Does the average American hold to a consistent ideological policy on every issue? Does the average American agree with their stated political party on every issue? Do political parties consistently hold to their same ideology or platform over the decades? The answer to all is a no!
The ideals of conservatives and liberals are not always constant across all lines. At times, these philosophies have even seemed interchangeable between the political parties. People are confused when they look at traditional definitions of the conservative and liberal and try to reconcile them to the "labels" today. That is because politicians exploit these terms to their own purpose.
"Conservative" and "liberal" are loaded terms because of the rhetoric politicians use against each other. Calling someone a liberal gives an automatic negative reaction from a segment of the public; this is true even though they may not truly understand what the term represents. The same is true when you label someone a conservative; it is a signal to automatically reject that person and their values. This is the politics of divisiveness. This style of politics is destructive. It is intended to be so.
"Politics" itself has become a dirty word:
The Oxford Dictionary describes "politics" as:
"1 the activities associated with governing a country or area, and with the political relations between states.
2 a particular set of political beliefs or principles."
Compare that to Oxford's definition of "party politics" as: "Politics that relate to political parties rather than to the public good."
Implicit in these definitions is that "politics" is designed to provide for the governing of a country for the public good; "party politics" is not concerned with the public good, but rather the good of the party; the public good is left on the trash heap and the good of the party becomes the goal.
THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
Conservatism and liberalism should not be a "one or the other" choice. Both philosophies have proven their value to society over time, and both should be part of our future. Both philosophies should be understood, and both appreciated for their contributions. Both can, in fact, be held at the same time. For example, our society needs to move ahead with new solutions to the problems we face (a liberal value), but tempered to whatever degree possible by practices in the past which have proven successful (a conservative value).
In other words, by all means, let us move forward, while learning from the past. However, to do this, we must get past the party politics of division and blame.
Barack Obama did not become President of the same country that he started campaigning for in early 2007. Obama is now the President of a country in turmoil. It is not an enviable position. Where will Obama draw the strength to lead America out of its turmoil?
Obama faces challenges that perhaps no American President has faced since Franklin Roosevelt came into office in 1932. Roosevelt faced a world-wide depression, and a world increasingly threatened by fascist powers in the Pacific and Europe. Roosevelt stood up to those issues; it was not easy and it was not fully completed until after Roosevelt's death. However, America survived those times, and emerged a stronger nation for it.
President Obama now faces a U.S. economy that is in ruins, our confidence shaken to its core. The U.S. military faces a war on two fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan. Afghanistan, once thought won, is threatening to spill over into Pakistan, which in turn, may spill over into India. Iraq could yet still spill over into Turkey and Iran. Combined, these two issues, economics and war, will demand our attention.
ENDING THE POLITICS OF DIVISION
Two centuries ago, Edmund Burke said, "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter." President Obama must find a way to lift America's spirit, and gain its peoples' confidence. To do that, he must find a way around the divisive politics that has poisoned the American political system, for Obama cannot solve America's problems alone. He will need a Congress willing to work in earnest to find solutions and compromise. Otherwise, business as usual in Washington, D.C. bodes poorly for America.
The founding of America was a remarkable event in history. America put to the test the question of whether man is fit to rule himself, whether man is capable of providing equality and justice, or is man to be ruled by Monarchy or aristocracy, for his own good. America became the world's first democratic nation. One of the major principles of America is that it is governed under the U.S. Constitution, not by the will of men; the final source of authority is the people, not a Monarch, not a President. The rights of the people were set above all else, to be preserved for all posterity. The opening line of the U.S. Constitution states this boldly and plainly:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence (sic), promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Since its inception, there have been those that charge America is destined to fail; and yet, America has survived for over 200 years. However, America will not survive as a democracy, if its people fail in their desire for the principles that founded America: liberty, justice, equality, and virtue. It is a burden that America willingly undertook in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, and carried it through a bloody Civil War, and two World Wars. Can the American people continue to carry this burden? If it is to be, it must be through the people, for in a democracy, there can be no other.