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This page contains a single entry by Westley Annis published on August 2, 2009 9:07 PM.

Change the Law or the Legislative Branch? was the previous entry in this blog.

A Proposition: Would you become my slave? is the next entry in this blog.

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Who Defines Liberalism and Conservatism?

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As with most people who discuss politics, I group people as either conservative or liberal. But, I found that some of the folks I discussed politics often had different views of what being conservative or liberal was.

Before we go any further, for those that don't know me, I consider myself conservative. If you want to get a little more detailed, I am a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. In other words, as a fiscal conservative, I believe the government needs to tax us for no more than what they need to spend and the federal government should only spend money on national security and infrastructure. State and local governments should worry about schools, local infrastructure, and local security. I don't believe in government welfare programs. Those needs are best supplied by charity.

As a social liberal I believe the government cannot legislate morality. While I am personally opposed to abortion, I don't think it should be outlawed. If you want to smoke in your own home or car, go right ahead. So long as you are not harming someone else physically or mentally, you are free to do as you please.

However, if you harm yourself doing something that you know is inherently harmful, such as smoking, do not expect me to cover your medical bill.

So those are my views. How do they apply to others? And, how do they apply to the two dominant political parties, the Republican National Committee (GOP) and the Democrat National Committee (DNC)?

One of the reasons I decided to explore this issue is because of how elected officials of both parties tended to vote and how the party apparatus reacted to those votes.

From the outside, it appears as though the DNC doesn't take kindly to elected officials who don't toe the party line. Look at Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut. First elected in 1988, he was former Vice-President Al Gore's running mate in the 2000 election, but lost in the Democrat Primary for Senate in 2006 after a national effort to oust him from his seat. He then ran for the seat as an independent and won in the general election. This is perhaps the greatest example of the DNC kicking members out.

Lieberman is still a registered Democrat, typical votes with the DNC party line, but there is still an effort to strip him of his committee chairs.

On the GOP side, there seems to be no strong effort to hold to the values of at least fiscal conservatism. During the first six years of the George W. Bush administration, when the GOP controlled both sides of Congress, the GOP legislators were no different than their colleagues on the other side of the aisle in terms of spending in the federal budget. This was in direct contradiction to the platform many of them ran on. Couple that with the high-profile social indiscretions of Congressman Mark Foley and Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter. Not to mention the fact that President George W. Bush, as sitting President, is also the de facto head of the GOP and he pushed for a number of government program expansions and it comes as no surprise that the GOP lost the House Majority in the 2006 elections or the White House in 2008.

I don't think anyone could ever make the argument that Bush 41 was not a social conservative. It was not until the first year of his second term, his fifth year as president, that he issued his first veto, which was a bill that would have lifted restrictions on funding stem cell research.

I often make the joke when discussing Bush that it did take him too long to learn how to spell V E T O. (See bottom of article for presidential veto statistics.)

Government in general has encroached itself into the fabric of everyday life so much that it is easy to see how the major political parties have staked out sides on practically every issue. And, of course, if we party says it is for something, the other party almost has to say it is against it such that both parties can no longer truly define what it means to be conservative or liberal.

I invited several people to give me their thoughts on what defines conservatism and liberalism and I will be sharing those over the next couple of postings.


Presidential Veto Statistics

Looking back to President John F. Kennedy and only looking at the presidents that served one term or less, we find JFK (2 years) issued 12 vetoes, Gerald Ford (3 years) issued 48 vetoes, Jimmy Carter (4 years) issued 13 vetoes, and George H.W. Bush (4 years) issued 29 vetoes. You have to go back to Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) to find a president who did not issue any vetoes (James Garfield didn't issue any vetoes but he was only in office for six and half months).

Find veto statistics for all presidents on Wikipedia.

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As with most people who discuss politics, I group people as either conservative or liberal. But, I found that some of the folks I discussed politics often had different views of what being conservative or liberal was. Before we go any further, for thos... Read More

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