Drinking…With Liberals!

Last night, I joined about a dozen or more local political activists at a restaurant in downtown Harrisonburg for about two hours.  As the title of this piece implies, the group was a social gathering called Drinking Liberally.

Now, it seems likely that many of you might question why I, the author of a blog entitled “The Virginia Conservative”, would willingly choose to spend any time with a multitude of self-avowed liberals.  After all, aren’t these people our political enemies, a group that should be shunned at every turn?

When I first became embroiled in politics a number of years ago, I held a similar view of political activists across the aisle.  These people are unreasonable, intolerant, and best avoided.  As far as I could tell, they didn’t care much for me, so why should I treat them any differently?

However, in recent times I have come to a somewhat different realization.  For example, prior to attending a number of Libertarian functions many years ago, I held a rather dim view of those sorts of people.  However, the more time that I spent around them, the more I realized that we actually did share a number of common interests, that they were not some radical monolithic group that wanted nothing more than to spend their day smoking pot and abolishing all forms of government.  Perhaps the best aspect of all was the friendships that came about as a result of our time together, including one that I treasured more than all of the rest combined.

Now, I admit that I don’t share much, if any, political ground with most liberals these days.  Issues that might normally unite us, like a concern for the erosion of our civil liberties and a rejection of an interventionist foreign policy seem less likely given that President Obama has been promoting policies that stand in stark contrast to these views.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean, nor should it mean, that each and every self-identified liberal endorses this course of action simply because a Democratic president does as well.  Just a handful of conservatives (not enough in my mind) opposed these same big government policies of Republican George W. Bush.

It is natural for people to band together into like-minded camps such a liberals, conservatives, libertarians, statists, and the like.  However, the sickness in American politics is that there is very little communication between these groups these days, in part, because we are constantly bombarded with an “us against them” mentality promoted by the talking heads on radio and television.

However, I believe that this widening gap is a situation that can and ought to be remedied, which is why I attended this gathering last night.  Now, I didn’t, of course, either literally or figuratively enter the group wearing a sign proclaiming my conservatism; doing so would likely would have created an air of hostility and suspicion from the onset.  Rather, I sat down with a number of folks and spoke to them one on one about issues, current events, and predictions for the future.  Yes, believe it or not, the other side isn’t some collection of political monsters.

As some of you may know, I am currently in talks with a local radio station to craft a new radio program about state and local politics that explores a multitude of political opinions.  Ideally, I hope to showcase the entire political spectrum, not to degrade these other viewpoints, but to create an atmosphere where discussion and rational thought is encouraged rather than simply shouted down.

Although I am not a liberal, nor do I have any plans to become one, I still enjoyed my time with the Harrisonburg and Rockingham liberals last night.  Despite our differences, it is my hope that we can expand this interpolitical dialogue so that each of us can express our viewpoints without fear of rejection or immediate condemnation.  That, I believe, is the hallmark of a classically liberal society, an ideal that we should all strive to achieve.

4 Replies to “Drinking…With Liberals!”

  1. Bravo! I applaud your efforts to cross lines. Most Americans do not fall easily into current political categories of conservative or liberal. For example, I am a pro-life & pro-marriage Catholic who is concerned about the poor, labor rights & the environment. I don’t fit easily into either the Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian parties. We need more dialogues between people of different viewpoints …

    1. You are quite right. Over the last several years, I seem to be getting into more disagreements with my fellow Republicans than any other group. It is important to recognize that we all hold a variety of opinions, ones that often don’t fit so nicely within the R/D divide.

  2. I am a Drinking Liberally host in another region of the country — and I too applaud your effort. I’m glad you reached the conclusion that we liberals are not raving lunatics. Speaking for my DL group: you would be safe to “out” yourself as a conservative. We are genuinely happy to have people like you visit us. I invite all kinds of people: we’ve hosted our local Tea Party leader, our mayor, our police chief, our state representatives etc. (all conservatives).

    Your statements about President Obama were interesting. You realize that he is not a strong liberal, right? He is a right-of-center on most economic and national security/foreign policy issues, and perhaps left-of-center on some social issues (he sure is taking his time on LGBT issues, for example). But he is not a liberal in any sense.

    And you realize that the Republicans have gone extremely conservative over the last 30 years, right? The Democrats have a broad spectrum of positions, from a very few liberals to a whole bunch of moderate positions that were Republican positions just 20 years ago.

    Our politics seem to be unworkable these days for one reason only: the extremism practiced by the GOP.

    Given that, what needs to happen is very much up to people like you. Would that we had more conservatives in your mold. (Yes … I realize that a comment like that will get you branded a “RINO” — that is the problem with the GOP that I am pointing out.)

    [Note: I found your post because I have a Google alert set up for “Drinking Liberally”.]

    1. Hello and thank you for your thoughts.

      Perhaps it was just the culture in which I was raised, but I really did feel like there was a great political divide in our nation that I fear is getting worse, where communication is impossible. I’m glad to hear that perhaps that situation is not universal throughout the country. Much like your efforts, during my last few years in the tea party I have tried to offer my fellow members a multitude of opinions.

      Yes, you are right that Obama isn’t quite the liberal one would expect. I would argue that he really hasn’t lived up to many of his campaign promises, such as closing Gitmo and the whole marijuana issue. However, far too often one paints any and all Democrats as liberals and all Republicans as conservative. It isn’t correct, of course, but it certainly is easy.

      And true, what defines liberal and conservative has changed as continues to change.

      I appreciate your kind words. I firmly believe that we need more dialogue so that young minds aren’t warped and molded by intolerant minds on either the left or the right but rather can appreciate, rationally discuss, and perhaps even celebrate divergent opinions.

      I find it a bit funny the idea of being called a RINO. I can’t say as I’ve ever been branded with that label, though given my “liberal” views surrounding the fear of overburdensome government surveillance and a desire to keep our soldiers safe and out of overseas imperialism, I’m sure that legislators like Senator Graham or Senator McCain might call me as much.

      Assuming things with my local drinking liberally group goes well, as you say, I am hopeful that I can one day “out” myself without fear of rejection.

      Thanks again for your comments.

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