How to Quantify My Politics

I’ve been giving some thought lately to how I can quantify and/or explain my political views in a short, pithy, simple way. I keep coming up short. What’s most annoying is that I’ve been trying to do this with only limited success since I first started paying real attention to politics, some time around 1997 or 1998. Originally I called myself a ‘moderate Republican.’ This gave way to something like ‘libertarian Republican’ [note the small-L].

In 2000, I first began to really identify myself as an independent since I found that I was in disagreement with a lot of ‘Republican’ policy stances and calling myself a Republican wasn’t really accurate. I didn’t really have any good qualifiers so I just said I was independent. When prodded, I would give an explanation like, “I disagree with Democrats 80 percent of the time and Republicans 60 percent of the time, so I generally vote Republican.” This was both an oversimplification and an exaggeration, but it got the point across. It’s still somewhat accurate.

At some point, in desperation for a 1- or 2-word statement on my politics, I began calling myself a ‘conservative independent’ and this stuck. This is what showed on the ‘about’ page of this web site for many, many years . . . but it never felt totally right. It wasn’t that it was wrong, it just seemed like it lacked clarity. It says I’m somewhere center-right, which is true, but doesn’t really explain what I’m center on, what I’m right on, or, for that matter, what I might be left on! At some point ‘conservative independent’ gave way to the equally obtuse ‘independent conservative,’ reflecting a slightly more pronounced rightward slant (though certainly no sea-change).

I still struggle with this constantly, especially when I’m working on website updates and start reviewing my about pages to see if they need updates. I always get stuck on this line. I can state my religion in three words: “Christian (Roman Catholic).” Why can’t I do the same with my politics?

There is no political party out there right now that reflects my political views. When I talk about capital punishment, poverty, education, civil rights, and free speech I sound an awful lot like a Democrat (though I don’t necessarily support the specific Democratic policies for dealing with these issues). When I talk about foreign policy, freedom of conscience/religion, gun rights, the right to life, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution I sound like a Republican (though, once again, I don’t always agree with the specific Republican policies). When I talk about gay marriage, pornography, divorce, and so on—things I abhor for moral and religious reasons but don’t necessarily think are any of the government’s business (and certainly not the federal government’s business)—I sound a lot like a live-and-let-live Libertarian.

I think that health care should be made available to all, possibly through the government, but like police, fire, education, and highways it should be provided by the states, not the feds (after all, each state is different). I think that in a globalized world, it’s more important than ever that there be an actor on the world stage opposing—with military force, if necessary—radical Islam and belligerent states like North Korea. I believe that in the absence of a properly functioning United Nations, it might as well be us. I think that free trade is good for everybody, and we need to compete with the world instead of closing ourselves off to it with economic protectionism.

I think that morality is my business, and if the state/feds get into the business of enforcing moral norms it’s only a matter of time before they’re enforcing the wrong moral norms. As such I don’t want the government to have the authority to legislate on sex, marriage, or procreation except to provide the most basic of universal moral guidelines: sex/marriage must be wholly consensual between adults, and human beings with unique human DNA (even in-utero) cannot be murdered for the convenience of their hosts. Beyond that, it’s up to the religious groups and individuals.

I think that government is best when it does as little as possible. I think that when government tries to regulate things, it makes them worse much more often than it makes them better. I think that free speech applies to television and radio, and broadcast indecency regulations are unconstitutional. I think HOV lanes are unconstitutional too, since they treat users of the highway in an unequal fashion (violation of the Fourteenth Amendment). I think campaign finance law is unconstitutional, since free speech includes letting people, organizations, and businesses speak with their money.

I think that we had sufficient justification for invading Iraq, but I also think it’s long past time to begin disengaging there and letting the Iraqi people rise (or fail to rise) to the challenges of making their own future. I think that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, while there have been egregious actions on both sides, mostly persists because of the Palestinians’ obstinate refusal to live in peace with their non-Muslim neighbors. I also think that Israel, in being asked to return captured and occupied Palestinian territory, is being asked to do something that no country has ever been asked to do before in the history of the world: return land it won in war after being invaded by its neighbors.

I think that U.S. citizens captured on U.S. soil for involvement with terrorist activities are entitled to full and complete access to the civilian court system of this country, and cannot and should not be tried under a military tribunal system. I think that enemy combatants captured overseas making war against the United States, however, are entitled to no such protection and can be tried in a tribunal system. I think that people should actually read the Geneva Conventions—specifically how they define a prisoner of war—before spouting off about whether the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay complies with its provisions. I think that torturing our captives, even if that torture gains us information that saves lives, is morally reprehensible even if it isn’t necessarily illegal.

I think that the Supreme Court shouldn’t make its rulings based on what it thinks is right, just, or best; its job is to read the plain text of the Constitution, read the laws, and apply them as fairly and accurately as possible. I think that our freedom of religion means that people can refuse to go against their faithful, moral convictions and that government has no authority to force you to do something you consider immoral. I think our freedom of religion, however, doesn’t mean a freedom from religion. Part of America is that our First Amendment exposes you to objectionable speech, writings, and ideas; it doesn’t protect you from them.

I think that sex-ed is something that parents should be teaching to their children; schools should cover the basic biology of it in biology class, and that is all. Parents are the only ones who can properly decide what their children should learn about sex, contraception, and so on—and they have every right to do so in accordance with their religious beliefs, or lack thereof. I think that science and religion are not, in any way, mutually exclusive. Presenting creationism as a legitimate theory about where the universe comes from does not preclude teaching the ‘big bang’ too, and leaving either of these ideas out of the discussion does a disservice to our children. I believe in nearly absolute access to information, even for children. Information is power. Parents have the responsibility to lay a moral groundwork in their children so that they can parse and understand information; our schools have a responsibility simply to provide as much information as possible.

I think that labor unions served a purpose initially, but are counterproductive today. I think that government workers (including public school teachers) answer to the taxpayers, not to their unions, and must be fired when they do not perform to acceptable standards. I think that education must be among the foremost of public policy priorities in the years to come, and that we must think outside of the box. I think that a nationwide network of voucher-funded private schools would likely serve our students better than the dysfunctional public school system we live with today.

I think that the government solved absolutely nothing by ‘investing’ billions upon billions of our tax dollars into failed financial and automotive firms, and I think that the government purchase of General Motors is as illegal as it is useless. The 50 billion dollars we gave to GM for no reason would have been better spent by sending a $161.50 check to each of the 309,597,000 people living here.

I think that higher taxes stymie economic development. I think that welfare and food stamps are necessary, but they are (and should be) a temporary aid not a permanent mechanism of support. I think that the Robin Hood ‘over-tax the rich, give freebies to the poor’ system of domestic policy is doomed for failure since, at some point, the rich will no longer have any incentive to build the companies that make them rich. I think companies and people are not each-others’ enemies; they are symbiotic. If we bankrupt companies with onerous taxation, restrictive government policies, and hyper-inflated wage requirements, then people get laid off and more people will be unemployed.

So what am I? I’m even a mess on the liberal vs. conservative scale. I align fairly closely with the ‘classical liberals’ and their laissez-faire economics, but eschew the socialistic bent of the modern liberal. I sympathize a lot with the ‘paleo-conservative’ ideals of embracing our ethnic and cultural heritage as a country, more localized government authority, and the importance of family, but reject their protectionism and borderline theocratic leanings. I think that the ‘neo-conservatives’ have a lot right on matters of foreign policy, but give too much power to the federal government and are too willing to play ‘fast and loose’ with the Bill of Rights.

I’m some sort of RepubLibertariCrat. Economically I’m a ‘classical liberal,’ morally I’m a ‘paleo-conservative,’ and in matters of foreign policy I’m a ‘neo-conservative.’ I can’t apply any one of these labels to me without some sort of caveat, since all of these groups are completely wrong about as many things as they’re right about.

So what do you think? You’ve slogged through this whole mess, and maybe you have a better idea than I do . . . I’ve spent about 1,700 words trying to describe my political views with little success; how would you sum it all up in a sentence or less?

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.