Free Liberal or Eco-Conservative? That is the question.
The Democrats are descending into socialism. The Republicans are flirting with fascism. Congress has become a dysfunctional food fight. These are dangerous times for civility and democracy. We need an alternative and fast.
Some of my longtime friends say we need to revive the original meaning of Liberal. Recently, a member of the Holistic Politics discussion group suggested a Free Liberal Party. The idea has merit; I bought the freeliberal.org domain years ago for this possibility. I have a book fermenting in the back of my brain on the subject of mixing classical liberal economics with reducing inequality.
On the other hand, there are quite a few Never Trumpers in the Republican Establishment. They are politically homeless, but still powerful and knowledgeable on the inner workings of government. They need new allies in order to regain real power. Trump and the ghost of the Reform Party took away their blue collar allies.
A conservative version of the Green Party might work. Once upon a time the Republican Party was the part for environmentalists. Recall Theodore Roosevelt. Think of the old conservation societies that conserved nature for hunting purposes. Think of country clubs, long the biggest users of electric vehicles. An Eco Conservative alliance is very natural.
And without such an alliance, conservatives may become an endangered species. The political Right has depended on the old folks vote, on people who will be dead before global warming become a real problem. The younger generations have reason to be concerned about the future, whether we are talking carbon dioxide buildup or chronic fiscal deficits.
So, Which Should it Be?
Though I bought the freeliberal.org domain years ago, and once helped distribute a free newspaper called The Free Liberal, I grow leery of the Liberal brand. I have learned the hard way that words have very sticky connotations. While the truly educated and those from across The Pond know the original meaning of Liberal, for the masses, the word connotes Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, an alphabet soup of government programs, and agonizing quantities of bureaucratic paperwork. And for egalitarians in the potential target market, the word is said with a snarl, with the prefix “neo.”
I think an Upper Left coalition would do better with a different name. I have one in mind that is a bit ugly, but has clear connotations.
Of course Eco-Conservative is also problematic. Conservatives don’t like Eco- and cool young people instinctively flinch at “Conservative.” So I wouldn’t use this name either — except as a generic placeholder. (I have a much better name in mind, but haven’t bought the domains yet.)
The better question is: Which coalition?
Historically, I had pleasant experiences pitching the freedom-equality alliance idea. During my Asheville days I spent many a pleasant hour quaffing beers with progressives who considered the Clintons to be right wingers. I have written articles for lefty sites like Oped News with decent responses. The aforementioned Free Liberal was well received in the lefty coffee shops we distributed it to.
But those where the days when the far Left was against Hate and into Consciousness and yoga. Today, the far Left is into actively hating “Hate,” and they study Modern Indignation Studies instead of advanced anger management. The mavens in the movement see the danger of a liberalitarian alliance and are responding viciously with a wide assortment of strawman attacks and name calling worthy of The Donald.
I have become less hopeful on the prospect of building a new Upper Left coalition.
But I could be wrong. Maybe the Democrats are due for a split. Maybe a Never Bernie faction will walk out as the Cultural Marxists take over their party. Being a heterosexual white male Democrat is becoming as awkward as being a black Republican. I could envision the remainder of the New Democrats (people like Bill Clinton and Al Gore) walking out and joining a new coalition if the identity politics faction gets yet more traction.
Then again, I could see Al Gore joining an Eco-Conservative alliance. He was rather conservative back in the day.
The ugliness I see coming from the Left today is what I used to get from many conservatives. Upon hearing certain libertarian positions, I got variations of “You just want to smoke weed” or “You toke, therefore you are stupid.”
Today, many conservatives are much cooler with the idea of drug legalization. And now it is the Right, including the Christian Right, that is on the defensive and is thus in favor of freedom of speech and association. The environmental bits are a harder sell.
But I suspect much of the global warming denial on the Right is more teamism than natural inclination. Let the oil companies and the anti-intellectuals keep the Republican Party, there many tens of millions of people from the original Republican base who are ripe for an Eco-Conservative message, with a bit of reasonable libertarianism mixed in. leaning.
Go back almost century, and recall the demographics and sense of life of the Republicans of the day. The Republicans were the blue bloods, the mainline Protestants, the prosperous city dwellers, the preservationists, the classical music listeners — the sort of people who watch PBS and listen to NPR today. They were also the party of the well educated, not the party of science denial.
They were also the anti racist party. The first nonwhite in the presidential succession was a Republican (Charles Curtis, Vice President under Hoover).
They were also the party of peace back in the 20s. Recall the Kellogg Briand Pact.
That Grand Old Party is long gone. Today’s Republican Party is a mix of Know-Nothings and Southern Democrats.
There is plenty to build on besides the Never Trumpers. Many in the original Republican base left long before The Donald came on the scene.
Admitting my Personal Biases
When I was on vacation a week ago, I weighed the tradeoffs between Upper Left and Eco Conservative while listening to the waves. I got lots of plusses and minuses when contemplating Upper Left. I got nearly all plusses when weighing the possibility of an Eco Conservative alliance.
But I was factoring in personal factors as well as overall viability.
- My first exposure to libertarian ideas was the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis was a free will Christian, an ethical hedonist, and deeply appreciated nature as God created it.
- I am a Christian. There is an anti-Christian vibe in the Libertarian Party that I expect would carry over to a party based on any variant of the word Liberal, or even themed on equality.
- I am a cis gendered white male who pegs out the WASP meter. Some of my ancestors arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s. My great great grandfather was a friend of Robert E. Lee. In the taxonomies of today’s lefty identity politics, I am an a priori supervillain.
- I am a nerd with a sense of humor. Odds of getting into trouble with today’s egalitarians is 100%, even when I am trying to help.
- I am a father, a homeschooler, a scientist, and a consumer of organic foods when available. I am very much a member of the Eco-Conservative target market.
- While I frequently curse what government regulations have done to automobiles and appliances, I also love tinkering with eco-technology.
So yes, my personal biases affect my inclination.
Which is why I’d like to hear from others. Which alliance do you consider more viable? More useful? Please comment below or on the Facebook discussion board.