I believe there is a healthy and reciprocal relationship between liberals and conservatives, directly related to the role they play for society, and preserved by the Constitution. In fact, it was a recent Constitutional Law class that taught me the simplest way to express this relationship: “we cannot be the judge in our own cases.”

Imagine a scientist holding up a paper in which not only did they form the hypothesis and conduct the test, but also claim that they verified their own results and are trying to publish the paper. They would be laughed out of the scientific community.

Similarly, whenever a politician, or police force, or other group says that they can investigate themselves or their organizations, we all have a collective eye roll. To me, one of the few inescapable truths about ourselves is that we cannot rise above our own biases, no matter how highly we think of ourselves, and require an outside entity to evaluate our theories and ideas.

We separate out the two responsibilities of moving our culture and society forward: the “scientists” that go out and find new theories, and the “testers” that verify and analyze the results.

Liberals develop new theories and hypothesis for how we are best to run our country. They are the momentum forward, the engine that drives change. For example, when they saw the elderly and disabled struggle to survive in our country, a definite breach of justice, they decided to form an idea that eventually became Social Security.

Conservatives take these new ideas and theories from the liberals, as well as the package of real-time data that comes along with it, and make judgment calls about whether the liberals are on the right track or not. If liberals are the engine, conservatives are the processors, taking the information from the liberals and analyzing, evaluating, and kicking the tires. The ideas and theories that pass the conservative’s tests are then encoded into our society, like Social Security, and those that fail are discarded or returned to the sender.

I believe this is why the top news organizations (New York Times, Washington Post, Wesleyan Argus) lean liberal, but the top political commentaries and analysis (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News) lean conservative.

If we were to silence every conservative, the liberals would be setting themselves adrift, unable to moor their boat onto any firm concept or thought. Put a whole bunch of liberals into a room, and they will argue until eternity. They would be paralyzed and locked in a battle till the end of time because deep down they all know their ideas and theories are all untested, and they can’t test them themselves.

Similarly, if we were to silence all liberals, society would become so engrained and so inflexible that it would stagnate and break. Put a bunch of conservatives into a room and nothing will change, we might as well fill that room with cement. None of them would be willing to go out on the ledge with a new concept, and even if one was, they would almost certainly be shouted down.

These are sweeping generalizations, of course, and liberals are more than capable of testing theories that conservatives develop. There are always exceptions.

Regardless, I believe this balanced tug-and-pull of conservatives on liberals and liberals on conservatives is the core of our society. When we elect and hand the keys to liberals, it is society as a whole telling those in charge to find and enact new ideas to curing our ills. When we elect and hand the keys to conservatives, we are asking those in power to review our systems and strengthen them, or distill them into more effective, and more correct ideas.

I think this is why we have one president that is liberal followed by one that is conservative. A similar but slower cycle exists in Congress.

This sounds a lot like a relationship, two people who promise to help be that voice of reason for each other during tough times. And like a relationship in trouble, when both sides stop talking to each other, polarization quickly sets in.

I see the relationship between liberals and conservatives based on two very important things: trust, and good faith. No one likes to be told they are wrong, and that is what happens almost every time liberals and conservatives interact – they debate and try to convince the other side.

Liberals need to trust that conservatives are acting in good faith when they review the ideas brought forth. Conservatives need to trust that liberals are acting in good faith when they present their findings. When this breaks down, when liberals start trying to review their own theories or conservatives start trying to develop their own, deep fractures form. We are no longer two parties working together, but two parties working independently and lobbing insults and threats at each other. The large amounts of nastiness is a sign of just how awful things are becoming between us.

The University of Chicago looked at the results of the “safe space” experiment suggested we need to go back to the drawing board. The University of Wesleyan rushes to the defense of its theory, and pushes back. Do we nastily decry each other or do we find a middle ground?

When Hillary Clinton calls half of Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorable,” when Trump seemingly won’t listen to critics over his ideas and plans for his presidency, this is a sign that the understanding between us is breaking down.

And, like any relationship in trouble, despite our best effort to convince ourselves otherwise, nothing is completely one side’s fault. Simply, liberals are not perfect, conservatives are not perfect. This implies that each side is going to be right from time to time, even on important issues, and we all just have to deal with that fact.

We can choose to end the bickering and fighting between like-minded liberals and conservatives. We can start re-establishing those lines of trust.

Or, we can continue screaming at each other at the top of our lungs, demonizing each other in order to prop up our “we are always right” philosophies.

I choose the former.

  • Mike

    This piece is too poorly written, too badly edited, and (most alarming,) too quixotic to be taken seriously.

    Social security, for one, has different points of departure depending on the country of implementation. In America, the Social Security Act passed by Roosevelt was in response not to the struggles of the elderly or the disabled but instead to the crash of the stock market in 1929, which led to a subsequent ten-year depression. Roosevelt was cross-examined by conservatives who were not only obstructionistic but also not principally non-conservative: they were asking, among other questions, whether this was socialism—that is not what the American conservatives were traditionally opposed to; the traditional strand of conservatism would be asking instead about the federalism of this Act. Later on, the check-balance system came into play, and the Supreme Court, per custom, cross-examined it on grounds of the Constitution. Now the argument can be made that the particular iteration of SCOTUS in question was “liberal,” detracting even further the statement about conservatism being a checker.

    That “one of the few inescapable truths about ourselves is that we cannot rise above our own biases, no matter how highly we think of ourselves, and require an outside entity to evaluate our theories and ideas” is simply untrue. We have seen time and again, in history, literature, philosophy, the sciences, and on, how biases have been broken and amended, apologised for and clarified. In literature: “Though we have both reason to think my opinions not entirely unalterable, they are not, I hope, quite so easily changed as that implies” (Pride and Prejudice; yes, it does say “opinions” instead of bias—but those distinctions are quite blurry in this book). In history: Lincoln wouldn’t have been able to resolve the Civil War’s end had he, one who sought as POTUS to conserve the Constitution yet despised the institution of slavery, sought to end it completely with the Gettysburg Address. In philosophy: Kant (he reasoned about reasoning, ffs); Nietzsche (he sought to undo the bias of language itself); etc. In the sciences: well, men who followed Newton and then abandoned camp to corroborate relativity; Hawking, who recently said he might have been wrong on one of his theories about black hole and the irretrievability of events beyond the event horizon. Do I say more?

    On the points of party lines breaking: It has been there forever, since the founding of the U.S. of A. But it has to change with time. Nothing lasts in perpetuity (okay, some things do—not this, not politics). The present situation demands change, and in response to that change comes both a push for it and a pushback against it. Nothing new: it has been this way since the Ancients! We hear the bickering loudest now because of the media and how big it is and how much drama it needs to sustain itself and thus exposes to the general public—not because it has not been there. And while the middle-ground between those parties in the Libertarian Party and the far-left ground of the Green Party can mediate; the education system of America allows for very little critical thinking to be imparted to the general public, at least in comparison with the European and/or Oceanic countries.

    • Persnickety Bunny Rabbit

      Worth noting that, as a Letter to the Editor, the Argus did not edit this piece.

  • gth


  • gth

    There is a special place in Dante’s Inferno for those who
    voted for Trumpet and republican’ts!

    Third election where
    suspicious too close. Diebold machines made by repubican’ts are and were
    siphoning votes from blacks and poor Democrats to republicans.

    AMERICAN SPRING 2016-2017 etc! Resist and block everything they want and do
    and let nothing through not now not ever. This way we will no longer go
    backwards, a good thing, and we will stay in perpetual neutral but better than
    going backwards where the un-American unpatriotic fascist masochistic sadistic
    republican’ts and deplorables wish to take us. NOT my not anyone’s
    president! NOT in this lifetime nor any other lifetime! Republican’ts are a
    disease! A cancer on this nation and this earth. WHAT KIND OF EVIL IS THIS?! STUPID
    Americans and deplorables! You are NO different from 1776 British Government
    lackeys definitely NOT patriots. You didn’t seem to learn from illegal war
    criminal family Bushie and now we are doing this again. Why?! How stupid can
    you get?! Guess not stupid enough! Guess you cannot learn and never will! WE ARE A COUNTRY OF STUPID! We didn’t like it
    the first time under illegal war criminal Bushie and definitely won’t like it
    this time! You stupid Americans don’t seem to ever learn, do you?! We are NOT
    Kentucky and un-American unpatriotic asshole Kim Davis!

    Republicans are ENEMIES OF THE STATE!!!

    Hey, stupid Americans, you DO realize that by voting stupid
    you ARE gonna lose your social security, medical coverage, houses, cars, etc
    just like what happened under illegal war criminal Bushie family during the
    2000s. Stupid Americans! But we are about to go through it again because of
    your ignorance arrogance stupidity! Thanks stupid Americans! Doubt you even
    realize it or anything at all.

    HISTORY will judge them harshly unlike good people like
    President Obama and President Hillary Clinton.

    Life is NOT a so-called reality show! Grow up!

    Trumpet will be just like moron Sarah Palin and end up
    quitting half way through.

    Trumpet NO different from Neville Chamberlain. “Those who
    live by the sword shall die by it!” Gumbmint is NOT the problem but
    corporations and un-American unpatriotic masochistic sadistic fascist
    tyrannical Republican’ts as well as you deplorables definitely ARE!! STUPID
    AMERICANS AND DEPLORABLES. You are ALL delusional. STOP watching Fixed Noise
    propaganda coolaid and get a life and get the facts rather than childish
    fiction. We could have been saved by a good person President Hillary Clinton
    and were already saved by another good person President Barack Obama but you
    deplorables aka stupid Americans voted for un-American unpatriotic fascist tyrannical
    republican’ts and Trumpet and believed lies against a good person President
    Hillary Clinton. Swift boarded just like John Kerry. This will NOT end well because of you and
    your ilk. History has shown this time and time again as the most recent is the
    Arab Spring. Prior example is ancient Rome and the Goths.

    Why not read Steinbeck’s “The Grapes Of Wrath.” And don’t
    just look at the pictures this time!

    “Government is there to do for you what you cannot do for
    yourself.” Not a bad thing for a civilized country and world unlike what you
    and your ilk want is to go back to the
    first century and some fantasy world rather than go forward to the 21st
    century and the civilized world. WAKE UP!

    They won’t go away peaceably so time for assassinations of
    Pence, Toomey, Dent, UnAmerican Unpatriotic corporate lackey Mcain, Bolton, Ryan Costello, James Comey, Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Kennedy, ….and
    all republican’ts!