A Conservative Response To “I’m a Liberal, but That Doesn’t Mean What a Lot of You Think”

The following is my response to Lori Gallagher Witt’s “I’m a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does” with apologies for borrowing some of her language in answer to her language:

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I’m a conservative, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does. Let’s break it down, shall we? Because, seriously, I’m getting more than a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: not every conservative is the same, though the majority of conservatives I know think, roughly, along these same lines:

1. Just like liberals, conservatives believe a country should take care of its weakest members. According to Judeo-Christian ethics, people should take care of their children, disabled, sick, and elderly. The Bible calls them “orphans and widows,” but it’s the same idea. But that means YOU need to care for them, with your money (mainly by taking care of your family first and then giving generously to charities); it shouldn’t be the government’s job to do it all. Remember, the Good Samaritan used his own money to help the injured man on the side of the road.

At the same time, except for the most ardent libertarians, most conservatives believe a government safety net is appropriate for our poorest citizens, especially poor children, the disabled, and the elderly, but aid should be limited to those who truly need it, not to those who play the system. (Full disclosure: I have both used this safety net and paid into it.)

2. Conservatives believe health care is better when it’s run by private entities. When we think of government bureaucracy, we automatically think “big, slow, uncaring, and inefficient.” Is that really how we want our health care to be? Isn’t it better if it’s cutting edge, innovative, and efficient? Privatization and a profit motive do that; government-run does just the opposite. How else did America’s health care become the best in the world, so that people come here from all over the globe to access it? Americans aren’t rushing to Canada to get health care, but Canadians (living under universal managed health care) are certainly coming here when they can’t get the procedures they need.

Compare the quality of our health care to government-run health care in other Western nations, and we come out ahead, especially in terms of innovation. And … most of our citizens do have access to the health care they need, and that was true before the ineffective and inaptly named unaffordable ACA took effect.

3. Just like liberals, I believe higher education should be affordable. But we don’t need to push everyone in high school toward a college education that may end up being completely useless to them (I’m speaking as someone who values education — I have a doctorate in organizational psychology). For those who don’t want to attend college, provide the opportunity to attend more affordable vocational/trade schools and or the option to learn how to finance and run their own businesses. Even better, make vocational and business education part of our high schools again (it was when I was a teen).

Also, return to a manageable (rather than inflated) minimum wage so that businesses can hire teens to do some of their work (while they’re still being supported by their parents), gaining valuable experience while they’re learning new work skills and how to be responsible in a job.

And let parents have school choice vouchers so they can take their children out of poorly performing schools. Competition pushes schools to do better, and local school governance also makes them more accountable to parents and the local community, which is why charter schools perform better than district-run schools. The only ones benefiting from the way many schools are run now are the teacher’s unions (I’m not talking about individual teachers) and school bureaucrats; our kids and grandkids sure aren’t.

4. Conservatives are quite clear that they don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. Yet liberals who talk about the rich not “paying their fair share” don’t understand our progressive tax system under which the top earners already pay the majority of all tax revenues collected.

And, as a former liberal, I’ll never forget the first time someone pointed out to me that it’s the rich who create the jobs that we need; somehow I had never considered that before. The rich are often rich because of hard work and their willingness to take risks with their time and money. And the rich are the entrepreneurs and innovators who have invented or brought to market things that make our lives better, including some pretty amazing technologies in the last century.

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5. I’m against paying higher taxes, because smaller government means more freedom. I’m not especially fond of the word “capitalism.” I prefer the idea of a “free market economy.” Lower taxes create a more vigorous economy, because entrepreneurs, investors, and business people are more willing to put that extra non-taxed money back into their businesses, which means back into the economy and into creating additional jobs.

And, since many employers offer health care, that means more people will have better quality health care and coverage through employee plans than they would if we went to government-managed health care.

People who run businesses do so because they want to be successful and prosperous, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want you to succeed as well; they do. I don’t know any conservatives who actually want people to be poor; in fact, most would be happiest to see everyone doing well. Most are kind and generous people who give regularly to charity; in fact, conservative households, which earn less than liberal households on average, give more to charity than liberal households do. There will always be a few bad apples, but most conservatives are not the rich, greedy fat cats liberals would like you to believe they are.

6. Companies who are taxed fairly and want to compete for the best employees will pay their employees a decent, livable wage and benefits. Somehow, wanting a smaller, more reasonable minimum wage is always interpreted as conservatives wanting to see more homeless on the streets or to give business owners the chance to line their own pockets at the expense of their workers. What it actually means is that I’d like to give unskilled workers a chance to learn skills on the job without paying them at a rate equal to those who have already learned valuable skills or who have expended the effort and money to attain a higher education. This means business owners will also be able to hire teens and younger workers who need the experience so that later in their lives they can advance to better-paying jobs.

If the goal is to make everyone equal in terms of wealth, that’s a utopian myth that will never happen. Why? Because people are different; they have different wants, needs, talents, abilities, and motivations. You can’t make an inherently unequal playing field completely equal. You can make it more fair, yes, and that’s what we should strive for.

7. I’m an evangelical Christian, but despite what liberals might believe, I don’t support a theocratic government. I have no desire to force everyone in our nation to become a Christian or to force them to participate in Christian prayers at school or to live by Christian “rules.” The Handmaid’s Tale horrifies me as much as it does you.

There are such things as Judeo-Christian values upon which this country was founded, but those are based on basic human decency, like not stealing, not murdering someone, fair weights and measures, and the same rule of law for everyone no matter their religion, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

All I ask is that everyone recognize *my* right to live according to *my* beliefs. When I get angry that a politician is trying to legislate their humanism or their atheism into law, I’m only upset that they’re trying to take away my ability to worship the God of my choosing. Don’t take away my religious freedom in the name of your desire to live free from any religious beliefs at all.

Plus, including a religious emblem or monument in a public arena, such as a cross in a city logo or the Ten Commandments inscribed on a government building, only recognizes the Judeo-Christian history of our country. It’s a logo, statue, or a monument that you can choose to look at or not, not an imposition of my religious values on your way of life.

8. Conservatives don’t believe LGBTQ people should have fewer rights than anyone. It’s true that religious conservatives tend to believe in traditional marriage and that sexuality belongs within the confines of marriage.

At the same time, most conservatives believe people should be treated with respect and equality under the law no matter their sexual orientation. I’ll repeat: Everyone should be treated fairly under the law and with all dignity due to any human being. People who do otherwise are acting out of ignorance or hatred, and they’re wrong. And if they act out their wrong beliefs and hurt someone, that also makes them evil.

9. Conservatives don’t believe in discriminating against immigrants; we do believe that immigrants should come to America legally. Controlling our borders and determining who can or cannot become a citizen is the right of any sovereign nation, including ours. Immigration reform is called for, but it should be common sense. And people who make accusations against the current administration, such as children in cages at the border, should understand that those practices were started under the previous administration. Conservatives don’t want kids in cages or family separation any more than liberals do.

Yet, instead of calling for ridiculous measures such as the abolition of ICE and other agencies designed to protect our borders, let’s take an honest look (rather than slinging unfounded accusations) and figure out, in a bipartisan effort at compromise, how to design and implement true and beneficial immigration reform.

10. Conservatives don’t believe in abolishing all regulations; we do need some, human nature being what it is. But there are too many government agencies run by unelected bureaucrats (such as those issued through federal agencies), meaning that regulations are often, in effect, unenacted laws, which in turn means the people over whom they have sway have had no say so whatsoever in their creation. We are supposed to be a nation whose governments (federal, state, and local) represent and serve the people. And who holds the bureaucrats who wrote the regulations accountable? Usually no one.

People who are affected by those regulations often have no recourse to fight against them if they feel the regulations are unreasonable or overbearing (just ask any small business owner in a heavily regulated city). Put the power back where it belongs: in the legislatures and local governments that have been elected to enact laws for the people they represent.

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11. The answer to this question has taken some thought and study, and I don’t take my conclusions lightly. Taking into account the number and variety of criticisms raised, I do not believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I especially like them, but because, as someone with a background in journalism, I’ve seen a significant portion of our media and quite a few liberal politicians repeatedly misrepresent certain situations and remarks.

Let’s look at Charlottesville. You can absolutely criticize the President for approving of peaceful protesters who didn’t want to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. You can’t criticize him for approving of the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists that were there, because he did exactly the opposite: he condemned them. This administration has clearly denounced white supremacy and white supremacist organizations (see my references for specific examples). The President often deserves criticism, but not that one.

I have also considered what fascists did historically. They wanted totalitarian government control over people and the economy (some sources leave out economic control, others include it, but all agree they wanted totalitarian control over people).

True fascists likely would have used the coronavirus pandemic to take more control. Instead, the current administration followed the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The federal government offered help when asked for (in terms of PPE, ventilators, and medical and economic aid), but it left the coronavirus response to the governors of our 50 states. The current administration seeks less government control, lower taxes, and fewer regulations.

Furthermore, Hitlerian fascists were social Darwinists, believed in eugenics (“controlled selective breeding of human populations”), and restricted religious freedom. The current administration doesn’t even come close to holding those views. I may not be a fan of much of the President’s rhetoric, but neither do I see evidence that his administration is facist or racist, nor are they implementing fascist or racist policies.

Finally, I will shout out from the rooftops my condemnation of any kind of totalitarianism, no matter from which side it comes.

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12. Contrary to popular liberal belief, conservatives are not racists. My life provides a prime example: All of my conservative friends, including my Southern pals (even the one from Alabama), accepted me and my interracial family. That is one of the factors leading me to believe that the narrative about systemic racism in our society is exaggerated, often in order to deliberately cause further division, especially in presidential election years.

There is such a thing as privilege, but it has far more to do with wealth, class, health, temperament, abilities, family background, and personal decisions than it does with race. Sadly, people feel marginalized not because they have truly experienced systemic racism (though I know that many have experienced individual incidents of racism), but because much of our media is influencing them to feel that way by pushing a false narrative.

One aspect of that narrative is that the police are systematically hunting down unarmed blacks and killing them. The statistics just don’t bear out systematic police brutality against blacks; nor are all of the disparities between whites and blacks explained by racism. There are other factors at work in these situations, and we can and should talk about that and work on reforms (without rioting and looting).

Our country has a racist past with slavery and Jim Crow in the South, and individual racism still exists. But our country also has a history of fighting against those things and of overcoming many of them. As he was running for President, Barack Obama agreed. When asked if being black would prevent him from being President, he said, “I think if I don’t win this race it will be because of other factors.” He also said the Civil Rights Movement had done its job well: “The previous generation, the Moses generation pointed the way. They took us 90% of the way there.” Agreed. That’s still true.

We would all benefit by listening to each other — both sides have something to learn. Racial reconciliation won’t happen unless there’s a dialogue, which means that we all need to take the time to understand each other’s point of view.

13. Conservatives are open to common-sense gun law reform as long as it protects our freedoms under the Second Amendment. We abhor mass shootings just as much as liberals do, but taking away people’s guns will mean that only the criminals will have them, which makes us all less safe.

14. I believe in being polite, and I’ve done my best my entire life to treat people with as much respect as possible, but political correctness has gone overboard. If you ask me to call you by a name other than your birth name, I’m happy to do so. But if you want to change the English language and ask that I use made-up pronouns that I’m completely unfamiliar with, I may not be able to comply. I’ll do my best to be kind and polite at all times, but not if your request goes against my basic values or beliefs.

It’s sometimes hard to keep up with the latest in PC terminology. Don’t get mad if someone messes up. Most people really are trying to be as polite as possible. Perhaps you can be just as polite to people who “make mistakes” with their language as you expect them to be to you. It’s also important to be careful that we’re not stepping into Orwellian territory with language “requirements.” And legislating hate speech is not only Orwellian, it’s unconstitutional. Freedom of speech benefits us all.

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15. Conservatives believe in protecting the environment in common sense ways. I also want clean air and water and a beautiful environment to pass along to my kids, grandkids, and other generations to come.

Yet — did you know that wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of birds every year, including protected species? Did you know that solar panels only work for so many years before they wear out and need to be replaced? What happens to them when they have to be taken down — where are they discarded, and how does that impact the environment, including our ground water? Did you know that many of our recyclables (the ones I sort, clean, and deposit in my recycle bins every week) never actually get recycled?

We should be asking and answering those questions too.

16. As a woman, I believe that women should NOT be treated as a separate class of human. We should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men, and should be free from abuse. What woman would want otherwise? Do you actually think conservative women want to be abused by the men in their lives? Do you think we want to earn less than men for doing the same work? Think again.

Yet women often make different choices from men that affect their earning power. When you take away those differences, statistics show that women with the same skill sets and who make the same choices as men already do earn the same as men do, sometimes more. Conservative women also believe in elevating rather than denigrating the profession of motherhood and recognizing that raising decent human beings is the most important job on earth.

To conclude, there are a few more things I could say, but I’ll stick to answering the issues raised in the open letter I’m answering. The bottom line is that I’m a conservative because it’s informed by my faith in God, which in turn informs my belief in the worth of every human soul. I also think people do better and society benefits when we all strive to live responsibly. Don’t you?

The irony is that being a conservative in today’s world means upholding the truly liberal values of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equal treatment under the law. The rights we hold dear are those that allow us all to retain our liberty and pursue happiness.

— Dr. Deborah Thompson-Jackson

References

NOTE: A truly fair reference list would include a mix of those from liberal and conservative sources (since it’s difficult to find any that are truly unbiased). That’s what you’ll find here.

Andersson, H. (2007, October 15). Panorama: Transcript — Is America Ready for a Black President? [Television broadcast]. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/panorama/7050596.stm

BBC. (n.d.). The Nazis’ Racial and Religious Policy. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zqsj9qt/revision/2

curmilus.wordpress.com. (2020, January 29). I’m a Liberal, but That Doesn’t Mean What a Lot of You Apparently Think It Does. Retrieved from https://curmilus.wordpress.com/2020/01/29/im-a-liberal-but-that-doesnt-mean-what-a-lot-of-you-apparently-think-it-does/

History.com (Eds.). (2018, August 21. Social Darwinism. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/social-darwinism

McDonald, H. (2020, July 3). There Is No Epidemic of Fatal Police Shootings Against Unarmed Black Americans. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/07/03/police-black-killings-homicide-rates-race-injustice-column/3235072001/

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Eugenics. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eugenics

Morgan, B. (2019, March 12). Healthcare Innovation — 10 Recent Examples of Powerful Innovation in Healthcare. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2019/03/12/healthcare-innovation-10-recent-examples-of-powerful-innovation-in-healthcare/#29f540d457dc

Philanthropy Round Table. (n.d.). Statistics on U. S. Generosity. Retrieved from https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/almanac/statistics/u.s.-generosity

Ridic, G., Gleason,S., & Ridic, O. (2012). Comparisons of Health Care Systems in the United States, Germany and Canada. Mater Sociomed, 24(2): 112–120. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633404/

Sarokin, D. (2019, May 8). Government Regulations in a Business. Retrieved from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/government-regulations-business-2964.html

Sowell, T. (2014, April 15). Statistical Frauds (The “war on women” political slogan is in fact a war against common sense). Retrieved from https://www.creators.com/read/thomas-sowell/04/14/statistical-frauds

Tapp, F. (2017, June 29). Why Canadians Are Increasingly Seeking Medical Treatment Abroad. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/canadian-medical-tourism_n_5949b405e4b0db570d3778ff

Wikipedia. (2020). Fascism. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

Remarks of and about the President on race (in chronological order):

Scott, E. (2016, March 3). Trump Denounces David Duke. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/03/politics/donald-trump-disavows-david-duke-kkk/index.html “David Duke is a bad person, who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I disavowed him. I disavowed the KKK,” Trump added.

Los Angeles Times. (2017, August 15). Read the Complete Transcript of President Trump’s Remarks at Trump Tower on Charlottesville. Retrieved from: https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-charlottesville-transcript-20170815-story.html “But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. … You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name … And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”

Fox News. (2020, June 5). Mainstream Media Falsely Frames Trump’s ‘Great Day’ George Floyd Remarks on Jobs Report Instead of Equality Under Law. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/media/mainstream-media-trumps-great-day-george-floyd-remarks “Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender, or creed … They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement. They have to receive it. We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen.”

WhiteHouse.gov. (2020, July 4). Remarks by President Trump at South Dakota’s 2020 Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration | Keystone, South Dakota. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-south-dakotas-2020-mount-rushmore-fireworks-celebration-keystone-south-dakota/ “We believe in equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal treatment for citizens of every race, background, religion, and creed.”

Bumbaca, C. (2020, August 25). Herschel Walker Defends President at RNC: ‘I’ve Seen Racism Up Close … It Isn’t Donald Trump.’ Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2020/08/25/herschel-walker-donald-trump-republican-national-convention/5630806002/ Herschel Walker: “I take that as a personal insult, that people would think I’ve had a 37-year friendship with a racist … People don’t know what they’re talking about. Growing up in the deep South, I’ve seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump.”

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