My journey to becoming a liberal began many years ago. Okay, that sounds a bit pretentious, huh?
I was not born a liberal, I became a liberal. No. That was too dramatic maybe.
I was once called a right-wing radical and “wing nut”, but now I am labeled a liberal. That’s more like it.
So how does someone manage to go from being considered ultra right-wing, to being called far left?
Well in my case it happens by holding to my core values and standing on my principles.
Some of you have been reading my ramblings for several years now and know where I stand on most of the big issues facing our society and our nation and our families. But I should give a little background on who I am when it comes to political ideology for those who may be reading here for the first time.
When I first set out on this road that has led me to become the outspoken pain in the butt that I am today, I was still relying on the view points and ideas of others to form my own perception of what conservatism is. I would call into the local talk radio shows and repeat something that I had heard elsewhere, and every time I came up against an argument that I couldn’t defend against, I would go back and research and read and listen until I had formed my own opinion, and could defend my position.
I then progressed into commenting on blogs, and in much the same fashion would have to defend my positions and point of view. I have to actually thank those who disagreed with me the most, because of them I was forced to expand my circle of knowledge and to dig deeper to back up my assertions. I have always believed that we learn more by talking to, and sometimes arguing with, those we disagree with, than we ever learn from simply hanging out with our fellow travelers.
I was invited to become a contributor to a blog known for being a conservative voice, it was known then as First State Politics and later became Delaware Politics. I now had creative license to write about any topic or issue that interested me from my own point of view. I no longer had to merely comment on topics that others felt strongly about.
I soon drew the ire of the many left leaning, or liberals if you will, that came to the sight to defend big government, social decay, and a tax and spend fiscal ideology. I was called a neo-con, a wingnut, a racist, a homophobe, a person who wanted to starve sick children because I was against entitlements, I was said to want to destroy the very planet due to my disbelief in man-made global warming.
I was considered so radically right-wing, that I was locked out without ceremony from further contributing to this so-called conservative blog, for a post I wrote on abortion.
I then created my own blog and over time Delaware Politics changed hands and I was again asked to join the team, with complete creative freedom. I continued to write about the issues that were important to me and that I believed were and are important to others. I think I collected a fair amount of followers, some who agreed with me and some who clearly did not. My goal has never been to have everyone agree with me, my goal is to write my opinion and to hopefully challenge others to at least consider what I have written and that some, like myself, will be challenged to go back and research and read and come back and defend their positions with facts as well as opinions. In this way we may not change each others minds, but clearly we will expand each others circle of knowledge.
Through the many hours, days, months, and now years of debating on the radio and the blogs and in person with people, I began to form a clearer vision of what I considered to be conservatism. I have never demanded that anyone agree with my views on this, but I do believe in what I believe. I hope that over these years I have grown and expanded my own circle of knowledge, because if we fail to grow and to move forward always seeking, then we are little more than a house plant. Though my wife seems to think I am one on the weekends, especially during football season. Something about taking root in that damn chair!
As my vision of conservatism came more and more into focus I began to realize that conservatism is neither right nor left, it’s not really even a political ideology in my view. It is more a belief in ones own self. I call myself a straight-line conservative. In my view, conservatism is the center, not of the political ideologies, what some people call “moderate”, but at the very center of this nation’s value system. I believe that if we apply these core conservative values to solving the troubles that confront us, that we stand our best chances of moving this nation forward.
So what are these core values? For myself, I see them as first and fore most, personal responsibility for your day-to-day life and needs, which leads into the second core value of conservatism, wanting a limited government overseeing that which the individual cannot achieve, such as national security. I believe we are a nation of laws and we must respect those laws, and work within the frame-work that our Founders bestowed upon us, to change those laws we do not agree with. Though we are a nation where much is decided by majority rule, we must have the fore thought to protect the Liberties of the minorities, for some day we may find ourselves in the minority. A conservative will not twist and spin the rule of law to suit their personal situation, to attempt to make the law conform to their needs of the moment.
I believe that a large segment of this nation, one might even say the majority of this nation, hold most of these views in some form or another. That is why I say conservatism is the center, and that when applied without bias, can, and has and will attract those who may not agree one hundred percent, but who understand that these core values are the basic building blocks of our great nation.
My vision of conservatism is still evolving, though I keep these core values at the heart of it. The issues change from day-to-day, but the application of these core values are still the solution in my opinion, even though by applying them, I often find myself in my own personal conflict with my human nature.
On abortion, while I believe that choice is our greatest Liberty, I do not believe that this extends to the killing of another human being. On freedom of religion, while I was appalled by the idea of building a mosque near the site of The World Trade Center, I was aware that if we infringed on the Muslim right to practice their faith, then we would be starting down a road that could lead to the loss of all religious freedoms.
So we are now at 1,212 words and that is only the background, I hope you are sticking with me, I promise I am getting to the part of how I became a liberal.
With my vision and belief system of conservatism in place I began to involve myself in party politics. At first it was in the form of commenting on what others were doing within the two major parties. I was highly critical of the Republican party and the direction it was going in, especially in my home state of Delaware. I again was challenged to do more than just talk about it, to actually get involved, ironically by the same person who had thrown me off of First State Politics, I can never thank Dave Burris enough.
I took up that challenge and began attending meetings, I found little to change my mind that the party was headed in the wrong direction. As I am wont to do, I was outspoken about the need for the GOP to be more inclusive of the more conservative view points. Of course this was met with much resistance and I was again labeled far right and fringe and radical, not from so-called liberals or Democrats, but from people within the GOP. I was told that my views on the issues would alienate the more moderate among the GOP and would actually help the liberals and Democrats.
During this time I never suggested that anyone should be run out of the GOP, that was unless they felt so strongly that the party had moved too far right, too far from that center of conservatism. My goal was not to remove people from the party, maybe from office, but not from the party. My goal was to bring more people into the party by creating an environment that would allow all the varying voices and factions of conservatism to be heard. Because while I believe conservatism is the true center, I recognize that there are actually factions of conservatism and that if the GOP intends to be the standard-bearer of conservatism as a whole, then we must all understand this fact and work together.
I continued to find ways to become more involved, I showed up to candidate forums, went to county meetings, became involved in campaigns to elect people I thought shared my values, until I finally took the leap and became a member of the GOP, not just as a voter, but actually joined the Sussex County Executive Committee.
However I am not unique in this journey, at the same time that I was making my way into the party to give voice to my views of conservatism, there were many others doing the same thing, some for the same reasons as myself, others for their own reasons. One could call this a movement I guess. I continued to be myself, to speak out, to write, and to hold to my core values. Again, many times the issues change, but the application of my values never has.
So, where I had been labeled a right-wing radical before, where I had been called far right, I was now surrounded by people who I believed felt in large part as I did and who shared, if not all of my core values, then many of them, at least enough of them so that we could work together to move the party and the nation forward in a conservative direction.
This brings us to how I became a liberal. While I continued on my straight line of conservatism, applying my core values to all issues, even when this went against my natural human nature and inclinations to adjust them to suit my desires, others who had come into the party at the same time, for what I thought were the same reasons, decided to turn right and to just keep turning right. The problem is, if you continue turning right you end up back where you started. In this case you end up being intolerant of the views of others.
This is what has happened to me. Though I pushed and shoved to get into the party, to make my voice heard, I never wanted to push others out. However, there are some who pushed and shoved to get in and now they are still pushing and shoving, not to get in, but to push and shove others out, and then to lock the door. Some of these people are people who sang high praise for my application of my core values, when such application was in agreement with them. But now, because they are willing to adjust their values to suit their desires and have given into their human nature and inclinations, they now call me a liberal.
The political reality is that a party made up of a single faction of conservatism is not a party, it is a club. And a very small club. A party that has any chance of success must grow, it must hold to core values while understanding that a core is surrounded by many layers. Much like the core of the earth is surrounded by multiple layers of varying elements that make up the whole.
There is currently a faction within the GOP, I believe a small faction, that is attempting to purify the party so that they become the gate keepers. This is exactly the mentality that I fought against as I became more involved, but at that time it was a faction that was of a more moderate ideology who felt they had all the answers and were unwilling to include, let alone listen to the ideas of the more conservative among the party.
So as I said earlier, if you keep turning right, you come back to where you began, in this case we are now seeing those who kept turning right trying to push out and lock out the more moderate of the party. They have become that which they professed to be against, elitist.
So that is how I went from being a right-wing radical, to being a liberal. Not by changing my values, but by holding to them. I have to admit, I have been guilty of labeling others, so maybe this is karma. I would hope that while over my life in general, and my political life in particular, that I have been open to new ideas, to learning and expanding my circle of knowledge, and if others are incapable or unwilling to recognize that life is not where you stand, it is where you are headed and that the road has many turns, then I feel sorry for them, because they are missing some mighty pretty scenery.
In closing, let me say that I believe that the fact that many on the so-called left and also many on the so-called right often both agree with me and disagree with me, tells me that I am exactly where I believe conservatism lives, in the center, at the core, moving forward in a straight line. So I again thank not only those who agree with me, but those who disagree with me, because both have helped me to expand my circle of knowledge.