General Question

whiteliondreams's avatar

If there is a middle line between political conservatives and liberals, what is it called or what should it be?

Asked by whiteliondreams (1717points) August 20th, 2012

Let us eliminate the extremes of far left or far right and find the median between being liberal and conservative. If there is one, what would it be?

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39 Answers

bolwerk's avatar

Liberalism and conservatism are both essentially right-wing ideologies. Liberals can even be right of conservatives.

And putting everything on a spectrum is kind of silly. Focus on what people think.

elbanditoroso's avatar

We used to call it “being moderate”. There were moderate republicans and their were moderate democrats. They tended to agree on the big stuff even when they disagreed on certain other tangential issues.

Back in the 1970s, there were moderate republicans like Nelson Rockefeller. He couldn’t exist in 2012.

Lightlyseared's avatar

In most political systems liberals are the centre (and conservatives the centre right).

For the far right you want to look at something like national socialist.

iphigeneia's avatar

I agree that it tends to be called the ‘moderate’ position, but it’s moving all the time, and it’s not necessarily where you want to be. We need to make up our own minds based on proper reasons; it’s no good to just put two opposing views on a graph and sit in the middle.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

A realist. Someone tied tightly to an ideology is going to have problems working out solutions in all the situtations in life. Life is just too varied to fit into a round or a square hole everytime.

gailcalled's avatar

“Independent and Critical Thinkingists.”

bolwerk's avatar

@gailcalled: “Independent” is a weasel word in the U.S.. It often means a Republikan who sometimes feels bitter about the party for some reason.

gailcalled's avatar

I used “Independent” as an adjective to modify “thinking.”

Qingu's avatar

The line is called “honesty.” Without exception, conservatives are dishonest. Their ideology relies on fundamental dishonesty. Dishonesty exists among liberals too, but it’s not basic to their worldview.

I think it’s rather stupid to pretend that the “middle ground” of a partisan conflict is somehow more realistic or reasonable than extremes on either side. I mean let’s take the partisan conflict between the North and the South during the Civil War. The North was opposed to slavery and the South was for it. So by this kind of logic, a “reasonable and realistic” person would take the middle ground and say that slavery is sometimes okay, and call it a day.

People who reflexively stake out a moderate position between two political parties might as well be brainless.

bolwerk's avatar

@gailcalled: I got it, I was just saying it would sort of have an unfortunate connotation as a label.

@Qingu: well, the north wasn’t driven by exactly pure notions when it comes to labor. The ideology they followed was one that treated labor exclusively as a commodity. Slave owners had to provide food and shelter to their slaves, while northern capitalists didn’t have to do the same for people who barely eked a living in miserable factory conditions. The north’s preferences were more efficient than more humane. Now it’s no wonder that today’s southern politicians embrace the same ideology and call it conservatism.

gailcalled's avatar

True; many words are now freighted with…well..freight.

Qingu's avatar

@bolwerk, I fail to see the relevance, and I find your post to be ignorant and creepy.

Yes, factory conditions in the North were inhumane. But northern factory owners could not, for example, legally beat their workers, or forcibly separate their workers’ children from their parents. They could not rape their workers’ wives without legal repurcussions. Workers could vote. They could receive education. If a worker ran away from a factory owner, the factory owner could not call the force of the law down upon him.

The fact that factory conditions were horrific in no way justifies the legal and moral institution of slavery in the United States.

I thought that was a no-brainer. But I guess both sides were bad in some way, so we’re justified to be “moderate” on the question of slavery? You should be ashamed of yourself.

wundayatta's avatar

No middle. There are only individual issues and ideological frameworks. If you don’t have a position or an ideological framework, it means you either aren’t interested, or aren’t knowledgeable. If you aren’t knowledgeable, you’re either a dilettante you don’t really care enough to do the work to educate yourself.

Part of the problem is this notion of a spectrum between left and right. Really, people points of view stretch out all over the place. Not just left and right, but up and down and forward and back and probably into a few other dimensions as well. If you used statistical techniques, you might be able to find a line that fits, but that’s just a fiction, as well. It is impossible to interpret.

We have to understand each other on an issue by issue; question by question basis. We have to avoid generalizations, if we really want to understand each other.

In fact, I don’t really want to understand others, and I don’t think many people really do. It’s much more fun to make generalizations and cast aspersions and that sort of thing. Makes for livelier arguments. And it doesn’t hurt anything, because coming to “understanding” really won’t help us at all.

Political opinions are a game. What we say matters only slightly marginally in that we might persuade someone to change their vote, but that will happen very rarely, if ever.

There may be people who identify themselves as in the middle or undecided. I can’t imagine that. I don’t know what they have been thinking about. Probably nothing. They probably wait until the last minute to decide. Just because it makes them feel important. I suspect that if they were honest with themselves, they know who they’d vote for, but it just isn’t fun to make a decision right now.

whiteliondreams's avatar

@Qingu So what would you do in a case where America’s best interests are not your best interests and decisions are made for you against your knowledge or will? Vote?

Supacase's avatar

@Qingu Without exception? Exaggeration like that immediately makes me disregard anything else you have to say.

bolwerk's avatar

@Qingu: Jesus Christ, nothing I said could be remotely construed to be a defense of slavery. Simply put, you reducing the matter to “slavery” and “not slavery” is a setup for embracing conditions barely better than slavery. I don’t suppose a northern factory owner could legally (capitalists always follow the law, amirite?) beat his workers, but he sure could cage ‘em for 12 hours a day. And if a fire broke out, oh well!

Imposing the north’s ideology in re labor on the south, without taking any further measures to deal with institutionalized prejudice and disregard for civil/human rights, is precisely what resulted in Jim Crow-era sharecropping. Of course, I guess it would be “ignorant and creepy” to point that out, so let’s just pretend the angels were on the side of the Union.

Qingu's avatar

@whiteliondreams, I don’t understand your question. What does voting have to do with the hypothetical scenario which you describe? Wouldn’t voting give me a chance to choose the preferable option with regards to this scenario? (Even if it’s merely the lesser of two evils?

@Supacase, I’m sure there are some exceptions. Care to point any out?

@bolwerk, no, that’s not the setup. Being on one side of the slavery debate doesn’t automatically entail embracing horrific factory conditions. I’m confused as to why in the hell you would ever think it does.

bolwerk's avatar

@Qingu: That’s not really it. Being unable to think through why certain attitudes lead to certain outcomes is the problem. In this case, the north actively wanted cheap labor. The same disregard for human dignity was present in the north, and the outcomes were hardly any better in the near-term.

Qingu's avatar

@bolwerk, so let me get this straight. Your position is:

• The North’s abolitionists and the Republican party at the time only wanted to abolish slavery because it would give Northern capitalists more cheap labor.

• Being a factory worker was “hardly better” than working on a plantation where you could be legally be beaten to near-death, where you were outlawed from receiving an education, where you could not vote or testify in court, and where your wife and kids could be separated from you at your master’s whim.

I’ll say it again: this strikes me as a little creepy. But I do know this is how southerners are taught about the slavery conflict. The “lost cause.”

bolwerk's avatar

@Qingu: think it through for a second. If you’re being beaten, do you really care if it’s being done legally or illegally? Does it particularly matter if you’re banned from getting an education or just deprived of it through de facto economic conditions? Or, if you were black, do you suppose wasting away in abject urban poverty because no one would hire you for being black was a light year better than slavery? Maybe, in the long run, wider suffrage and a mistrust for slavery as an institution is why the north ultimately ended up being significantly more humane and politically sane than the south, but the thuggy, corrupt capitalism of the time period was certainly enough to give Ayn Rand an erection.

Sure, maybe it’s creepy, but don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t think there is any beating around the bush about it: the north was creepy too.

LostInParadise's avatar

There is no extreme left in American politics, though there certainly is an extreme right. Since FDR, the whole country has moved to the right. There is a large contingent of Republicans who vote against their own interests. The Democrats today are not that far from what Republican moderates used to be. I have seen Bill Clinton described as the best Republican of the 20th century.

Qingu's avatar

“If you’re being beaten, do you really care if it’s being done legally or illegally?”

Yes. If it’s illegal, I have recourse in the justice system.

“Does it particularly matter if you’re banned from getting an education or just deprived of it through de facto economic conditions?”

It matters.

Or, if you were black, do you suppose wasting away in abject urban poverty because no one would hire you for being black was a light year better than slavery?”

Depends on what “light year” means. Obviously blacks did not practically enjoy legal and economic rights they were granted… many still do not. This was what the Civil Rights movement was all about.

Still, I’m guessing if you asked blacks living after the Civil War if they would have preferred to be slaves, well… I hope you can understand the answer you would get from most people.

You’re not “beating around the bush” at all. You’re simply trying to muddy the waters of the debate. I pointed out that one side of the “should slavery be legal” debate was right. Your response—pointing out that factory conditions in the north were horrific—is completely unrelated to this question. It serves no purpose to bring up. “Both sides of any conflict have flaws” is obvious and is not really a relevant insight in any context.

bolwerk's avatar

@Qingu: you suppose immigrants and impoverished northern blacks actually had recourse? (And it’s funny how you say “it matters” without any qualification. It certainly doesn’t matter to the victims.) I’m not trying to muddy any waters. It’s simply that both sides were atrocious and taking a better-but-still-atrocious position isn’t exactly something to pat yourself on the back for. It’s what self-congratulatory centrists do today when they laud the crypto-fascist Paul Ryan.

Strauss's avatar

William F. Buckley is quoted as having stated: “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’”.

The online Free Dictionary, the definition which most accurately relates to this discussion (definition 3) is: Promoting or favoring progress toward better conditions or new policies, ideas, or methods.

I believe that true conservatism has been shanghaied along with the rest of the Republican party) and forced by corporatists, lobbyists and ever-spiraling election campaign costs to move more and more to the right of the political spectrum, until they have reached a point where even a “moderate” Republican like Dwight Eisenhower would have a hard time reconciling his views with today’s Republican Party.

What was once considered middle-of-the-road (like Eisenhower’s programs: put people to work building the infrastructure of the Interstate Highway System, among other programs; maintain a progressive (definition 6) income tax. Some millionaires were taxed at 95%!

This has caused many “Moderate” (would-be middle-of-the-roaders) Democrats to be perceived as “radical leftists” or socialists.

With the political pendulum swinging so wildly to the right, it is extremely difficult to actually define the true “middle line”>

bolwerk's avatar

William F. Buckley bordered on deranged. I really prefer to just drop the silly spectrum crap. If it has any meaning, it needs to have some consistency. And if you follow that logic through, the Democrats are the conservatives. They may not be to the right of the Republikans, but they’re conservatives.

And the Republikans endorse radical change over the status quo. They’re anything but conservative.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have heard it called sitting on the fence which implies that eventually you will choose one side or the other.

Qingu's avatar

@bolwerk, I said the practical fact that such people often did not have access to the recourses that were legally available to them was a major point of the civil rights movement. But you are trying to say that blacks pre-civil rights (or white factory workers) were in no better of a situation than black slaves.

Which is ridiculous.

rooeytoo's avatar

I call it smart, you are not locked into any ideology, you can choose the best course regardless of what a political party tells you is the correct way to go.

Extremism or blind adherence in either direction is not desirable to me.

bolwerk's avatar

@Qingu: Uh, the civil rights movement came along the better part of ten decades later. I said the Civil War era economic system in the north wasn’t especially more humane than the southern one. A little more humane, maybe, in theory if not in income. Maybe this was little consolation to southern slaves, but it might very well have been harder to survive in for outcast groups. Far from being ridiculous, it’s rather hard to dispute.

Qingu's avatar

I think it’s pretty easy to dispute that chattel slavery is only “a little less humane” than an industrial economy.

Slaves had no income, you know.

Are you from the south?

bolwerk's avatar

@Qingu: slaves usually had food and shelter, along with regular beatings. Emergent capitalism often meant no food and shelter, though perhaps beatings were less common.

Qingu's avatar

I’m through with this discussion. Whether you, personally, @bolwerk, would rather be a slave or a factory worker, I honestly don’t care. I think the history of slavery in America, the history of black migration movements, the history of workers movements and unionization (guess which situation was easier for workers to improve) shows that your position is clearly in the minority.

bolwerk's avatar

@Qingu: Actually, those things show my “position” is factually accurate, regardless of whether it is “clearly in the minority.” Especially workers movements and unionization are exactly why things improved in the north but not the south until much later. But the dark underbelly even of those things is they generally excluded blacks,* which is why their conditions didn’t improve much and in many cases still remain crappy to this day.

Anyway, enjoy your ignorance. I’m sure Glenn Beck will appreciate it.

* And women. And probably whichever immigrant minority it was in vogue to hate on at the time.

Qingu's avatar

I think you completely missed the point. Workers were oppressed. But workers could vote. And they had freedom enough to actually form unions and organize. This differs immensely from the situation that slaves faced. Slaves had no political representation whatsoever, obviously, and when they rebelled they were killed en masse.

I notice that you spell everything with a K so I’m not really sure what that indicates about your political ideology, but I’m honestly not sure why you’re so invested in the idea that northern capitalist oppression was “equally as bad” as the institution of slavery in the south.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Please take the off-topic discussion to an appropriate thread. Thanks!

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Paradox25's avatar

The definitions of the terms conservative and liberal have been redefined so many times that I’m not sure how to answer this, but I think this is a good question to ask. Basically, and in order to get around the various definitions of each, I prefer to keep it simple and say that conservative means defending the status quo, and liberal means to oppose it. Obviously the status quo can be varied depending upon where you’ve grown up. I would say that the line is whether one defends the status quo or not, but at times even that can change, so who really knows.

Qingu's avatar

I wouldn’t say liberals “oppose” the status quo. They just think the status quo can be improved.

Strauss's avatar

We sometimes use the terms liberal and progressive as synonyms, with no real difference in meaning. I think the definitions provided by @Paradox25 take on a little different flavor if we use progressive instead of liberal If conservative means defending the status quo, then progressive means moving the status quo forward. Historically, it was progressive (small “p”) type movements that brought progress in such areas as fair labor laws, women’s suffrage and rights, civil rights, to name a few. It seems to me that some in the political arena today who call themselves “conservative” could actually be seen as “regressive”, meaning the intent seems to be to roll back much of the progress that has been made in the last 130 years.

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