FERGUSON: Left, right, or somewhere in between?

March 7, 2014 

A few weeks ago there was a little blurb on the editorial page here listing all of The Telegraph’s regular columnists and categorizing each of us as being “on the left,” “in the middle,” or “on the right.” My name appeared in the most heavily-populated category -- on the right.

I’m guessing the purpose of this listing was to demonstrate that this publication tries to represent the full spectrum of political opinions and perhaps to point out that it leans slightly to the right, in deference to the prevailing political sentiment in The Telegraph’s main coverage area.

I had no input regarding my placement on this list and in fact I didn’t know anything about it before it was published. I’ve written a number of times about how I think putting labels on people is a bad idea, but if I were forced to slap a political label on myself I think “moderate libertarian” would be the most accurate one I could come up with. Of the three categories available in this list, though, I would have probably gone with “in the middle.”

A few people who saw the listing let me know they didn’t think I belonged “on the right” with the likes of Erick Erickson and Cal Thomas. I wonder what gave them that impression.

Perhaps it was my three-part series begging the voters in Rep. Austin Scott’s district to replace him with someone (even if it was a Democrat) who wouldn’t cut off his nose to spite his face and support shutting down the government. Or maybe it was the column I wrote where I said that although I didn’t think that sectarian prayers said at public school graduations were unconstitutional, I still didn’t think they were a good idea because of the diversity of religious beliefs of the folks attending.

It might be fair to say that I lean to the right a bit, but I will not hesitate to light into any Republican or otherwise-affiliated “true conservative” if I see things differently than they do. And no matter which political party or ideological group champions a particular point of view I make an effort to see both sides of every issue.

That’s a lot harder to do than we like to acknowledge. We tend to stake out positions based on emotion and peer pressure rather than on facts and logical thinking more than we like to admit.

When I was in high school, I always found it interesting when we studied debate and were assigned a position on a particular issue that we had to argue for regardless of our personal opinion on the subject. If you happened to get assigned a position you disagreed with it forced you to look at the issue from a completely different perspective, which was always an interesting exercise.

With that in mind, I want to do something a little bit different with this column for my next two submissions. I am going to take one issue that tends to divide people pretty strongly based on their political leaning and do one column with a left-leaning take and then do the next column from the right-leaning perspective on that same topic.

To make this a little more of an interactive experience for you, the reader, I’m going to list five possible topics for this debate with myself, and then you can vote for your favorite. Here are your choices:

• Gay marriage should/should not be legal.

• Organized, teacher or student-led prayer should/should not be allowed in public schools.

• Abortion should/should not be legal.

• Obamacare should/should not be repealed.

• Global warming is/is not a scientifically proven phenomenon that should be aggressively addressed by our government.

Just identify your preferred topic to me at the email address below and I will enthusiastically debate the issue from both sides in my next two columns.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com.

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