Over the years, I have tried to both explain to my conservative friends what it means to be a progressive/liberal and to also try to understand what drives the conservatives to such draconian solutions to societies issues. I've decided that the basic difference between the two philosophies is whether to reach for someone to give them a hug, or to smack them with a hammer. That may sound a bit dramatic, but let me try to explain what I mean.
With the progressive/liberal - I'll simply use the PL designation for this group - it seems to me that the approach to problem solving typically takes a more compassionate approach. We see most societal problems as human problems requiring a human solution. The conservatives, particularly the so-called right-wing - I'll call them CRW for simplicty - tend to be suspicious of people. When someone is up against it and asking for help, the CRWs tend to think these people are trying to scam the system. The two groups have a very different view of people and the world and how to govern a nation, in our case, one of 330 million people.
These differences are not unique to the United States. The PLs and CRWs exist in every country around the world and are in a continuous struggle to hold the reigns of power to implement their form of government. China, one of the few remaining communist countries and unquestionably the largest is in the control of the CRWs. If you think we have a problem with crime and corruption in the USA, imagine what it must have been like in China before the CRWs came into power. Simply triple the problems in the USA to try to envision the old China. The communists took over and began to tamp down the problems of corruption and crime. Unfortunately, their approach seems to have resulted in the deaths of, and the numbers vary, of around 100 million people. Yet, for all their control, China and their "stability and order" as the top priority of the ruling elite, for the past three decades, crime in China has grown much faster than its economic development. From 1973 to 2002, the increase rate for filed criminal cases by average is 17%. Due to the Chinese government's restriction on information, details are often difficult to come by.
India, on the other hand, is the larges democracy in the world. And, yes, they are struggling with all the problems that come with being a democracy. Major problems in India include various human rights issues, corruption in government, widespread poverty, societal violence based on religion, an overburdened judicial system, so-called "honor killings" and caste bias. The relative importance of each of these issues is subjective and difficult to determine. Conflicts in India between members of the Hindu and Muslim faiths have led to violence in some cases. The rights of women are a serious issue in the country. Rape of women has become the country's fastest-growing crime in the past five years, and yet it is thought to be under reported.
Governments tend to swing from one approach, CRW or PL, to the other. In the UK, you have the Conservative Party that is generally consider center-right. They are CRWish with perhaps a few moderates. There is the Labour Party, the center-left philosophy that is PLish. We, in the US don't have the equivalent of the Scottish National Party the keeps agitating for independence from the UK; the closest we may have is Texas which from time to time seems to think it could fly solo without the support of the Feds. As I write this, we are in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic. One wonders how Texas would be faring if they were on their own. And finally, to the left of the Labour Party in the UK, you have the Liberal Democrats who tend to push for social democracy, not unlike what Bernie Sanders is going on about in the US.
Just about every nation on earth is split between CRWs and PLs, save a couple like North Korea where a brutal dictator is in charge, or Saudi Arabia where the royal monarchy has ruled since the formation of the country in 1932. Saudi Arabia is also a brutal dictatorship held together with a coalition of tribes, bribes, and corruption wrapped in a semi-theocracy. Governments like North Korea and Saudi Arabia are like the CRWs on steroids. Inside even these strict autocracies there exists both governing philosophies, but in some of these countries any kind of criticism is stifled, often under the threat of death.
I mentioned that the PL approach is typically based on compassion and trying to understand the "why" of things like poverty, crime, deviations from the norm, and simply the day-to-day struggles of the typical American, be they citizens or immigrants wanting to become citizens.
That compassion can take many forms and, like the CRWs, can lean toward the extreme at times. A simple example of that notion might be animal rights and protections. Generally, you will find the PLs are in favor of animal protection and rights. I personally eat chicken, pork, fish, and red meat in about that order with chicken being the dominate protein in our diet and red meat at the other end of the spectrum in lesser amounts. I am strongly in favor of treating all of these animals as humanely as possible on the way to our dinner table. I do not consider price to be a justification for abusing animals.
On the extreme end of this issue are groups like PETA. While I can agree with some of their approach in terms of treating animals humanely, I find some of their words and actions to be at best, ridiculous and in the extreme, outright stupid. An example of that is their efforts to change some of our idioms such as "be a guinea pig" or "beat a dead horse". Besides being innocuous terms to describe a situation, this is hardly the biggest problem facing the relationship between humans and animals and is a waste of time, money, and casts a whack job image on the group as a whole. Instead of saying "bring home the bacon", they advocate for "bring home the bagels". Give me a break! You are sounding like an SNL skit, now.
So, within our PL group, we do have our own little bell curve that goes from moderate PLs to the whacko PLs. But, generally, the PLs are focused on making life better for everyone including animals and doing so by understanding what drives our actions.
The CRW approach to governing seems to embrace terms like control, rules, and punishment. Their view of the world seems to encompass a general distrust of the motives of anyone but themselves. They view others with a suspicion that can border on a form of paranoia. They seem, at times, to be consumed with conspiracy theories: "a theory that rejects the standard explanation for an event and instead credits a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot:"
Consequently, the CRW approach to governing can become draconian in nature. Perhaps one of the best examples of that has been the US approach under the GOP to the issue of immigration. From the Heritage Foundation, the self-ascribed protector of all things conservative, comes this statement in 2014: "Instead, elected leaders in the House should acknowledge that our immigration system is broken, but put the blame where it belongs—on the executive branch’s failure to enforce the law. The first steps to fixing the system must be taken by the president: securing the border and enforcing current laws." Needless to say, they are referring to the Obama administration and their efforts to address immigration.
To be fair, there is a bell curve within the CRW community just like there is in the PL community. This from redstate.com, "We, as conservatives, want those who are here illegally, to understand that we want those who are law abiding, productive members of our society to fully assimilate into America! This does not mean that they must give up their culture or language of origin, but simply embrace the great culture and language of America (“The great melting pot”), as well.
I say this as a man who is married to a wonderful Bosnian / Muslim woman who came here as a legal immigrant, stayed here as a legal immigrant / resident, and became a US citizen last year. We celebrate her culture, language, and religious holidays as well as ours. I respect her culture and traditions and she respects her new / ours. She also speaks our language better than many who were born here and therefore is able to understand our laws, our Constitution, and our history."
I'm not suggesting all CRWs are AR-15 carrying crazies. If the views of this gentleman represented the majority of the CRWs, we would be well on our way to resolving many of our problems.
The truth is that immigration, and here I'm talking about illegal immigration, is not a question of criminal conduct, it is a symptom of a very human problem. People all over the world are fleeing poverty, civil wars, drug cartel recruitment, any number of reasons that make life where they were born untenable. They are literally fleeing for their lives. This is a human problem that will yield to human-based solutions. You have to find the root cause for people wanting to abandon their place of birth and work to resolve that, not look for ways to punish them for trying to survive.
Here, I have tried to explain the differences in approaching problem soliving, using real world examples, between a progressive and a conservative, and in our approach to governing. One offers people in trouble a hug, the other often raises a hammer to subdue and subordinate them or sometimes to intimidate them. This has been especially pronounced under the Trump regime. Like the old saw about drawing attracting more bees with honey than vinegar, I suggest a softer approach will have both better and longer lasting results for our nation and the world in general.
I think and write and talk and then do it all over again.