Across the Aisle: Common convergences

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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.

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    I agree with the writers that something is wrong, maybe disagreeing as to what.

    As an aside: “Gov. Nathan Deal signed a measure Thursday that would allow college students and others to carry concealed weapons on campus, despite vetoing similar legislation last year amid an uproar from gun control advocates.
    The measure, known as the “campus carry” bill, would allow people with firearms permits to carry concealed guns onto public college and university campuses, and it has been long sought by conservatives and Second Amendment activists who cast it as a crucial safety measure for students, faculty and staff to protect themselves.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The rationale was akin to saying Lehigh students need protection while walking thru South Bethlehem to get to class.

    1. ” 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.”

    I believe Lehigh’s tuition has roughly matched inflation from the 60’s. It has always been expensive but my impression is that the education you get is as good as or better than in the past. There are probably more amenities also, not withstanding that rooms in Richards are no larger than they ever were. Doesn’t sound like financial mismanagement.

    “…the witch hunt on Greek life over common sense.” Let me introduce what I call civil morality which is to me how to live together for the benefit of the individual and the group. It encompasses freedom, respect and responsibility. In J. F. Kennedy’s inaugural adress he said: “ask not … for your country.” Common sense should be onfreedom, respect and responsibilityly the base of how we should act. Civil morality will preserve freedom. Freedom is not doing whatever you want to do, that is selfishness.

    2. “We are far more powerful when we stand under the banner of equality instead of blind patriotism.”

    Amen, if equality means we give each other freedom and respect and give ourselves responsibilities and not I get what you got.

    3. “Together, we can hold politicians accountable in preserving the liberties that made America great.”

    Our history is a real mess from the pilgrims hating everyone not like them to the current wave of killings. Some statistic say violent crime is down, sort of like saying you lost one arm not two. Politicians changed slavery with a chance of freedom to slavery for life and then creating a system with no slavery but sustaining the slave system in fact if not in word. This made America great? Greatness has been in the striving for something better. I see greatness in the Civil Rights Act of 1968 where politicians came together to try to give real liberty.

    4. “The biggest ill of our political climate is partisanship.”

    I would say the biggest problem is failing to legislate for the good of the country. Doing this would reduce several ills: the never-ending battle to get money to get re-elected, the need to pass bills to encourage voters to vote for you, the need to pass other politician’s bills to get them to vote for your bills, the need to lie to fool voters, etc. With term limits maybe politicians would do what is best for all rather than what is in their best interest. Maybe we wouldn’t call them legislators not politicians.

    5. “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.”

    If you are serious about that statement do some research and move to another country. Some have done so and are happy with the decision. Canada is nice and global warming should have beneficial effects. I think it is safe to say that the many more people have chosen to come to America rather than to leave it. My grandparents made the move and neither they nor any of their 13 children regretted it. A few that were relatives or friends returned to their home country.

    America is a mess because of greed for money, power and privilege, and other reasons too. Teamwork is needed. When I read about successful Lehigh teams, I read family; not dysfunctional ones but ones with freedom, respect and responsibility, add to that hard work. Conservative or liberal, soon the country will be in your hands and those of your contemporaries. Good luck.

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