One more thing about being conservative

It’s Election Day. I submitted a written ballot a few days ago, but today I’m celebrating participating in my first election ever. Between living abroad and changing citizenships I’ve just never felt comfortable voting before. But this post — a brief post, like mmiles’ — is to highlight a small but significant distinction that maybe we ought to remember more often. It is simply to say that people can be politically conservative but religiously/socially quite liberal on a personal level. Similarly, someone that votes along liberal political lines might be very conservative in their religious/social practices. The easy platforms of mainstream political parties make us think in binary terms. As it turns out, humans are complex creatures capable of nuance. When we talk sloppily about “conservatives” and “liberals” we do ourselves a disservice — better for us to address each other as individuals and to eschew simplistic ways of viewing each other.


  1. …of course, it’s quicker and easier to use labels, so I guess we could just stick with those.

  2. I just wish we’d employ labels that more accurately capture both our political/economic and religious orientations: Liahonahayekian, Neo-Sunstonercon, Iron Rodkeynesian, and TBM-Socialist would be a good start.

  3. Natalie B. says:

    I agree with the critique 100%. But it would take so much effort to actually think about what I mean to express :)

  4. I prefer “right” and “wrong.”

    You never voted in Canada, Steve? Wow. Loser.

  5. Ronan, at 18 I went to BYU and only came home in summertime. By that point I was disconnected from issues at home and didn’t feel entitled to vote in absentia.

  6. I prefer “right” and “wrong.”

    You’d make a damn good Yankee.

  7. I made a comment on a blog awhile back about not liking labels and not really understanding how anyone would want to be labeled as any one thing…I mean are there really people out there who agree totally with one party? Blows my mind…And I was told I was being immature.


  8. Liahonahayekian = a libertarian-leaning, market-trusting, quasi-progressive Mormon. In other words, Scott B.

    Neo-Sunstonercon = a believer in strong institutional/governmental actions to promote the values of Mormon dissidents abroad. In other words, Kristine Haglund.

    Iron Rodkeynesian = one who embraces redistributive, top-down economic planning on behalf of faithful adherence to the prophets. In other words, Adam Greenwood.

    TBM-Socialist = a believer in socialist reforms as part spreading the Gospel According to Provo. In other words, no one I know.

  9. Susan, quit being so naive.

    No really, if that’s immature, then I join you in that because I’m uncomfortable being labeled as anything. I defy even RAF to shoehorn my political/social/religious/philosophical beliefs into even the most hybridized existing label.

    What that also means, though, is that I never completely agree with anyone and I can never run for office. Such is life.

    But even the political candidates can’t really be pingeonholed as neatly as we think. Unfortunately, they have to appeal to their most faithful political base in order to get elected, so they create the illusion that they fit the prototypical “conservative” or “liberal” stereotype. It’s rarely as simple as that, however.

    Personally, I would rather that people were honest about their convictions, but in the political arena convictions only matter if politicians vote their convictions. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case.

  10. StillConfused says:

    I am a political eunuch. I guess I am a conservative or libertarian or whatever it is called when you want less regulations and have a gun. But even that seems like too much effort to have to say. My new husband and his son are all reading the voter information packet. Seriously? People read those things? Wow.

    Religiously, I am not that different either. I really don’t care what you do as long as I don’t have to be bothered with it. If you want to be a pr0n reading, smoking, drinking LDS, as long as you don’t bother me, I don’t really care.

  11. Peter LLC says:

    I blame the single-member district. Here on the continent with our superior proportional representation systems we don’t have the labeling problems you Yanks have.

  12. Nobody likes to think that they can be labeled. But we can all be labeled, pretty accurately, without too much difficulty.

  13. Steve, for instance, is a chowderhead.

  14. TBM-Socialist = a believer in socialist reforms as part spreading the Gospel According to Provo. In other words, no one I know.

    Nibley? And many of his left leaning devotees? I knew quite a few. More interesting were the many conservative devotees who seemed as often as not be Ayn Rand fans. I never did figure out how they reconciled that.

  15. #10 I HAVE to read the voter pamphlet. The arguments for and against are blatant lies, and I dont want to vote according to who has more campaign monies. Read it for yourself and vote. As long as you vote! and hopefully not by randomness…

  16. The problem with labels is just as you describe, Steve. When it comes to politics and religion, the labels tell us much less about the object than the label on a can of cream of mushroom soup. Labels imply a cachet of certitude. In reality, I’m usually confused by my crippling ability to see both sides of just about any argument. When I debated in college, I could argue either side of a complex question with equal fervor. These days, I can barely muster up enough commitment to even disagree with myself.

    Heading home now to watch the election returns, and numb myself with leftover Halloween candy.

  17. Congrats on your first election Steve. Wear that “I voted” sticker with pride.

  18. I want to join the Chowderhead Party.

  19. I move that the official motto of the Chowderhead Party should be “Mind your own business”.

  20. #18: or as we say here in Seattle, “Keep Clam.” ;)

  21. I vote for Steve as the chair of the Chowder is Too Damn Expensive party.

  22. StillConfused says:

    #18. I would gladly join any party that had that motto

  23. For a long time, both parties used the term “right-wing” to describe the right wing of the Republican Party, generally considered to be way, way out of the mainstream. Today, it has no meaning because all Republicans are “right wing” and boast of being so. The term “liberal” also has no meaning, because conservatives use it as a pejorative to describe anyone they don’t like. We could come up with some new terms, but none will fit Democrats since they are such a fractious bunch you can’t fairly lump them all in one bucket. Frankly, I prefer soup cans, too.

  24. One problem with being more specific in labeling individuals is that they change. Harry Reid was a moderate to conservative Democrat in most things (pro-Life, etc), until he was offered the Majority Leader position. Either he had a major life changing experience, or he sold his soul to Satan (aka Nancy Pelosi.)

    Perhaps he can now return to more moderate attitudes and actions?

    How many of Gingrich’s Contract with America Congresspersons ended up breaking the contract by staying in office and gutting the American economy under GWBush?

  25. “If all men were, and are and ever would be like Moroni, Nancy Pelosi would have no power”

    ya I can imagine people saying that…and that makes me glad I live in Texas.

    Labels can be troubling. I like fiscal conservatives…but in other things I’m all over the map-is there a well traveled but cheap party?

  26. So . . . where do the Chowderheads lie on the gun control issue?

    Oh, “mind [my] own business”. Sorry, my bad.

  27. I’m an Anti-DemoRepublicaterian-achist

  28. Glenn Smith says:

    So, Steve, how did you “change” citizenship – lose one kind to acquire another???? I’m sure on a trip ‘home’ , my friends at Canada Border Services Agency (Customs) would be happy to recognize your Canuck-iness.

    (from a father of seven dual citizens)

  29. Steve Evans says:

    Glenn, don’t I know it!! I keep that passport handy.

  30. Steve —

    Beyond your distinction between personal and political practices, even within the political categories there are important distinctions which tend to get smothered by our two party system. Certainly the “Tea Party” (broadly defined to include its supporters as well as its participants) represents a conservative/libertarian alliance which depends on emphasizing economic over social issues. And “progressives” or “liberals” (whatever the name du jour is) can run across a broad range, from adamant anti-business social democrats to those seeking only a very minimal group of limited government social benefits, from the most intense opponents of any speech they deem offensive to minorities to hardcore civil libertarians, etc. As a specific example, look at the intensity of the opposition to the health care reform from many on the left (the “Health Insurance Industry Enrichment Act” as one progressive blogger called it) compared to the descriptions of its wonders and benefits by its congressional Democratic supporters.

  31. Steve Evans says:

    Jim, absolutely. The labels are only unified in their unhelpfulness.

%d bloggers like this: