The hash tag #LiberalismIn4Words has been trending on Twitter for two days, maybe more, and I think it is worth a look. It is even kind of fun. I contributed one or two.
While this is fun, it also squanders a real opportunity.
What if we really did ask — and debate — what is good and bad about “liberalism”? Or conservativism, for that matter? In other words, rather than tell us liberalism is “The Detroitization of America” it might make more sense to look at what happened to Detroit. In fact that would be a very, very good case study.
Decisions made from both the left and the right contributed to problems in Detroit today. What were those? Likewise decisions from both the left and right contributed to its almost unprecedented success as the world’s industrial center. It was an economic power house. Let’s talk about that.
Perhaps most importantly, let’s talk about what changed and what was done about it. Change is at the core of our existence in this world. It isn’t 1954 any more. One party accepts change, the other has more trouble with this, but are the two entirely incompatible?
In a broader sense this hash tag’s popularity tells us something else about political debate in the United States. For many people this sort of political discourse is as deep as political thought goes. Politics has been reduced to impressions represented in slogans of a few words. That isn’t good.
There is a lot of criticism out there, but very little in the way of solutions. I genuinely believe that alternate solutions don’t exist in debate because those solutions don’t fit the problem. When facts don’t square with ideology…well, you don’t talk much about facts, do you? And I think a regressive political philosopher faces that dilemma.
Posting something like “Philosophy of sniveling brats” is a lot less complicated, but also a lot less helpful.
My opinions about the current state of politics is pretty clear on this blog and elsewhere. I genuinely believe the conservative movement has abandoned reason and common sense more so than otherwise. I further believe that facts bear this out.
But I also don’t believe this is a universal malaise. Reasonable ideas and solutions exist on both sides of the political spectrum. The facts of history tell us that, too; however when political discourse deteriorates to sniping word games, it is difficult to see how we can restore debate to an adequately sophisticated level if these word games represent the depth of political understanding for people.
So these trending Twitter games are fun, but they better be left at that. What you read on a tweet or a rally sign truly doesn’t say much. Better, smarter ideas need to prevail. Where are those? Let’s pay attention to ideas that have purpose.
- Myths keep left, right poles apart (bostonherald.com)
- An excerpt from “The Great Debate” (msnbc.com)
- Pope Francis is neither liberal nor conservative. He’s kind (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)