Friday, February 22, 2008

Seeking to Understand My Own Biases

What has been a life long struggle for me, is to understand the perspective of people who claim to be conservative. In this quest, I've read books, I've talked to people who identify themselves as conservative, and I've tried to classify as many commonalities as I can among those who proudly wear the metaphorical flag lapel.

Admittedly, I Obi wan liberali, was born to goodly parents who were in fact, somewhat liberal by Utah standards. Certainly not as liberal as I am, but they were Democrats who had many of their core philosophies developed during the Great Depression, with a view that government had been an agent that made positive changes. To some extent, I see modern conservatism as a reaction to what occured during the New Deal through the Great Society, positing that the reach of government had overstepped it's bounds.

The result of my upbringing is that I don't necessarily view the role of government as limited, but as vital in certain functions. From education, roads, regulations on the environment, workplace safety, food safety, etc., there are many governmental functions which people today take for granted, and only become aware of them when the government makes a mistep.

My expectations from the government at all levels, is that proper controls will be in place to make sure money is spent appropriately and not wasted. Whatever programs we as citizens believe are important enough to be funded with our tax dollars, should have appropriate oversight and be audited on a regular basis.

However, I acknowledge that there are those who believe that the government should have a limited role. In Utah, where the predominant religion has a tremendous influence on political thought, there is a widespread belief in strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. This has a religious underpinning, in that Mormons believe that the Constitution was divinely inspired. Many Mormons take an additional step, in taking the position that any governmental programs not specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution, are therefore going against the wishes of our divinely inspired founding fathers, and by based upon this, against the will of God.

This reality influences Utah politics to this day. Because of this, it is hard to separate religion from politics, because religious ideas influence core political philosophies. Cleon Skousen and his Freeman Institute effectively marketed a link between Mormon theology and conservative strict constructionism. Ezra Taft Benson agreed with this perspective and did much to further this belief. That is what liberals are up against in Utah. Liberals are often viewed antagonistically, because in reality, their position opposes the positions taken publicly by a former beloved prophet, and a whole political/religious paradigm that is in discord to liberal beliefs.

1 comment:

pr0le said...

You want to know why I called myself a conservative at one point? The twin vices of ignorance and apathy. And I was right about my beliefs, goddamn it. It's so easy to be right when everyone around you tells you you're right too.

And then I started paying attention. I started studying history AND current events. I traveled. I became informed. I was well on my way to becoming a liberal by the time Bush began talking about going to Iraq after Sept. 11th, but the talk of war with a nation that had nothing to do with the NY attacks put me over the edge and made me a full-fledged proud liberal.