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Karzai's baggage for the U.S. trip

By Tom Toles



Liberalism wins!

We'll leave the commenter debate about George Carlin's humor for another day. Today, I'd like to respond to OTHER readers' assaults on my liberalism. Let me begin by engaging in a sweeping redefinition of terms to suit my own purposes. Stay with me a minute here. It only takes a minute to read these posts anyway. Everybody thinks I'm a liberal and I don't argue the point, but here's what the term means to me and always has. A liberal is someone who looks at a problem and is willing to consider trying a solution other than traditional ones. There. Can we all be liberal now?

And what of conservatism? It has become an irreconcilable pairing of the longing for past forms of Americana and devotion to the free market, which is even more ruthless in destroying those beloved forms than liberals are. Throw in pretending to want to cut spending, but habitually not proposing specific things to cut. So, can we all stop pretending to be conservative now?

No? Not until liberals are willing to check back on their efforts and see what actually works and readdress what doesn't? Okay, it's a deal! That was pretty easy, now wasn't it? --Tom Toles 




By Tom Toles  | May 12, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
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I wish people understood what liberal really means. It's not defined by the want of new ideas but rather the want of more freedom. Liberalism is a focus on rationality, liberty and individualism.

Posted by: BradG | May 13, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Liberal Elitist:
n. & adj. 1) n. a person belonging to the upper class, educated in private schools or public schools with lots of resources, parents have high profile jobs, and traveling abroad is standard, if not a given. 2) adj. a term used to describe a child of the elite who espouses very liberal views and adopts a very progressive, counter culture lifestyle, but is not financially responsible for much if anything and usually lives in a big city; such as, San Francisco, NYC, Philadelphia, Austin, Seattle, and Portland.

“Sarah, she's such a liberal elitist, she's always going on about micro-breweries, vegan food, and organic wine, but she doesn't know the first thing about poverty or even the middle class. She thinks the whole world should convert to veganism and ban Wal-Mart, but if you even mention how some people don't see meat as murder, she'll start ranting and raving. However, she is okay with abortion and thinks the death penalty should be given to all rapists. I guess animals are more important to her.”

Posted by: BOStinks | May 13, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

BO, Yes I am a Liberal, maybe even a Progressive, and yes I am smarter than the average (I know what my IQ is) and probably smarter than you, but I am not an Elitist, don't even know what you mean by that, I do vounteer because I feel an obligation to do it because I can, but I am definitely not bigoted, so please say you are sorry. By the way, can you explain why all you Right Wingers always are so angry? What's up with that?

Posted by: bavery1 | May 13, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Hey Trakker: Thank you for making my point. Liberal Elitists are rather bigoted. It’s not me that makes the automatic assumption you describe, its Tom. Perhaps I should have placed quotes around “less fortunate” so you could comprehend my meaning. As a liberal elitist, Tom and you believe that you are better, smarter, and more capable of fixing other peoples “problems”. Then you tend to shove your “solutions” down other peoples throats because you know what’s best. You fix your problems, I’ll fix mine. You want to help others? Do what I do, it’s called Charity and Volunteerism.

And the whole argument about new ideas? Tom’s description of a liberal implies through exclusion that conservatives are incapable or unwilling to try or even consider a different approach to fix a problem. Our nation is faced with huge problems. I suppose you think “Tax the Rich” is new and creative. And how long has the “idea” of income redistribution been around? Yeah, those are good ones. A recent “new idea” to address our problems came from a conservative in Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” (which BO praised parts of).

But it won’t get any where because politicians are cowards, especially the Republicans. They scattered like roaches away from the plan when media reports took aim at some “tough pills to swallow” in the plan. The liberal Dems will never support new ideas like his because they are prisoners to their base and their big government ideology.

Posted by: BOStinks | May 13, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

For years, prior to all this left-right bashing got its full head of steam, I thought a conservative was someone who cherished the past as he imagined it and supported structures that would bring it back; while a liberal was someone who cherished the future as he imagined it and supported structures that would make it happen. Now moderates: they're the ones who cherish the present and live comfortably in the moment with no dilusions from imagination.

Posted by: dudeupnorth | May 12, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Yo, Bo....
per your 2+2 equation.
Let's add some actual thing like, oh I don't know, rabbits instead of just a boring number...
2male rabbits + 2 male rabbits = 4 male rabbits.

2 male rabbits + 2 female rabbits = ?

Traditional? Not? : )

Posted by: bertzel | May 12, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

"BOStinks" accuses Toles of believing 'liberals are smarter then the rest of us' and uses an example of a leaky hose.

Let's look at that example. A conservative replaces the washer and the liberal considers the possibility that the PSI coming into the house has increased. So if the PSI DOES increase the conservative is stuck replacing the washer every week for the rest of their life while a liberal considers the possibility something else is causing the problem and looks for a better solution. So, yes, maybe liberals are smarter, but I think rather than smarter, I think liberals are more inquisitive and possess the courage to try new things.

"BOStinks" also accuses liberals of believing we "know what is best for the less fortunate that are not as smart as you are."

First, it's telling that BOStinks automatically assumes that those less fortunate are not as smart as the rest of us. That's a rather bigoted statement. If you examine the phrase 'less fortunate' you will realize the second word has a lot to do with their lot in life. Smart people lose good jobs and can't find a new one. Smart people can have children who require more medical care than they can afford. Smart people can become disabled and unable to work. I could go on.

The liberal in me merely wants to eliminate bad fortune from the equation and help those out (with the tax dollars of those of us who are more fortunate if necessary) to make life easier for those, who through no fault of their own, are suffering.

Posted by: Trakker | May 12, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Gee, thanks, Science Tim. I'm a liberal now! And thanks for telling me what I was trying to say.

Posted by: quiensabe | May 12, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I think Tom's point is that a Liberal will CONSIDER other solutions to problems (not automatically require them).

My job (working for a large corporation) is to find solutions to business problems. I bring options to the business for where improvements can be made and they decide what course of action to take (if any). A purely Conservative model wouldn't bother to ask the question in the first place.

Conservatism, for me, is more about protecting elements of society that are threatened, whether it is the environment, our citizens, or our ideals as a nation. However, that shouldn't stand in the way of improving our world.

The responses here clearly point to different interpretations of these two labels.

Posted by: Rudesan | May 12, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The conservatives, to make their case, have to ignore the history of social progress in the US. They can't take credit for elimination of slavery, the evaporation of Jim Crow, woman's suffrage, Social Security, Medicare, woman's rights, and other changes that have made the country a more fair and equitable state. On the other hand to call for reversal of any of this progress would be viewed as lunacy (by most).

Where they are successful, the results are not. The relentless opposition to labor unions has reduced union membership quite a bit, but there is no payoff. Wages are stagnant and our industrial base is disappearing. Have we become more competitive?

So liberals can point many attained objectives that have made this country a better place, and conservatives are left with blaming them all flaws.

Posted by: sherm1 | May 12, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Tom, you forgot to add in your description of what the term means that you as a Liberal are smarter then the rest of us. You as a Liberal posses more intelect, and therefore know what is best for the less fortunate that are not as smart as you are. You say "A liberal is someone who looks at a problem and is willing to consider trying a solution other than traditional ones." Your description is dripping with elitism. When my garden hose leaks, I don't look at it and say, "Hmmm, must be an increase in PSI from the water main serving my area. I better go add a regulator to monitor the pressure so I can know when to fix this problem." I change the rubber washer. It's a traditional solution that works. A solution is just that - a solution. Here's one for you Tom, using all your liberal intellect, go find a non traditional way to tell me how much 2 + 2 equals.

Posted by: BOStinks | May 12, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Try a different simile, quiensabe. Lighthouses do not provide regional illumination, lighthouses illuminate themselves so that the "source of light" can be avoided. Your simile illustrates the precise opposite of what you are trying to say.

However, what you are trying to say seems to be going out of your way to avoid acknowledging Tom's point: if we are in difficult circumstances, it seems obvious that a mechanical application of 'traditional' solutions will not make things better, because tradition is what brought us to difficult straits. A traditional solution might be the best solution, after all, but you can't know that unless you give serious consideration to alternatives.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 12, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

See, that's the problem, liberals are willing to solve a problem by ignoring tradition because it's tradition. It's like improving the view by removing the light house.

Posted by: quiensabe | May 12, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse

A bedrock conceit of conservatism is that government is incapable of doing anything correctly. G. W. Bush spent eight years throwing many a monkey wrench into government to prove the point. Right wingers complain about how much money the government spends then cut taxes and start wars that are paid for on an emergent, off-budget basis with money borrowed from China. Any resulting increase in the deficit or national debt is chalked up to Liberals and their free-spending ways. Conservatives are in thrall to what they believe are tried and true ways. Financiers throw the country's economy into a tailspin. Under Hoover, the tried and true way was to raise tariffs and reduce government spending. That approach sure didn't work. Conservatives believe problems cannot be solved and therefore trying to solve them is a waste of effort. May as well pray to God and hope for a better tomorrow. Because waiting for Conservatives to put a stop to things that should not be going on will take an eternity.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | May 12, 2010 2:02 AM | Report abuse

A liberal's logic: 5% unemployment under Bush equaled a recession, but today 9.9% unemployment equals economic recovery because more people are looking for work? Liberals are a laugh a minute, but at the same time very scary because they want to take away my SUV, my guns, my steak, make me pay more to heat my house, ration my medicine and soon will try to tell me what I can watch and listen to because for liberals too much uncontrolled information is bad, but for me uncontrolled information is freedom.

Posted by: taxcutsin12 | May 11, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

The hard part of defining Liberal vs. Conservative is not downplaying the label you don't relate to.

The best definition I've heard goes like this:

Liberals want Freedom From (crime, drugs, disease, etc)

Conservatives want Freedom of (religion, speech, commerce, etc)

These are both noble goals, and the difference in perspective largely revolves around ones perception of government as either an agent of progression (Liberals) or as an agent of repression (Conservatives).

The truly enlightened hope to apply the best of both worlds while polarized extremists on both sides make a mockery of the country.

Posted by: mattsoundworld | May 11, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Are you a liberal or a progressive Mr. Toles? A few things about liberals. Liberals do not understand human nature very well. Liberals believe that you can fix everything that is not perfect in society with a large federal government and plenty of everybody's money. Liberals want the other guy to play by rules while they play with no rules. Example: calling names, race card, more calling names. Liberals always pick the wrong side when it comes to the bad guys in the world. I remember vividly how liberals were aghast at calling the Soviet Union the evil empire. Do you believe that liberal and progressive are labels for the same ideas?

Posted by: bobbo2 | May 11, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Liberal or Conservative?

I remember when Vietnam was active and some were "hawks" and some were "doves."

Some of us preferred to be "owls."

Now I had rather be "educated."

Because I am.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | May 11, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

All who know what the Taliban will bring will pay any cost to prevent it. They have no fri4nds, not even in Pakistan. They bring death and suffering.

It may be expensive to save the world from the Taliban - but it is worth it.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | May 11, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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