In "Liberal, But Questioning" (Jan. 21), a letter writer named Neo-Something described himself as a lifelong leftist who's begun parting ways with his Madison friends on certain issues. He doesn't understand why they're so upset by President Obama's compromises with Republicans, the Dane County sheriff's willingness to report illegal immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the calls for public employees to contribute more money to their pensions. Here are conservative and liberal responses to his letter.
Dear Tell All: Neo-Something came to you for advice, feeling that he had outgrown the simplistic label "liberal" and wondering what he should call himself now that he found himself believing things outside of the standard party line. You wrote, "I do think there's a word for what you've become." At this point, I swear to you, I thought you were going to say "mature" or "able to realize that the world is not always only one way or the other." Imagine my disappointment when you pronounced him "conservative" - in the same gentle but firm tone of voice in which I would imagine one would hear the news "You have a brain tumor."
Neo-Something, I have my own suggestion for what you should call yourself. How about a complex and observant human being who realizes that rigid philosophical consistency makes for tidy political slogans but, oftentimes, bad government.
A Conservative Who Thinks Rush Limbaugh Is a Shallow Idiot
Dear Tell All: We think you missed a teachable moment by dusting off Neo-Something. He remains a liberal who is committed to social and economic justice. He is also committed to a society that respects the rule of law, and he believes in shared sacrifice and shared benefits of that sacrifice. These are not modern conservative values, no matter how they spin it.
Conservatives have us libs right where they want us - - feeding on each other rather than keeping the fight focused on where it should be, the age-old struggle between labor and capital, right and wrong. Neo-Something glances over at the conservatives' demonization of organized labor and is tempted by their politics of resentment. He needs a pep talk about raising the bar for labor standards because we all, labor and capital alike, do better when it is higher.
Franklin and Eleanor