I wish I had said that . . . Don't worry, you will.

We misunderstand each other. Liberals immediately leap to the conclusions that conservatives are warmongers, who don’t care about the poor. Conservatives think all liberals are whinny chumps, who don’t understand that the real world is all about less than optimal choices.

I have had the experience in my own posting where someone challenged something I didn't say or don't believe because they were thinking of me as a conservative, not as an individual and they were attacking their caricature of a conservative, not what conservative really is. I have seen the same thing happen to some of our liberal brethren.

Ideology is not particularly strong in the U.S. compared to most other places. The U.S. was born with a liberal tradition, so it is liberal tradition that conservatives are conserving. We don't have the feudal kind of conservative who supports heredity aristocracy and monarchy because we have never had those things to conserve. On the other hand, our leftists aren't very far to the left. Most liberals believe in private property and very few really want a command and control economy, and they are not particularly revolutionary.

Both groups have people of all social classes and the membership changes. Communists could never understand why American workers tended to be the strongest proponents of the United States, while establishment academics were often the most critical, but only in theory. Ronald Reagan started out as a liberal Democrat. The currently most prominent Rockefeller is a Democratic senator. I wonder what party will have the loyalty of the kids of Arnold Swartzenegger and Kenney child Maria Shriver. Not that our parties clearly reflect the liberal conservative divide very clearly anyway.

The incestuous relationship between American liberals and American conservatives is what has made our country great. Otto Von Bismarck said there was a special providence to protect drunks, children and the United States of America. He didn't mean it as a compliment, but what he didn’t understand was that our special providence was our ability to disagree generally within acceptable bounds. By trimming off the extreme left and extreme right, we came up with a system that could evolve.

We copy each other's good ideas and come to believe they are our own. Ronald Reagan's approval ratings today are in the high 80s. He never was that popular when he was president. Obviously liberals and conservative both like the Gipper. George Bush can praise Harry Truman, and almost all Americans (at least those who know any history) hail him as a great man. This is someone so unpopular at the time that he dared not run for president in 1952. My own rule of thumb is that all American achievements – liberal or conservative - become the common property of all Americans after a generation. So let*s be proud of each other's achievements.

Biographies of our founding fathers seem to be in style. I just finished biographies of Ben Franklin, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. I am currently reading 'His Excellency' about George Washington and have been to Monticello and UVA so many times I feel like Thomas Jefferson is a personal friend. They were a truly strange bunch of guys and some of them disliked each other with real passion.

When Jefferson was elected president, many Federalists thought it would be the end of civilization. Most Americans have forgotten this. Who were the conservatives and who were the liberals among them? Democrats trace their party to Jefferson, but his small government, states rights ideas would not go down well today with them. Hamilton is generally seen as a proto-Republican, but his abiding faith in power of the federal government to do good would be less popular today at the Republican convention. The fact is, they don't fit anywhere in our modern ideologies because they belong to all of us. We use what works. Who cares who thought it up? That's the beauty of America.

Posted by Jack at December 12, 2004 11:30 PM