The Polite Liberal

An issues-only attempt to explain and defend political liberalism.


The Polite Liberal is the pseudonym of a "nontraditional" graduate student in mathematics (for nonacademics, "nontraditional," is a polite way of saying, "older than 25.") The Polite Liberal is an attempt to spur real policy debate, instead of partisan insults and conspiracy theories. Conservatives (and liberals, of course!) are welcome.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Welcome to the Polite Liberal

Well, for liberals it's six days late and a dollar short, but I've finally started a political blog.

Among the various postmortems of last week's election, two comments have begun to worry me deeply:

(1) Liberals are not explaining their positions adequately.

This is in some sense a structural problem. Over the years, we'd become incredibly reliant upon the shared memory of the Great Depression as both motivation and explanation for Liberalism. Now that the Great Depression is fading from living memory, we need to actually make the case for Liberalism from scratch. This blog will attempt to provide a clear, succinct, and up-to-date explanation of what Liberalism is and what Liberals believe. (Where disputes exist among Liberals, I'll explain my own position, then mention the others.)

(2) Liberals have become shrill.

Mr. Bush's positions are in many ways anathema to Liberals. That said, we have developed an unsavory habit of attacking the man himself instead of his positions. While the same could certainly be said of some conservatives with respect to Mr. Kerry, it's more of a problem for us because our positions have become so amorphous to so many. Voting for or against Mr. Bush on the basis of his conduct during the Vietnam War, for example, is ludicrous--he's been President for four years now. His policies, in my opinion, ought to have provided ample reason to vote him out of office; attacking the man personally confused the issue unnecessarily.

To avoid becoming just one more ranting, disaffected Liberal, I'll try to stick to the following rules of engagement:

(1) I will focus entirely on policy issues. There are plenty of blogs out there that cover the mechanics of politics better than I ever could, so I won't even try to mention campaign financing or tactics, or whether it's better to fillibuster nominees rather than simply voting against them, or the like.

(2) I will always refer to politicians formally: "Mr. Bush", for example, or "Ms. Boxer." This might seem a minor point, but in my experience an enforced formality tends to prevent disagreements from turning into rants.

(3) I will never mock opposing beliefs. I will argue forcefully with them where I disagree, however.

While I doubt that this will ever have much readership, I have to give it a try. I love this country (all of it, not just the blue states). I have ancestors who crossed the Atlantic in the 17th century, and others who fled hostile lands to freedom here. The current political climate, in which issues go ignored while Liberals and Conservatives (speaking mainly amongst themselves) heap abuse on their political opponents, is deeply corrosive to everything that I hold dear.