One of my friends asked me recently “what makes you such a liberal?” This was in response to a discussion we were having about capital punishment. It was an honest question that deserved an honest answer. I’ve had a few different answers over the years that tended toward snark, but I kind of surprised myself when I quickly came up with a solid answer that very concisely explains my political beliefs.
“A lot of examination,” I replied. “I look at things from the eyes of the lowest common denominator.”
On any given socioeconomic subject that I find myself in need of an opinion on, I ask myself two questions. These might not always be conscious questions, but in retrospect, these two questions are the only ones that matter to me.
1) Who is hurt the most by various outcomes, and what do they think?
2) What does the science say?
His response was “Isn’t that just a matter of common sense at that point?” As Stephen Colbert has said, “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”
Let’s take the capital punishment example we were discussing. Who does capital punishment hurt? The answer to that is easy: the poor and minorities. The death penalty is applied so lopsidedly to people of color and people who can’t afford their own defense that it’s impossible to look at the numbers and not immediately see the correlation (unless, of course, you don’t want to see it). The difference between life in prison and a needle is, almost universally, your ability to hire competent council, and the color of your skin.
Now, what does the science say? It says that states with capital punishment have a higher murder rate than those without. It’s not a deterrent. If anything, it’s an aggravating circumstance. These states don’t value life, why should their citizens?
Every issue I have an opinion on fits this framework, and almost every single time, I end up with what is typically held to be the “liberal” position. Not necessarily the Democratic Party’s talking points, but what is commonly viewed as the far, but not necessarily radical, left.
Note that there’s no consideration to faith, religion or dogma there. Science, and a concern for the most affected, are my guiding principles. Almost everything I have a position on doesn’t affect me. I’m a white, middle-aged, heterosexual male smack dab in the center of the middle class. I am, demographically, about as close as you can get to the most privileged person that you can find (the only thing I’m missing is a few million dollars in annual income), so things like being racially profiled by the police, easy access to healthcare, and being paid only a percentage of the standard due to my plumbing aren’t things that directly affect me. That being said, I know people that they do affect, and my concern for them becomes a general concern for everyone in that situation.