Why Isn’t Everyone a Progressive?
E.D. Kain explains why he no longer considers himself a conservative. He gives a lot of reasons, some prompting one to ask why he ever considered himself a conservative. But testimonials of anyone publicly “switching sides” always interest me, and prompt me to re-examine just why it is I find the left such a non-option. And I think I can plow through all the unimportant things down to a couple of the core psychological-emotional motivating factors that defines whether any given person will identify himself as “conservative” or “liberal.”
One of those things is whether you truly believe a “conservative” or a “liberal” political worldview is sustainable. I admit I am intrigued by the notion of having every necessity of life guaranteed by the state, particularly when “necessities of life” include things like high-speed internet access and hip organic cuisine—one just cannot survive with the stigma of being unstylish or out of touch with leftist fads. And I am aware that Europe’s experimentation with this sort of indulgent welfare state is, by certain accounts, going quite well. But forgive me if I just don’t believe it. While I’m sometimes tempted by the idea of packing up and heading to a generous European welfare state and living it up while the ship goes down, my gut reaction is that the ship is in fact going down. I don’t think one can ever not be a fiscal conservative unless one is convinced that the new-math of welfare-state economics can actually work beyond a few generations. And I’m not [convinced].
Another deep-seated psychological reason I cannot throw my lot in with liberals is that I don’t have compassion for the most of the would-be beneficiaries of their social safety nets. Some, sure. But I’ve come to the realization that what I might consider terribly unpleasant, others consider perfectly tolerable. Take one example: My wife, though conservative, is a filmmaker and photographer, and thus has a long list of Facebook friends on polar opposite sides of the political spectrum. When a video went around the internet a while back profiling an Orange County, California family living in a motel room, the liberal bloc of my wife’s Friends noted the travesty of conservative OC governance that would let something like that happen in such a relatively wealthy area. But this family was paying approximately $800 a month to live in a motel room. While Orange County is still an expensive place to live, it’s not so expensive that apartments can’t be found for that amount. Moreover, when the interviewer asked the family why they don’t move somewhere, perhaps out of state, where the cost of living is much more affordable. The family responded they had no interest in moving out of temperate and beatific Orange County.
This epitomizes the majority of accounts of the impoverished that I’ve been exposed to in my lifetime. Discomfort, yes. Dire straits, hardly.
Anyone who harbors an over-abundance of concern to provide the kind of comfort they can’t imagine living without to those who, given the choice, might take it or leave it, is going to gravitate toward progressivism and its generous safety nets. The rest of us who are concerned with true “sustainability”—not just the vogue environmentalist kind, but true long-term political survival—will tend toward conservatism.