What determines our ideologies? Why do wealthy liberals like Seth MacFarlane and Warren Buffett support higher taxes for the wealthy? Why do straight liberals care about gay rights? Why are liberal men pro-choice? Because while they do care about themselves, they also care about others; they're compassionate, they're empathetic.
I'm currently working on a local election for a Democratic candidate (who is the incumbent) and I spend a lot of time talking with undecided voters. I was talking to one voter the other day and our conversation was rather upsetting. I was telling him about the candidate's accomplishments such as securing funding for parks and aquatic centers, opening new police stations and fire departments, and putting in place a tax-freeze for senior citizens. His response to the senior tax-freeze was, "Do I look like a senior?" I was caught off guard. I told him that although he's not a senior now, he will be one day, and that I assume that there are seniors he cares about. He was upset that his tax dollars were being used to fund community centers that he didn't use. He complained about how children from low-income families were fed breakfast and lunch at school for little or no cost to them.
Then it hit me -- this gentleman only cares about himself. Conservatives couldn't care less about their communities. Their only concern is how policies will affect them personally.
Conservatives hate the idea of government-run healthcare, yet they don't want to see cuts to their Medicaid/Medicare benefits. They oppose free and reduced lunch programs for kids, unless it's for their kids.
I attended a rally outside Senator Ted Cruz's Dallas office today to protest his vote against the recent background checks bill. Right-wing blogs advertised that "Obama's army was targeting Ted Cruz for defending the Constitution," so there was a counter-protest (they called themselves the "Cruz Crew"). We were rallying for background checks. Our position was that while background checks may not stop all gun violence, even if they prevented one gun death, it would be a success. Our opponents were rallying for their guns. Not the wellbeing of their communities or the safety of their school children, but for THEIR guns.
Progressives/liberals/Democrats/lefties/(whatever you want to call them) are communitarians. Progressive men advocate for women's reproductive rights, even though it may not affect them. Progressive heterosexuals support rights for homosexuals, even though gay marriages wouldn't necessarily benefit heterosexuals. Wealthy progressives are perfectly fine with paying a little more in taxes if it means the wellbeing of their fellow citizens would be insured.
It makes sense for people to want better lives for themselves and their families, but when that's all they care about, that's where the problem is.
I'm a gay male. I will never get pregnant. I will never impregnate a woman. Yet I will still fight for a woman's right to choose when to reproduce.
I'm a Christian. Saying "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance doesn't offend me. Seeing the 10 Commandments in public places doesn't make me personally uncomfortable. However, I know it's not right for the government (whether federal, state, or local) to endorse a specific religion. I am not a Muslim, but I don't think it's fair, just, or sensible to profile Muslims at airports. If a Muslim community center were proposed in my neighborhood, I would encourage it as it would benefit the community as a whole.
I am Caucasian. Racial affirmative action does not benefit me, in fact, it decreases my chances of acceptance to education institutions and in the workforce. But I recognize that there has been systematic oppression of minorities since the dawn of western civilization. Giving individuals of African, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American descent won't help me out, but it's a step in the right direction to right our wrongs.
I care about other people than myself. I care about people that are different than me. I care about women, African Americans, Latinos, heterosexuals, atheists, Republicans, etc. That's what makes me a progressive.