The independent news organization of Duke University

The posturer's folly

in formation

The “socially-liberal-and-fiscally-conservative” identity remains exceptionally pervasive on college campuses. Despite the bipartisan allure of this defining political philosophy, there remains a fundamental disconnect between the so-called “liberal” and “conservative” components of this “viewpoint.” Effectively, the beliefs of a socially liberal person do not harmonize with those of a conservative. Although so-called “social” and “fiscal” ideologies cannot be compartmentalized, they are wrongly conflated into a misleading identity—one that reflects the current status of American understanding of policy and politics.

A difficult distinction must be made between all that is liberal versus conservative—a task aggravated by the lack of visible institutions, key figures and doctrines, unlike with political parties. Still, a difference can be pinpointed. Mainstream liberals advocate for a woman’s right to choose in the context of abortions; they mostly support same-sex marriage and access to birth control, while opposing measures to contort religion with public institutions. Conservatives on the other hand, tend to favor a blanket ban against abortions; they mostly oppose same-sex marriage and like to see smaller government with more freedom for both small and big businesses.

While it is rare to find an individual who perfectly embodies these so-called “conservative” and “liberal” ideologies, it is important to understand some of these critical differences before we attempt to combine the two into a new mythical voter identity. After a single deeper look into their alleged beliefs, a “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” individual will be quick to find themselves in a conundrum. How can one truthfully combine “liberal” and conservative” viewpoints, without undermining their alleged beliefs? Put simply, they cannot.

The reality of the situation is that social and fiscal issues are very intertwined; neighborhoods with lower educational standards are tethered with corporate influences that disenfranchise disproportionately minority populations. Therefore, alleged fiscal conservatives who favor lower tax rates and smaller government must question the validity of their desire to see government programs that would assist those of lower socioeconomic statuses. For example, while a socially liberal person would perhaps believe in widespread access to higher education, their “fiscally conservative” side would prevent them from seeing through measures for economic redistribution if not simply taxes on the “1 percent,” to alleviate the economic burden of higher education for individuals who otherwise could not afford it.

Another indicator of ignorance behind the “socially-liberal-and-fiscally-conservative” standpoint is seen in plausible “social” ways to acknowledge “fiscal” problems. In the United States, people of color face discrimination that leads to lower wages, a higher poverty rate and poor physical and mental health as studied by researchers at the National Institute of Health. While a traditionally “socially liberal” individual would advocate for increased government spending on education and health care social programs to bridge this inequity, a truly “socially-liberal-and-fiscally-conservative” individual would turn a blind eye in favoring pro-business standpoints with minimal impact relative to the products of government intervention. In other words, an individual of this mindset could “sympathize” with the plight of minorities, while refusing to support concrete social safety nets that would alleviate their burden in the face of violence and abuse amongst other examples of the modern day’s disappointing social infrastructure.

It is easy to denounce health disparities between black Americans and those of say Caucasian populations; after all, studies upon studies have shown that disparities in health care for black Americans are the result of entrenched discrimination. In fact in 2001, Cara A. Fauci published research in the Boston College Third World Law Journal, which found that black Americans spend significantly longer periods waiting for transplantable kidneys, only to receive them less frequently—an inequality easily remedied by government-sponsored “education, organ donation publicity campaigns and possibly the enactment of presumed consent statutes.” Unfortunately, such solutions may not bode well with some traditionally conservative, pro-limited government, anti-long term health-welfare touchstones. At the end of the day, fiscal government intervention even in the case of a deficit or at the risk of an imbalanced budget, denotes the line between political jargon and a spine to act upon these “social” (and inherently fiscal) issues.

To associate with “socially liberal” ideas like affirmative action policies to combat racism, support universal government-supervised health care, as well as other welfare programs, and yet “respect” the decision of business owners to operate how they like even when perpetuating inequality, is as harmful as it is nonsensical. To “believe” in liberal ideas when articulated by so-called progressive leaders, but refuse to support government action to alleviate the economic impacts of discrimination and more, is as offensive as it is illogical.

That is why, when a person alleges they are “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” they are better off simply declaring, “I care about marginalized communities but don’t want to see anything done to remedy their predicaments.” (That is, in the rare case where they understand the connotations of their two-part belief.) Notably, millions of socially conservative individuals do want to see the uplift of disenfranchised populations; however, while their tactics are easily discernable, a “socially-liberal-and-fiscally-conservative” person cannot be always similarly characterized.

Even when the benefit of the doubt is granted, the closest an individual can get to the “socially-liberal-and-fiscally-conservative” stance would be if they were to identify as a libertarian. Under traditional definitions, a libertarian lies between the left and right wings, and greatly favors personal and economic freedom. Nonetheless, even with libertarians, it is hard to characterize their economic principles as fiscally conservative. (Internal rift within all parties is testament of the lack of political plurality in the U.S. today, but that is a story for another day.)

Regardless, social and fiscal rights can be defined individually; however when the two are conflated, they create a problematic and contradictory set of rights that no effective leader can communicate. Ultimately, labels like that of a “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” are not the only ones in need of cultural redress. Society at large must learn to become more accepting and tolerant of the beliefs of all individuals, no matter how they choose to identity.

With numerous schools of thoughts within “liberal” and “conservative” groups, individuals must stand clear of blindly subscribing to political parties without paying proper attention to the nuances. In a time of great political angst surrounding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections, and millions of Americans distrusting of both major party nominees, it is important to establish a shared political lexicon from which prudent debate can thrive.

Sabriyya Pate is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, “in formation,” runs on alternate Mondays.

Sabriyya Pate

Sabriyya Pate is a Trinity junior. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.


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