by Patrick McAuliffe
Philosophical, ethical, and political consistency are things that everyone should strive to attain in their lives. If these things are lacking, one’s ideology quickly falls apart under the slightest scrutiny, and a sound system of beliefs allows for the clearest debates where both sides can fully understand the other’s position. The two major political parties and movements of our day, the liberal Democrats and the conservative Republicans, are too often guilty of this hypocrisy. How such logically flawed politics became so widespread is a very nuanced question, one I hope to answer in due time.
In the last issue, I tried to illustrate the flaws in the logic of many of today’s liberals, ranging from selective cultural authoritarianism, to identity politics vs. supposed concern about individuals, to the will of the people vs. cultural elites. I have much more sympathy for conservatism, having been around it for much of my life, but it too is not without its fallacies.
Conservatism is not a popular ideology among today’s mainstream culture (although maybe the growing allure of populism might soon change that). After spending so long in the wings of pop culture, many right-wingers grew comfortable with a certain way to fight against the mainstream: mocking safe spaces and sensitive feelings, organizing peaceful (most of the time) protests, and calling for boycotts of businesses that advocate for certain ideals. However, the evidence that many are unable to accept the same from the left side is quite clear, especially after so much recent “yuge” winning. CAFE, one of the modern Internet “news” organizations (you know the ones I mean – the obvious liberal slant, the videos with lots of colored text and reaction gifs in between clips, etc), posted a picture to Facebook the day after the Super Bowl featuring tweets from conservatives lampooning Coca-Cola about their multilingual “America the Beautiful” commercial. The caption read, “Look at all these triggered snowflakes”. Both sides seem to need their “safe spaces”, and to pretend that conservatism is the only side willing to escape their comfortable political surroundings is illogical.
A major cornerstone of many conservatives is their concern for “life,” often religiously motivated, and how to protect it at various stages. Most of America should be familiar with the right’s attempts to ban abortion nationwide, or at least cut federal funding for it from institutions such as Planned Parenthood. (Rand Paul, who is pro-life, is even a bit more lax than that, saying that banning abortions should be up to each state.) Statistically, conservatives give more time, talent, and treasure to charities than liberals as well. Sounds good, right? It’s unclear, in some issues, how far this defense of life extends, and who or what is responsible for enforcing it. For example, the death penalty, a more costly (and arguably more inhumane) punitive method than life imprisonment for heinous crimes, is supported by many conservatives in the name of retribution or deterrence. Distrust of refugees fleeing human rights abuses also does not reflect compassion for innocent lives. Additionally, legislation concerning the environment, pollution and climate change could save countless lives. A common argument against this is that it is not the government’s job, but the individual’s, to actively choose to live a “pro-all-life” life. When confronted by obstinate people that do not believe in the same (usually religious) justifications for living such a life and refuse to be swayed by anything other than threat of legal repercussions, how do these conservatives expect their pro-life goals to be achieved? And why are some ethics of life enforced by the government while others are the responsibility of individuals?
I think this illustrates a broad irrationality that both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of. Both parties, by restricting citizens either in the economic or social spheres of life, attempt to inconsistently legislate morality. These attempts are often justified by subjective beliefs that do not hold up when in conversation with people of different beliefs. Liberals attempting a moral stakeholder argument for corporate responsibility, or trying to evoke empathy for refugees, is not objectively defensible, nor is conservative restriction on drugs or homosexual marriages able to be argued for rationally. To be ideologically consistent, either the government must take the hard stance of “We know best” or “You don’t want to be moral; we’ll help you out” on nearly every issue, or take the opposite stance of “You choose not to be moral, that’s fine; suffer the consequences and don’t hurt anyone else.” A hands-off government doesn’t deny the existence of morality, it merely says that it is not the government’s place to enforce it. There is much more moral worth in an action that one chooses to do because one wants to, as opposed to an action done from compulsion or duty. Across-the-board responsibility, among all citizens, and a reduction in government paternalism is what America needs if this nation is to turn from hypocrisy and move toward a consistent pattern of governance.