Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
To Republicans and the right-wing media: Programs exploited by ordinary people and the poor. They epitomize big, wasteful government and cutting or killing them is the best way to fix the country’s deficit problem and to get the country back on the road to self-reliance. Taxing the wealthy to support these programs would be an outrage that smacks of class warfare.
To network reporters: A subtle pejorative used to describe programs that benefit ordinary people in ways they may not deserve. This viewpoint hints that most wage earners think they’re entitled to Medicare just like the children of the rich are entitled to their inheritance.
To the Koch Brothers and others of their ilk whose inherited fortunes or bloated salaries prove their superiority: Only wastrels, idlers and bums need such programs.
Politicians and candidates who appear to fall in the middle between opposing views and are believed to be open to compromise.
To most of the media, including leading TV reporters, pundits and online and print columnists: Moderates are the better angels of our politics because they are the only ones who can get things done
But is this the full story? In reality, many members of Congress called moderate by the media are actually engaged in situational moderation. During last year’s healthcare debate, for example, several Democrats, sounding like conservatives, were set to join the Republicans in opposition. However, they soon waivered under pressure and moved toward the Democratic position. Reporters then proclaimed them to be moderates because they were adept at dancing along the fault line between the two parties. In another noteworthy case, a Democratic senator recently announced that he was a moderate on an education bill because he took the middle road between ardent Democrats on one side and fervent Republicans on the other. However, this same senator later joined far right Republicans to support legislation, opposed by Democrats and law enforcement, to relax gun control laws. In one instance he was a “moderate” and in the next he was “immoderate.”
Non-partisanship:Going beyond party lines to reach common ground with opponents.
To much of the media and the inattentive public: How politicians behave when they’re not “bickering.”
Like “political moderate,” non-partisanship is widely admired because people have the improbable idea that compromise is an automatic route to the truth. But as the current political stalemate demonstrates, non-partisan attempts to solve problems such as the budget deficit more often than not lead to political monsters that are doomed at birth. Visualize mating a moose with a horse. Or imagine Catholics and atheists negotiating a mutually satisfying accord on the nature of the afterlife.
Partisan passion puts off ordinary Americans who have an idealized view of their political system and believe things work best if we can only come together (a state of being that almost never happens). But politics is politics and there have to be winners and losers or nothing significant gets done.
Social conservatives:Activists and politicians who want to ban abortion, oppose gay marriage, want organized praying in public schools, oppose teaching evolution and think religion-based doctrines like creationism should be part of the school science curriculum.
To the news media and much of the public:A conservative political movement inspired by Christian fundamentalism whose most notable objective is to use the Republican Party to promote family values and Christian morality.
In reality, social conservatives have an agenda that is far different from the historical mainstream of American politics. Most of their positions are based on religious belief and their aim is to use government to control the behavior of others in order to bring them into compliance with the social conservative dogma. Many social conservatives are believers and activists like Michelle Bachmann. However, there are also mad zealots like Rev. Fred Phelps, who leads loud demonstrations at military funerals to proselytize his view that U.S. combat deaths are God’s payback for this country’s tolerance of gays. Some members of the movement have also murdered abortion providers because they believed it was God’s will.
“Social conservative” is thus a term that should be used with caution. It denotes far more than a mainstream political group hoping to influence policy and legislation.