In my head, I feel conservative. I often adore George Will, for instance. But here I am, a Democrat. I was thinking about that this morning, when I realized that this sort of free form musing is right up a blog's alley. "What the hell," I thought, "thinking in public is totally hot right now."
So, why am I a Democrat when so many of the conservative-dreaded social programs that classical liberals support make me uneasy? Affirmative Action and welfare, I suppose, are the two main boogeymen. It is undeniable that giving artificially inflated care to a group results in the members of that group becoming accustomed to that level of subsidy. Living things tends to adapt to their environment, after all - especially living things with a respectable neocortex/body mass ratio (i.e. us). With the onset of that comfortableness, the incentive to genuinely improve your lot in life is diminished, creating what Will calls a Moral Hazard. It is also undeniable that any person in America that can speak English has a chance to succeed, so why "penalize" the succesful to help the less fortunate?
I keep my mouth shut about my doubts because I believe that it is immoral and, more importantly, strategically unwise to allow the ossification of power and resources in a society. Without means of redistributing wealth down the economic ladder, the lower classes are progressively squeezed by those that control the resources and thereby control the society itself. This is the steadily worsening environment that leads to revolution, and I'd like to avoid those unless they're really necessary, because I like being a superpower. Furthermore, dedicated labor is not always enough to ensure success. Irrefutably, hard work is requisite, but luck plays a bigger role in life's success than contemporary conservatives would have you believe.
Ultimately, I think of America as a group comprised of its citizens. What's good for all is good for America, and therefore a personal good in excess of how I personally benefit. What's good for the few is not necessarily bad, but is necessarily less good. Demonstrably, modern conservatives feel as if they have to govern for the elites. As a result, the middle class gets squeezed. That's just plain wrong, but I'm not sure it would have been enough by itself to turn me slowly into a Democrat.
Truly, it was the foreign policy enacted by President Bush that made me a committed member of the Democratic Party. They call it a doctrine of preemption, but it clearly isn't. There are threats around the world that are completely ignored because they haven't elicited a public outcry, or are simply too difficult to tackle in the way that the Bush Doctrine would indicate. North Korea is a sharp example of the latter. Before North Korea had nuclear weapons, the Bush Doctrine demanded preemptive military action - the argument would have been nearly identical to the one used in Iraq's case. I can see it now: "A brutal dictator, who rules with an iron fist of cruelty against his own people, is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons for nefarious purposes. Can we allow ourselves to be held hostage by the threat of this madman extorting the international community? The U.N. is in danger of sliding into irrelevancey if this grave and gathering danger is not addressed." Ultimately, we didn't address North Korea militarily because we could not win such an engagement (reference the 2 million man army). Even if we destroyed the country's burgeoning nuclear facilities, it would only set them back and confirm our hostile, militaristic posture. The consequences of military action can be slow in coming, and so are very difficult to predict.
What pushed me to think of myself as a Democrat was the way we executed the War on Terror. The unfinished job in Afghanistan hurt me. I felt like physically mourning the life we allowed Bin Laden to continue living. I wanted the big gets. I wanted Mullah Omar. I wanted Al-Zawahiri . I wanted them killed, or even better, brought to the dock in American courts, so the world could see the sagacious exercise of Justice. Instead, no such news arrived. Even then, it was clear that we held back for some reason. 15,000 troops in Afghanistan? To capture the most hated villains in American history? Fewer boots on the ground than police in New York City? For the love of god, why would we pursue with such daintiness?
The fog surrounding the answer started clearing soon after the Afghanistan conflict cooled - we needed those troops for Iraq. As we started banging the war drums about Iraq, I read everything I could get my hands on, and unlike Afghanistan, there was some dissent about pursuing "the terrorists" to Iraq. There were no Al Qaeda operating in the Saddam controlled portions of Iraq, I learned. To me, it was automatically apparent that no American would be on the side of Al Qaeda - outside the normal collection of the literally insane. No American could have watched the murder of our brothers and sisters and not felt the same rage and sorrow that I did. So when dissent began, I listened, considered, and came to the conclusion that Iraq was no threat to us and was in no way responsible for 9/11. I didn't conclude that the anti-war types must have been objectively on the side of Al Qaeda. Luckily for me, I opposed the Iraq War from the start. Thank god.
There was a second reason I opposed the Iraq War. I hesitate to even state it, since it is so painfully obvious. If the goal of the War on Terror is to decrease the amount of terrorism directed against Americans, then it's unforgivably immoral and strategically myopic to pursue that goal by bombing the living hell out of people that have nothing to do with terrorism directed against Americans. To paraphrase one of the greats: It's like ordering a pizza and getting a free walrus. Even if the walrus were excellent, I mean truly exemplary, I'm really not in the market for it and it's not why I ordered the pizza. Similarly, no matter what rationale the administration stated or how "fun" and well executed the war would be, ultimately, wars of choice work against the main goal of the war on terror - protecting me and mine. Imagine how you would you react if your father was scattered around the block because of no fault of his own. I know how I would react: exactly the same way I did on the morning of September 11th. I felt Hatred, Rage, and a desire for Revenge so deep it took on a color. And that was for the murder of people I had never even met! Increasing the number of people who feel that way towards America only makes my family less safe.
The response on the Republican side, as I referenced earlier, was to question whether the opponents of the war in Iraq loved the Terrorists more than the United States of America. Whether we were labelled Pro-Al-Qaeda, Pro-Saddam, traitors, cowards, or just "on the wrong side," the rhetoric didn't match the reality I was living since we all want the terrorists dead. I wondered how the Republicans could possibly believe the things they said about us, and that lead down a road of thinking similar to the one Glenn Greenwald has outlined repeatedly. Combined with their attitudes towards science, it was clear that the modern Republican party wasn't interested in rational thinking, or real debate. It seemed that they had been out of power so long that now that they had their chance, no liberally-biased facts would get in their way of ensuring a successful presidency. To them, that meant brooking no dissent, never wavering in their religious support, and being seen as Commander-in-Chief via the Iraq War. The government that enabled was one of desires fulfilled over empiricism applied. They wanted war, so they got one, and forever alienated me.