Searching for my inner liberal

March 23, 2012 

One of the more interesting things about writing an opinion column is receiving feedback from readers. And one of the more interesting things about receiving that feedback is trying to figure out how people sometimes interpret things that I write in a completely different manner than I intended.

For example, I received some really interesting feedback on my last column, the topic of which was the Rush Limbaugh controversy where he called Georgetown law school student Sandra Fluke, a slut. The main points I meant to convey with that piece were 1) people seemed to be going way overboard with their reaction to what Rush said, 2) he got into trouble not for what he said but because of whom he said it about, and 3) his behavior has proved to be a boon for his political and philosophical opponents.

But based on the feedback I got, that is not the message some people received. Not at all.

Chris Bowen of Jeffersonville was given a major chunk of real estate on the Viewpoints page a few days after my column ran and he apparently read and re-read my column until my true intent became apparent to him. He called me out as not only a “fairly liberal individual” but also a “chameleon, quite capable of numerous degrees of subtle camouflage” that “hides behind a façade of independence.”

Apparently I had a hidden agenda with that column that was hidden so well I was not even aware of it. But other feedback I got -- privately in my e-mail inbox -- tended to be a little more direct and less kind than Bowen was to me.

I was called a dupe, a liberal hack and a tool of left-wing extremists. It seems some people are convinced that I have posters of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton lining the walls of my bedroom. That’s ridiculous, of course. Neither of those ladies have had a decent poster since the 1970s. Still, I think that if this many people see some kind of liberal undertone in what I write, even if I’m not aware of putting it there, maybe it is something I should think about. Even though I have always favored small, less intrusive government and voted a straight Republican ticket in 2010, it may be possible that my conscious beliefs and behavior really are just a façade. Perhaps somewhere between the lines of my writing the ghost of Ted Kennedy is peeking out at the world, saying things that I’m not even aware of.

Just for fun I decided to take one of those online political philosophy tests to see where I fall on the political spectrum. I endeavored to answer the questions as honestly as I could and let the chips fall where they may.

The results I got were far from shocking. The quiz I took, which consisted of a short series of questions about how I feel about the proper role of government in society, identified me very clearly as a libertarian. Please note that I said “libertarian” and not “liberal.” They are two very different philosophies.

A libertarian favors smaller, less intrusive government in all areas, which differentiates me from both the left wing (which sees government as a force for righting many of the wrongs in society, especially in economic matters) and the right (which tends to favor small government in economic matters but doesn’t mind using the state’s power to keep society’s moral compass pointed in the direction they think it ought to go.)

So if I am really a liberal, as some of my readers seem convinced, it is something that is buried so deeply in my psyche that my conscious self cannot seem to ferret it out. Hopefully alert readers of this publication continue to keep a close watch on what I write and let me know when my inner Jimmy Carter peeks out again and gives them a sly wink.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.

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