Saturday, November 11, 2006
Seems it has been an interesting week in American politics. Although nothing drastic will change the Democrats in office will at least be able to hold the Bush presidency in check. Perhaps they will also be able to make minor social reforms (such as raising the minimum wage) that Bush will be hard pressed to oppose.
Something noted in the media has been the rise of conservative Democrats - anti abortion, pro gun etc. I see little wrong in this. It is possible to be socially conservative while holding left or liberal economic policies, and the two are not inherently inconsistent. Likewise it is possible to be socially libertarian while being economically right wing (the Thatcherite Federation of Conservative Students springs to my mind). If anything the socially conservative conservatives look inconsistent at times, bemoaning the breakdown of the traditional family at the hands of economic forces they themselves support and prop up.
I myself am anti abortion, and will say that I will be glad if *pro choice* ceases to be a litmus test of one's liberal credentials, in this country as much as in the US. I can also say in all honesty that I have mixed feelings over the issue of gun control. In an essay on the atom bomb George Orwell commented that guns were a democratic weapon at the times of the democratic revolutions, empowering citizens rather than the State (adding that large weapons which are expensive to produce and the most destructive are undemocratic, the atom bomb being the prime and most obvious example). The American revolution was won with the help of firearms, and the right to hold them was a constitutional right, in theory giving the citizens the power to topple an oppressive government. It is therefore not surprising that it is a hot issue.
I have met communists who oppose gun control for similiar reasons to this.
However, when some conservative Democrats are also described as 'fiscally conservative' it does beg the question as to what the terms liberal and conservative restrospectively mean, and what views should be associated with the terms if they are not to become meaningless. Political parties need at least some distinct characteristics that differ them from their opponents.
However, in the United States there is a tradition of voting for 'the candidate and not the party'. This tradition that does not exist here. But with the two main parties losing their distinction it may yet come to pass. Perhaps it may be that politics will come to being led more by consensus of cross party special interest groups on single issues. If this is to be the case then it will have wide implications for the future, both for the left and the right. It has already been argued by some (the ex trotskyist Christopher Hitchens is one such example) that the old left/right categories have broken down. If the trend outlined is to continue this will become more noticable, at least in the famous 'centre ground'.