Thinking it through with Bill
America has two great dominant strands of political thought ... conservatism, which at its very best draws lines that should not be crossed, and progressivism, which at is very best breaks down barriers that are no longer needed or should never have been erected in the first place.
Bill Clinton said that at the opening of his library yesterday.
I'm so weirded out. What -- I'm agreeing with Bill Clinton now?
But this is exactly the way my thoughts have been inclining since the election. I've been sort of flailing at the point, and I hate to say it but Bill Clinton put it simpler and more elegantly that I've been able to. And of course, he might actually know what he's talking about, whereas I can never be sure.
The point is: what if there is a need in our society for both liberals and conservatives? We've gotten so used to going at each other with picks and shovels that we never stopped to wonder what's at risk if either side succeeds in eliminating the other. Suppose that the questions of our communal life together ("How do we govern ourselves?", "How do we care for those in need?", "How can we protect ourselves without impinging on our freedoms?", "How can we promote commerce and trade?", "How do we ensure the best quality of life for ourselves and others?" and the big one: "What is our plan for the future?") aren't best answered by strict conservatism or liberalism, but by a combination of both? Suppose we should be interacting as St. Paul exhorts in I Corinthians 12 , and not each seeking total control?
But the important part of the picture is implicit in the phrase "at its best". Is the Democratic Party at its best right now? Is the Republican?
The conservative side has overstepped its original bounds. Conservatives never used to worry about telling our side of the story or getting our slice of the pie; it wasn't worth making a stink about to us. But I think that we started doing it because of the rank unfairness of being so underrepresented and misrepresented in our own culture by people who couldn't see any way but their own. However it came about, it may be now that we whose job it is to "draw the lines that shouldn't be crossed" are over-reacting, and drawing too many lines. Maybe we need to pick our battles better. Maybe we need to consider places where we can compromise territory without compromising our principles.
And the progressive side is broken. I don't know why it happened, and I don't know how. But if we're positing for the moment that the country does best with a balance of conservative and progressive, it can't be right that the self-restraining and humanity-edifying qualities of Christianity have mostly gravitated to one side of the equation. (And apparently the trend has been increasing in recent years.) And leaving religion aside for a minute, the liberals are lacking grown-ups these days. They're even lacking idealists.
At one time, liberals were the bleeding hearts; they were the people that wanted to save the world. Now their favorite pasttime seems to be arguing for the sake of argument. What happened? They seemed a tender-hearted lot, inclined to want to read poetry and find daisies to lie down in.
Or dandelions. Maybe that's it. You've got the Berke Breathed "Bloom County" branch and the Garry Trudeau "Doonesbury" branch. You've got one that can actually still laugh at themselves and who fall down in the dandelion patch for spiritual rejuvenation, and then you've got the ones who haven't had an original thought since Watergate and whose entire message has come down to pontifications against conservatives.
Well, I'm in no position to counsel them, but I'm sure rooting for the Berke Breathed guys. I'd even lie down in the dandelion patch with them -- what the heck.