After a semester of discussing political issues, my friend Manny and I give closing statements about what the words “conservative” and “liberal” mean to us respectively. Not all of us have the same solution to problems, but through common convergences we can work to make our country a better place for all.
Emmanuel Lai (Conservative perspective)
It is a common misconception that conservatives are not open to change. The invisible hand of the free market has been one of the greatest drivers of progress, aligning rational self-interest with the betterment of society. Change is not inherently bad — it is expected as society evolves and advances. It is change for change’s sake that conservatives are opposed to.
Conservatives come from all walks of life, support different politicians and possess different reasons for their beliefs. However, we share a common understanding that the ideals of individual liberty and economic freedom are to be protected from change. We fear not the intrepid entrepreneur in Silicon Valley who brings innovation, but rather swollen governments and deficits of $19.9 trillion. Our university’s ever-increasing tuition is a microcosm of the country’s financial mismanagement, as the administration prioritizes safe spaces and the witch hunt on Greek life over common sense.
Although governmental bloat is a real problem, there is a difference between conservatism and anarchism. Philosopher Thomas Hobbes describes a world without government as “nasty, short and brutish.” A modern example that proves his conjecture would be Somalia, which has a very weak and ineffective central government. The lack of government there has allowed crime, piracy and other antisocial behaviors to flourish, causing great suffering to innocent people.
The Preamble to the Constitution states exactly what our government should represent. Our government was created to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” These ideals come from a philosophy called “classical liberalism,” which emphasized individual rights over the divine right of governments. This is why conservatives believe the government’s role is not to micromanage every aspect of our lives. Rather, it is to protect our natural rights to live, speak, worship, work, invest and pursue our dreams.
The biggest ill of our political climate is partisanship. Loyalty to party positions have led to the abandonment of common sense on both sides. Both political parties are guilty of overspending and expanding government at the cost of individual liberty. While Democrats have allowed entitlement spending to spiral out of control, many Republicans have been reckless with military expenditures.
It is time for the citizens to demand better. We are far more powerful when we stand under the banner of patriotism instead of identity politics. Our republic is one that shares a common heritage of freedom, open to all citizens regardless of ancestral origin. Together, we can hold politicians accountable in preserving the liberties that made America great.
Sam Topp (Liberal perspective)
It is a common misconception that liberals are willing to change anything, for any reason. Social movements that have mapped out our country’s path are driven by people who are personally affected negatively and those who decide change is necessary. Conservatism is not inherently bad — it’s necessary to implement policies on a long-term scale to see if they actually function the way they’re meant to. It’s conservatism for the sake of comfort that liberals are opposed to.
Change is uncomfortable. Change is not effortless, nor easy, nor quick. Change comes with the uncertainty that in the end, things were better the way they used to be. But change is necessary. An entire country’s historical model, much like a business, is to improve upon its current practices to increase its bottom line year to year and become the best entity it can be. In the United States’ case, that bottom line is individual liberty.
Individual liberty is something conservatives and liberals alike strive for. The draw of our country is the belief someone can begin anew with the same rights and opportunities as any one of our 3.2 million citizens.
As a liberal, I believe this is not the case in our country, nor has it ever been. It’s been the case whether it’s our nation’s history of institutional racism beginning in the slave era, our nation’s unwillingness to accept the LGBTQ community as our own, or a loud minority of our nation’s Christian community claiming America as its own. I don’t know how someone can say with a straight face that individual liberty has ever truly been a beacon of hope our nation provides.
Lawmakers do not have the right to establish what the definition of a human being is. Whenever I hear someone say America is the greatest country in the world, I feel ashamed of what it’s become. The worst health care system in the developed world, but the highest incarceration rate. The largest amount of personal wealth in the world, but also the largest income inequality.
It is time for the citizens to demand better. We are far more powerful when we stand under the banner of equality instead of blind patriotism. Our republic is one that, ironically, shares a common heritage of differing backgrounds. Together, we can hold politicians accountable in advancing the liberties that have the potential to make America great.