Society needs both conservative and progressive voices. We need both traditions and change, both productivity and equality, both “what works” and “how it should be.” For politics to be healthy, conservatives should identify and draw attention to contradictions in progressive programs, and progressives should do the same for conservative programs. Lazy political discourse between progressives and conservatives leads to corruption and inefficiency.
So anyway, here goes:
The libertarian strain is what gives today's Republicans their intellectual depth. Economic freedom is one of the primary adversaries to the vast dehumanizing social forces that democratic socialism easily stumbles into. Freedom is more than just economics though. Freedom is the use of creativity, the use of imagination. Children instinctively know this, but as adults we seem to forget.
Creative freedom is incompatible with the militant paranoia that sadly defines the Republican party today. When today's Republican leadership use the word 'freedom', it is a dead word. It is hypocritical to talk about freedom while refusing to accept a rational level of uncertainty regarding one's security. The exercise of our freedom implies a certain level of uncertainty.
Creativity feeds off of the new. And as adults we know that the new is dangerous in the 'real' world. The new is risky, and our financial futures contain enough risk as is. That is the reality of adults, and there is some truth to it. But not to the extent that current Republican leaders would have us believe. Is the 'risk' of being a victim of terrorism really worth perpetual war? Is the 'risk' of being a victim of a serial killing really worth never talking to strangers? Is the 'risk' that marijuana poses to our youth really worth the criminalization of criminalization of a normally harmless, non-violent activity?
You cannot exercise freedom without accepting a rational level of uncertainty regarding your security. People have trusted in the common humanity of strangers for millennia. All the major religions encourage it. But we are told to give up the new, to stop exercising our freedom, in the name of security. We as citizens are to be contented to simply have the freedom provided to us by military sacrifice. Freedom is a thing for us to be proud and thankful for, but only rarely to be exercised. That is the contradiction behind today's Republican leadership. They paint themselves as the protectors of freedom, but their freedom is an abstraction, a buzzword. Freedom is like any other ability--it shrivels when not exercised. Unexercised freedom becomes small and withered, a meaningless freedom.
This corruption of freedom, this 'baby-sitter freedom' we are told to accept, is the Achilles heal of today's Republican leadership. Freedom is not maintained by the paranoid elimination of every conceivable threat to one's security. A toleration for a reasonable amount of uncertainty, and a trust in the humanity of others, is an essential part of exercising our freedom. Just as it was for Jesus, just as it was for Muhammad, just as it was for Buddha. Liberals should hammer this point relentlessly.