“Do we run to win or run to do what is right?” : the Fundamental Difference between Conservatives and Liberals

Today (1/4/17) on Chris Matthews’ Hardball, Chris pointed out how Mitch McConnell was acting morally outraged over Chuck Schumer’s suggestion that the Democrats stand up to incoming President Trump’s nominees for filling the Supreme Court vacancy. McConnell said that, “the American people will not tolerate politicians blocking a Supreme Court nominee.” Chris’ guest laughed, commenting that the American people do stand for it—they just did. Chris Matthews agreed, adding that the GOP never paid a price for it and noting that opposing the other side no matter what seems to be OK with the American people.

Here’s what I say. Putting aside the fact that Schumer was being misquoted—he never said that the Democrats should oppose every nomination Trump proposes, only those on the far-right—I disagree. Hypothetically, if the Democrats were to actually mimic and adopt the policy that the GOP employed against the Democrats, it would not work for them. McConnell is correct: the American people would not stand for it—if the Democrats adopted such a hyper-partisan tactic. This begs the question: how is it that the Republicans can get away with such a strategy, but not the Democrats? Well, in my opinion, the answer is very obvious. The Republican Party is primarily composed of conservatives, whereas the Democratic Party is primarily composed of liberals. Conservatives and liberals are very different from each other. They see the world from different perspectives, and they have different priorities and values. And here is one of the biggest differences between the two of them: liberals tend to think in terms of what is right or wrong. They ask what is just and what is unjust? They are forever concerned about matters of ethics. Conservatives, in contrast, generally think in terms of winning and losing. In other words, when their side adopts a tactic of complete and total partisanship, such as opposing Obama literally whatever he says or does, the country reacts to this in a divided manner. Democrats/liberals decry this as unjust, whereas Republican/conservatives cheer the tactic, so long as it is effective in harming Obama’s presidency. As was the case. Indeed, the Republicans paid no price for adopting such a cynical, negative philosophy, because their side was in total agreement. Now, hypothetically, imagine that the Democrats were to attempt the same maneuver: oppose President Trump, no matter what he says or does. In such a case, the strategy would meet with outrage and opposition from both sides: Republican/conservatives would call this unfair and obstructionist, whereas Democrat/liberals would likewise cry foul because they would see this as “adopting the methods of the enemy.” Note that Republicans would never see themselves as being hypocritical about decrying the other side for adopting the very same strategy that they themselves formerly used, and used without shame. They would never see this as hypocrisy, because they would see it this way: we used a “good” strategy (good because it benefited themselves), whereas now the enemy is using a “bad” strategy (bad because of the moral dubiousness of such a maneuver). In other words, “cheating” is defined as whenever the other side uses dishonest methods. The concept of “we cheated” is kind of an oxymoron—it is not plausible, could never happen. Only they can cheat, by definition.

I came to recognize this distinction long ago. Republicans and conservatives are always angry, because they forever see the other side as being guilty of cheating. They are, to a degree, incapable of seeing themselves of ever being likewise guilty; rather, they forever and constantly see themselves as the victims of cheating (a belief-system they have confirmed and re-confirmed for themselves daily by watching Fox News). Democrats and liberals, by contrast, are forever conflicted. Some (who are more Democrat and less liberal, or maybe not liberal at all) want to fight back, and hard, and by whatever means necessary. “If the GOP are going to attack without pause, and lie about us, and misrepresent everything we say and do, then we should do the same to them,” or so they argue. Others (less Democrat and more liberal) refuse to go that route, to the extent that they threaten (and earnestly so) to leave the party should the Democrats ever sink to that level. It’s the age-old question: Do the ends justify the means?. For Republicans, the answer is pretty much always: “of course!” (except for liberal Republicans—oh, wait, I forgot, they do not exist anymore). To Democrats, the answer is elusive, and complicated, but generally “no.” Democrats have to grapple with the moral dilemma of Do we run to win or run to do what is right? This results in the Democrats being divided and chaotic, whereas the other side has no such sense of moral dilemma. And so it goes, every election in America—and more. Indeed, throughout the history of the world, everywhere and at all time periods: conservatives benefit from their amoral perspective of “us vs. them,” whereas liberals are limited by their own sense of altruism. This is why we have the saying, “Good guys finish last.” And this is why Republicans usually win the vote, and why we have Republicans dominating offices throughout the country, even when their policies only favor the top 1%.

And this is perhaps the prime reason why I am so disgusted with our Beltway Media. I have, for about 20 years now, regarded most of the people on Cable who bring us the news (which, today, means “commentary” more than “news”) as being little better than morons. These people are utterly incapable of seeing what I have seen throughout my life: that the difference between “liberal” and “conservative” is in large part a matter of how people think, not simply what they think. For decades, conservatives have been counting on the Media to not call them out for their distinct and cynical methodology—and our vacuous, poll-driven, Corporate Media has totally complied. Both sides are guilty of “political disingenuousness” contend the talking heads in the Media—and equally guilty. This misguided sense of moral equivalency has the effect of rewarding the bad, and punishing the good. The party that puts self-interest ahead of country has forever been rewarded, while the party that puts country ahead of self-interest has forever been punished. And very few people see it.