I’m a Bleeding Heart Liberal…Because Esquire Magazine Says So

Bleeding heart 2This feels so…not right…I think.

I have always thought of myself as a centrist in personal and political disposition.  I don’t care for extremism on the left or the right and I think “compromise” is a good word and a good way to get things done when it comes to governing.  I like notion that our leaders fight over questions of political philosophy and practical governance by day and then play softball on the Mall and share a beer afterwards.

But, according to Esquire Magazine’s survey of the “New American Center” I’m a classic “bleeding heart liberal.”  There’s apparently nothing to the left of me.

I realize I’m subjective on this topic, but I think this survey is flawed.  I’m a walking set of contradictions and trade-offs:  I believe in a strong defense, universal health care, a good social safety net, individual responsibility, a path to citizenship and secure borders. I’m pro-choice (up until the  point at which a fetus is viable outside the womb), pro-death penalty (for a very small class of offenses), all for gay marriage (or any other kind of consensual relationship adults want to have among themselves), higher taxes on the wealthiest, a simplified tax code, investing in education at every level, funding basic (like a superconducting super collider) and applied research (like Solyndra).  I think invading Afghanistan was the right thing to do and that Iraq was a horrific mistake, that we’re over-extended in our foreign commitments but that we also have an obligation to help in faraway places even when it’s not in our immediate interest because we can and because that’s one of the ways we back it up when we claim we’re exceptional. I believe in the rule of law and that “enhanced interrogation” is another way to describe torture.  I think the Constitution is a pretty damned fine piece of writing, but it’s not perfect and it has to be amended from time to time as well as constantly reinterpreted to account for changes in the world.  I think “Signing Statements” are bullshit no matter which party’s president uses them.  I’m for legalizing drugs and prostitution but I think there need to be smart people with strong regulatory powers making sure markets are fair, the environment is protected and that people can work in safe places, live in decent houses and buy products that aren’t dangerous if used properly.  I think the government is encroaching too much on our civil liberties but I want it using its superpowers to find  – and yes, kill some of – the bad guys before they kill people.  I’m willing to accept more risk in my personal life in exchange for more freedom in this area, but I understand others draw that line differently.  I think our military is a vital projection of American political will and a deterrent against people who would do us harm; those who serve in it are deserving of our respect and support when deployed and when they come home.  I think the government has an important role in ensuring equality of opportunity but should not be in the business of ensuring equality of outcome.

Liberal?  You tell me.  “I yam what I yam,” sez Popeye.

I invite members of the Crowd to take the survey at http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/center-interactive-quiz and report their results here.  Conventional wisdom about our little band of miscreants would suggest that – with a couple of exceptions – we’re all a bunch of lotus-eating lefties, but I’m betting there are some interesting variations on a theme.

– Austin

39 thoughts on “I’m a Bleeding Heart Liberal…Because Esquire Magazine Says So

  1. PM says:

    Well, I was about to take your challenge when i was distracted by the “Sexiest Woman Alive” photoshoot…..

    Maybe that influenced my results. The first time.

    I am officially a part of the “MBA Middle”, with a strong live and let live mentality (apparently). Well, at least i was the first time I took the quiz. I decided to take it again, and only changed my answers on a couple of questions, and only by a small degree (it is a 7 pt. scale, and i only moved from 5 to 6, and never to one of the extremes –1 or 7). And so i am also a “Bleeding Heart Liberal”.

    So. An interesting exercise, but not a lot of room for nuance in the results…..

  2. Jon pp4, you’re not actually a set of walking contradictions and tradeoffs . You’re engaging in rhetorical deflection. “This flattering word / high minded ideal can be used to describe liberalism, so Yes! I am a liberal!” Sen. Wellstone used to rely on that rhetorical crutch quite a bit

    I hear ya, its an obnoxious survey, but I guess I see the method in the madness. Eg for me, I think there’s at least two strains of “rightness” in conservative politics – libertarian and religious/values, with religious / values being the righter of the two. I answered survey moreso as libertarian, and still ended up in the far right decile. Viscerally, that seems wrong. But I don’t have any illusion that I’m a moderate or in the ‘new center’.

    Survey score is largely pegged to self identification, religious values, and the economic / tax questions. Economic / tax questions are kinda without nuance, but ultimately you evaluate survey by its ability properly sort. SRC lefties probably all belong in the far left of mainstream.

    1. Erik –

      You need to spend more time at a DFL caucus…they’d run me out of the room almost as fast as a Tea Party Express confab.

      Actually, as I learned a couple of years ago when I tried to get into a Sarah Palin/Michele Bachmann funfest, the righties won’t even let me in the room.

      – Austin

      1. PM says:

        Yeah, here in S. Mpls Jon and I are almost persona non grata at any DFL caucus. Cloud cuckoo land.

        I remember back in the day being taken to task because I was working to find ways to include plastics in the recycling program…little did I know that the (secret) agenda was not to include plastics as a pretext to banning them because they could not be recycled….

        1. Maybe so, maybe the granolas and true socialists among the Democrats are more left than you, but Esquire’s survey doesn’t have a nuanceful mechanism that will distinguish you from them. Nevermind Esquire’s survey not having a mechanism. I’m not sure there exists any ideological observations about govt and taxation that would separate you from those more left. Do you have any well formed thoughts about the limits of taxation and regulation? Neither do they.

      2. Yeah, but you were attempting to get in as a provocateur. I vaguely recall you discussing this publicly here or on mnspeak (…ya’ll think I’m some bizarro stalker. That’s not it. Actually I’m cursed with Asperger’s total recall.) And they had an appropriate db query that screened for lefty misanthropes and flagged you do not admit. You’d get into a DFL caucus no doubt.

        Govt spending question about 7 questions in on this survey is designed to sort by:

        Doctrinaire left
        Pragmatic left
        Pragmatic right
        Doctrinaire right

        This is probably an acceptable mechanism, and its likely heavily weighted. I imagine you answered doctrinaire left, ‘reflection of Govts moral obligation’.

        As I say, the survey strays into some bogus and obnoxious cultural assumptions. But it seems to be an accurate.

  3. Dennis Lang says:

    That was fun. I thought I was apolitical but I may actually be a Marxist.

    I better check out that “sexiest woman alive” photo shoot.

  4. bertram jr. says:

    Mssr. Austin:

    The fact that you preceive yourself as some sort of ‘centrist’ is hilarious.

    You’re (according to your opwn summation) pro-abortion, pro drugs, and pro prostitution. You’re also pro-welfare, pro social services. You’re soft on the military and soft on the death panalty.

    Methinks Esquire has you exactly where you are.

    Sexiest Woman Alive = ScarJo?


    1. Bertram –

      A lefty would cherry pick the same paragraph and call me a right-wing oppressor and corporate tool (actually, now that I think of it, I HAVE been called both things). I’m definitely left of center, but a quick walk in any direction here in the People’s Republic of South Minneapolis would turn up some real lefties.

      PS – I’m with you ;Scarlett is perfectly lovely but doesn’t make me paw the ground.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        You paw the ground around attractive women? Care to talk about it? It’s safe here. We are predominantly a non-judgemental, liberal-minded group as we’ve discovered.

        1. The “sexist woman alive” should make you paw the ground and snort. Ms. Johansson, for all her charms, doesn’t do that for me. I decline to say who does.

    2. May I just say how my heart soars at the sound of my man, bertram, inveighing against the the low and shabby morals of the libtard elite? But please … please … give us the sermon on “The Nature of Women”. We all turn our yearning eyes to you.

      1. bertram jr. says:

        Bertram knows what the female heart longs for.

        I do like Austin’s ‘pawing the ground” bit; reminds me of your act circa Ampersand days at 50th and France.

  5. Funny. I think of myself as a bleeding heart liberal, and this says I’m a “minivan moderate.” Not surprisingly, I think I’m correct.

    It’s a stupid quiz. It should be more about policy positions and less about lifestyle choices. Also, it’s difficult to be nuanced on these kinds of deals. For instance, maybe you’re for a carbon tax, but want it neutralized/offset by cuts in other taxes.

  6. PM says:

    Also, i wonder about all of the demographic questions (race income, religion)…do they use those to sort as well?

    If so, then this is hardly a political sorting.

  7. What’s it mean to be for “individual responsibility” as a liberal? Find your own ride to the welfare office?“ I’m not buying it.

    I mean yeah, everyone minimally endorses some amorphous concept of “individual responsibility”. But the distinctly conservative way, ie, reluctance to tax for overly expansive social programs, is a pure(er) expression of that. There is no liberal expression of that, no articulated platform plank or practical observation on the left that substantiates being “for individual responsibility”. Everything gets addressed by taxation and programs.

    Down the road for the progressive project, you’re all for a minimum income, are you not?

    1. To me it means you make your way in the world, you provide for your family and you accept the consequences of your actions and decisions. It means you – not your parents, your family, the mean teacher in 4th grade, the kid who beat you up after school – are responsible for who you turn out to be.

      It means you also have some personal responsibility for your neighbors, your community and your country. You make sure their kids get across the street safely and that their sidewalk gets shoveled when their back goes out. You pay taxes for a strong public school even if your kids don’t go there and never did. You pay taxes to hire water quality inspectors so your kids and the neighbors’ can swim in the lake safely. It means you pay taxes for a strong military and for foreign aid and for an interstate highway system and a national Internet backbone and education and health care because those are important components in making us strong as a country and as indviduals. Part of personal responsibility means going to the polls to vote for representatives to serve in St. Paul and Washington DC or – if you want – to offer yourself for office.

      It means that if you stumble, you’re glad for a safety net so that you – and more importantly your family – aren’t lost to poverty, but that you also work like hell to get back on your feet because 1) no one likes taking handouts 2) you aspire to more for yourself and your family 3) the safety net isn’t there for people who won’t work, it’s there for people who can’t work.

      Tell me more about the “conservative definition” of personal responsibility because I could keep going for a long time in this vein before I ever get to the notion that “reluctance to tax for overly expansive social programs” fits under the term.

      – Austin

      1. Well I think that’s it, not a “conservative definition”, and not awkwardly stated. Individual vs. collective responsibility is the nature of the contemporary political argument. The individual responsibility side has a bias towards less government and more self reliance. This is the “conservative” side.

        Your ideology is largely associated with an advocacy for more collective responsibility. You’re not an “individual responsibility” person in any meaningful way so far as there are policy contrasts to be discussed. And the policy contrasts are the right context.

        Pp1, everyone is for that. Pp2 and pp3 -“individual responsibility” is not “the individuals responsibility to the community”. You’re doing a post-modern, weasel word thing. You’re a liberal, and fairly doctrinaire. The survey didn’t put you in the wrong box.

      2. WTF! How dare they call me a “Libtard Douchebag”! … oh, sorry … “Bleeding Heart”! A difference without distinction, again.

        When Todd unveiled this poll last week on his morning show I was struck anew at the mushy indifference of so much of the “center”. Repeated studies have shown that those who identify as “independent” (and here they’re revealed as … ) tend to vote disproportionately conservative. A good reason can be found in the remarkably/appallingly low level of fact-literacy among this crowd. They just don’t care enough to determine what is true and not. Ironically, many embrace their “independent” thinking as being above the fray and superior to … unhinged zealots and bleeding hearts.

        Of interest was the low standing of gun rights and organized religion among the “center”.

    2. PM says:

      Well, if you equate a social safety net with a minimum income, then, yeah, i imagine that most of us do not want to see people starving in the streets. (And, frankly, they (social safety net and minimum income) are functionally equivalent).

      As for individual responsibility, really the difference between liberals and conservatives isn’t that they don’t believe in individual responsibility, but the difference is in how you answer the question “individual responsibility to who/what?” See, conservatives (particularly of the libertarian bent) tend to limit their answer to themselves–individual responsibility to themselves. Liberals (particularly those of a more communitarian bent) would say that it is individual responsibility to society.

      The point is, Erik, that there are things that happen that go beyond personal responsibility. Sometimes bad things happen to people that isn’t their fault. That they do not deserve. And we are all better off if the unluckiest among us are better off.

      See, it is not all about individuals (as hard as it is for libertarians to get that), but it is also about groups–particularly groups such as “Minnesotans” or “Americans” or “citizens”. What is good for one person might be bad for everyone else.

      Government is all about making decisions for the group, not for the individual. The criteria is what is best for our city/state/country, not what is best for you or for me.

      1. Gotcha, and I get that better by you saying it. Particularly your pp2, which is basically how Jon explained individual responsibility means to him.

        Still, I think it’s somewhat “distinction without a difference” in terms of the national argument, as engaged by the two parties. The proper shorthand is, conservatives = individual, liberals = collective. You don’t get to make up a different practical definition for “individual responsibility” and then drape it over your shoulders.

        1. Jim Leinfelder says:

          Conservatives = myth of the rugged individual when it’s painless, and happy to lobby for and then feed from the federal teat when that suits them.

        2. PM says:

          Erik, of all the “gotcha’s” that you have claimed, this is about the weakest one.

          Conservatives are not about individuals. Libertarians are. Conservatives are all about the family, the military, churches/religion, and the country/patriotism. Those are all “collectives” in Rand speak.

          1. PM says:

            Alright, i understand.

            I do think it is more informative to think of this as a 4 part typology:liberals, communitarians, conservatives, libertarians. Most liberals are pretty individualistic (think individual rights/personal freedoms/ability to “do your own thing”). Communitarians, on the other hands, are much more about the good of the group. Difference between communitarians and conservatives tends to break along which groups they give priority to.

            Nice to know that you feel my pain….

          2. Yeah, and liberals are about liberty (bwahahahahaha).

            I think you are making a superfluous academic observation at this point. Yes, you are right, re a textbook answer. But the dynamic of the current argument pits individualism vs collectivism. Even if, as Jim points out, some people who spout individualism are at times hypocrites. And by the way, they are not any worse hypocrites than anyone on the left, although I suppose you could argue lefties are excused by being on the right side of the false equivalence dichotomy, ie, “its ok if democrats do it”.

    3. Jim Leinfelder says:

      Well, because being for “personal responsibility” is meaningless clap trap, much like being for “breathing in and out.” It’s meaningless, until, of course, one finds one’s self unable to breath in and out; and then, who you gonna’ call, a liberal or a conservative?

      What do conservatives do to foster “personal responsibility”? Is support of an inequitable tax system that concentrates wealth and destabilizes the economy a way of fostering personal responsibility? Is giving cover to conniving weasels on Wall Street who speculate wildly and put the world’s economy at risk and plunge the country into the deepest recession since the Great Depression a way of “being for personal responsibility”?

      That’s not been my impression.

  8. Jim Leinfelder says:

    Once again, the 21st Century “Esquire” lets us all down (sigh). Perhaps next month they’ll revisit the tying of a proper Windsor knot and executing the firm, but not too firm, handshake.

  9. bertram jr. says:

    Bertram is comfortable being seen as right of Attila the Hun, and clearly the reason is thus: Goverment has overstepped it’s role to the point where we as a country may be beyond redemption.

    The founders would surely have revolted years ago. Bertram can only laugh sadly when he ponders what they would make of the Boy President.

  10. One of the things that most bugged me about the quiz was the focus on lifestyle issues, such as praying and church attendance. I know that such things are predictive of political ideology, but they aren’t themselves components of political ideology. For instance, there are plenty of praying people who are praying for their government to treat the vulnerable and ailing more like Christ did.

    I suspect those lifestyle things are what moved me into the “minivan moderate” column. My lifestyle is dull, so tallying lifestyle factors makes me look more conservative than I am.

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