I am a proud centro-sensible-prowar-unpc-lib

I am a proud centro-sensible-prowar-unpc-lib
: Both Roger L. Simon and Michael J. Totten (damn, I feel so classless, even naked not using a middle initial) answer my challenge — well, actually, my bit of sniveling beggging — that they not abandon the liberal label and instead retake and reform it.

Totten says in the comments:

I’ve been tempted to just start calling myself a centrist, but then you have to go and write stuff like this, so I just don’t know.

The whole labelling this is ridiculous, but I don’t want “liberal” to become synonomous with pacifism just yet. Or ever, for that matter. But at some point, and I don’t know where that point is, my differences with the peacenik crowd may just become too much for me.

And there’s nothing wrong with just being an independent centrist.

And Simon objects more to being called sensible than being called liberal: “I

  • Gene Mitchell

    You may be right about abdication of power and influence within the 2 major parties. I have no special insight or advice, except to say that we all need to do what we can do, and keep pushing, even if we’re afraid it might never bear fruit. I fear that the Democrats will require another McGovernesque thrashing at the polls to really understand, and I fear that we may be in the wilderness until a smart, charismatic new leader takes the party on his or her back and drags it into the new century. FWIW, I’d vote for Michael Totten for President in a heartbeat.

  • I guess primarily because its a generational thing that I can’t understand, I don’t know why you and many others, most of whose beliefs I agree with, find it so important to have those ideas branded “liberal”. Maybe they’re just . . .right, and it doesn’t matter what you call them?

  • Doug Sun

    Jeff, I hope you don’t mind if I recycle a comment I posted on Roger’s blog. It sounds like you’re carrying over the same discussion, so it may be relevant. Basically, I noted that the notions of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ that bloggers like you and Roger and Michael Totten (all of whom I read and admire) are relics of the Cold War and not as useful as once they were. The rest of it goes:
    ” We no longer live in a Left vs. Right world. After Communism died, the world divided into people who are happy to live in Western-style capitalist democracies dominated by liberal (in the old-fashioned, English sense of the term), middle-class values, and people who aren’t. The former group includes people who always used to identify themselves as Liberals or Conservatives (categories which worked in the past). We may quibble about things like tax cuts or affirmative action, but we’re not looking to overturn the basic assumptions underlying our system of government. The latter include people who were parts of the extreme Left or the extreme Right and they want to unleash anarchic, destructive forces that *will* overturn the basic assumptions underlying our system of government. In short, the big ideological confrontation of the 21st Century is the Extremes vs. the Middle.
    “This redefinition of the landscape has been on my mind since the first big anti-globalization protests erupted in the early 90’s, and the terrible events of two years ago brought it into sharper focus. ”

  • Well, I voted for Ralph Nader the last two times, so I’m used to this sort of thing. I seem to be cursed to be perpetually in a tiny minority. The irony is that at the same time I now agree with the majority of Americans about most things.
    It’s an odd contradiction and I probably make too much of it. If I weren’t an intellectual, I wouldn’t spend two seconds worrying about it…

  • Mike (J.) G

    Everybody go read Paul Berman’s Terror and Liberalism. It is an impressive defense of what I call “muscular liberalism,” ie, the kind of internationally activist liberalism, Wilsonian or whatever you want to call it, that has been hijacked by the isolationist lefties who believe in peace and human rights (but don’t want to do anything which might spread them). THEY are not the liberals. WE are. THEY should not want the name. WE should take it back.

  • I suspect that the only reason that there is such concern with these labels is the fact that conservative pretty much has a pejorative meaning to the apolitical majority, and liberal a positive meaning. I have two good recent examples of this in my life:
    1) I was talking to two apolitical friends about the differences between NYC and Chicago. I said that I preferred New York because Chicago was too racially segregated. They said “Oh, so its conservative?” I said, “Its segregated” They said “So, its conservative” I said “Its segregated” etc. etc. Not being political junkies, they just unconciously imbibe the conventional wisdom idea that conservative=racist.
    2) Another friend, not a political junkie either, but more into politics than the friends referenced above, was talking about Holland, and about how they A) Stood up to the Nazis, and B) Allowed gay marriage. Her conclusion, “I think they’re very liberal.” Never mind that A is associated with Christopher Hitchens/Paul Berman muscular liberlas as referenced above, but not with “liberals” as the term is understood in contemporary US politics, and B is an idea embraced by everyone from far left to center right.
    Generally, everyone seems to seek some validation by calling their ideas “liberal,” by which they merely mean “correct,” and their ideological opposites’ ideas “conservative” by which they mean “wrong”.

  • Mike (J.) G is absolutely correct about Paul Berman’s “Terror and Liberalism.” It’s the best 9/11 book I’ve read yet, and I’ve read a lot of them.

  • When reading stuff on the Internet you have to keep in mind what Kevin Drum said a little while ago, that the political spectrum you see here even among American bloggers is quite different from the US political scene in general.
    In the real United States there are still lots of liberals and conservatives. On the Web, among those who make noise about politics, they are overshadowed by progressive lefties and libertarians. As a result, a liberal like Drum or Matthew Yglesias or Josh Marshall comes across as a moderate, and an old-fashioned Robert Bork-style conservative just seems sort of alien. That’s not how it is in meatspace at all.
    Not coincidentally, progressives and libertarians are also vocal and visible in the universities. One difference is that the religious right is also pretty visible in some universities, but not so much in blogs, as Drum also said.
    One of my favorite writers about politics on the Web is Mark Rosenfelder, who definitely is a liberal in the US sense (as evidenced by this). Once he wrote an essay likening the religious right and the progressive/antiglobalist left that I thought was pretty perceptive. He’s a reminder that it’s possible to be passionately liberal and not go for every paranoid-left slogan that comes along. And his anguished, ambivalent writing about the Iraq war on the rants page (“if you are a Star Trek robot, this will make your head explode”) is a priceless antidote to anyone in the pro-war or anti-war camp who thinks he has it all figured out.

  • ken

    I don’t quite know what to call myself anymore. I’m a registered Republican but I have plenty of issues with the party. I also live in New York, so I’m basically throwing my vote away.
    At any rate, I thought that a piece that Steven Den Beste wrote … in response to one of Michael’s posts as a matter of fact … sort of touched on the problems of using these labels. Don’t want to seem rude by recyling someone else’s post, but I’ve permanently linked to it because it helps explain, even to those not neck deep in politics, all the different labels thrown around.

  • Does it bother anyone else that (based on a very small sample) the non-political amoung us believe that conservative=racist?
    Even independents that “always vote for the best candidate” but seemingly never vote GOP should be able to see how destructive that is.

  • John Palmer

    Actually, out representative democracy has a very large advantage over the omniversal democracy that is the next step to what you bring up. If the electorate does not like the results, regardless of the competency of the elected official, the availability of the needed information to make the best decision, the sum total of all the possible reasons why anything less than optimal results has occurred mean nothing. Anyone else wanting that elected office can make the case as to why they should have the office instead of the current, and any other prospective, office holder.
    Under the premise you offer, who organizes the data (if anyone)? If there is some preliminary governmental organization of the information, then who does it? Is the organization done privately? (I know, lets have the “Newspaper of Record” present it to US, with CNN assisting. Jason Blair handles the print, while Peter Arnett does the video. Comical Ali as omnsbudsman). If nobody, then who buys Google to have the search engine raise the ranking of the arguments they favor, and alternatively, drop any well reasoned arguments or proof against their own interests? Is there a figurative thumb on the scale? How would this be addressed?