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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Liberals vs conservatives

Had the oddest post-election conversation with a conservative friend who I generally consider completely reasonable and well educated.  But everything he said was just completely untrue.

For example, when I said something about the gridlock in Congress, he said there is equal truculence and extremism on both sides. I think that's laughable. Who is the equivalent of Eric Cantor or Mitch McConnell? Who is the equivalent of Michele Bachmann or Allen King? What Dems are ever in the news for saying just crazy unreal stuff, like the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the State Dept?  His example of extremism on the Democratic side was Barbara Boxer (as in, "you have to admit that BB is out there.") But when I Googled her policy positions, there's not a single one that I would consider extreme, or even out of the mainstream. She has perfectly ordinary liberal views - she supports unions, and stem cell research, and women's access to safe abortions, and clean air and water, and some kind of sensible wildlife conservation, etc.

There are only a few old radicals left. I mean, Paul Wellstone is dead. And Russ Feingold, who might be amused at the "radical" label, was defeated in the 2010 election. You could make the case for Henry Waxman, who's probably the most high profile liberal House member, and you could reasonably point to Bernie Sanders, who is the only Socialist in Congress, but then, he embraces that label. There are a few other liberal House members, mostly from NY and California, but you never hear from them, or about them, - they're never on the news for the pet legislative fights (things like labor rights and environmental issues).

After this exchange, he asserted that Obama will not be able to achieve his economic plan without imposing limitations on corporate profits. As if this were established policy or something. I said, where are you getting this? It's beyond ridiculous, not even remotely true, and certainly not something actually stated by the Obama administration.

Then we get into a conversation about the auto bailout and how Obama only insisted on a government bailout to save the unions, that Romney's plan for a traditional bankruptcy was so much better.  And I said, the banks were in freefall, the money for a traditional bankruptcy wasn't there, so the only choice was the government, or just let the companies close.  And then he starts on the unions, how they're overpaid, that they earn $52 an hour and isn't that too much - should auto workers make more than I do? Again, where is he getting this? That figure includes the cost of healthcare and other things, a fact that is easily Googled. The average auto worker makes about $26 an hour, which is about $50K a year, not really a king's ransom.

By this point in the conversation, I'm practically shouting.  I mean, WTF?  I'm very happy to defend liberal ideas and policies, but can we start with something that's actually true? I'm sick to death of arguing with all this crazy made-up shit.  How can you even have an intelligent exchange when the underlying premise is so absurd each time. No wonder Barbara Boxer becomes a wild-eyed radical in this scenario.  It's not based in reality at all.  Every position is re-imagined into Marxism and you have to start by getting the conversation back to square 1 before you can even make the case for your position.  That's how health reform becomes a "government takeover of healthcare" when it's really a market-based concept that came straight outta the American Enterprise Institute and was first implemented as a compromise between a Democratic state house and a Republican governor in Massachusetts (well deserving of it's reputation as one of America's policy proving grounds).  And I hate defending "Obamacare" because I don't think it went far enough. I would love to be defending a "government takeover of healthcare" because I would love it if the government would take over healthcare! But I sure don't want to defend something that doesn't exist!

I'm just shaking my head. How can we find a compromise when our positions are misrepresented so egregiously?



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