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Ardently moderately liberal

I attended a meeting last week with a liberal group of people for a social justice organization.  Wow– I kind of felt like Jesse Helms in the room.  It was a nice reminder that the liberals I hang out with– mostly super-educated professors and the like– may not be your typical liberals.  Sure, I’m liberal, but I am all about what the data, research, etc., has to say about things in forming my political positions.  [And I admit to firmly believing that in many cases a careful examination is more likely to lead one to the more liberal position, e.g., a cross-national analysis indicates that strong government involvement in a systematic manner actually leads to far more efficient health care.] Most of those I regularly discuss politics and those I enjoy reading the most (e.g., Drum, Ezra Klein) take a similar empirically-based approach.  I don’t think that’s so for most people– whether liberal or conservative.

Many extreme ideologues on both sides suffer from what I like to call “knee-jerkism.”  There’s probably empirical research to be done (or maybe it already has been) as to whether liberals or conservatives are more likely to reflexively embrace ideological positions without much thought, but in my typical experience, I come across a lot more conservatives I would categorize as such (recognizing that my experience may well be quite atypical).

Anyway, that meeting was a useful reminder that conservatives have far from a monopoly of knee-jerk support for their positions.  It also reminded me that I am in no sense “very liberal.”  Among other things, I think free markets can do a lot of good (when properly regulated, of course), I don’t think big business should automatically be villainized, I think abortion is morally problematic (regardless of it’s legal status), etc.  But the liberal beliefs I do hold (government supported universal health care is a big win; criminal defendants deserve rights, government should work to reduce gross inequality whether based on race, sex, or economic circumstances, America would be better off with less guns) I hold strongly.  Thus, I am an ardent, moderate liberal.  The political scientist in me is, of course, frustrated that none of our typical ideology measures capture this.  They just range from very liberal to very conservative.  There’s no “moderate liberal, but I feel damn strongly about it” category for people like me (and Drum, Klein, Chait, many of my PS professor friends, etc.).  So, no more do people get to call me “very liberal.”  I will respond with, “no, ardently moderately liberal.”

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