

3) There is no final word

No one knows all the answers; as the subtitle suggests, this blog is about "discovering" the best path forward. I will present my ideas and opinions; some of them will be deeply held beliefs.  But I can always change my mind, and I fully expect to in some instances.

So, come join with me on this little adventure.  Let's see what we can learn.


Roxy said...

I'm not quite sure it's fair to give Reagan credit for the economic boom of both the 80s and 90s. Didn't Clinton raise taxes in 1993? Right before the 90s boom really took off? Not to say that the tax increases caused the boom, but it certainly doesn't seem that they hurt economic growth. And even though the economy performed well under Reagan, he also just about tripled the national debt.

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