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.