John Hawkins writes that "liberalism is nothing more than childlike emotionalism applied to adult issues." He adds:
Going to war is mean, so we shouldn't do it. That person is poor and it would be nice to give him money, so the government should do it. Somebody wants to have an abortion, have a gay marriage, or wants to come into the U.S. illegally and it would be mean to say, "no," so we should let them. I am nice because I care about global warming! Those people want to kill us? But, don't they know we're nice? If they did, they would like us! Bill has more toys, money than Harry, so take half of Bill's money and give it to Harry.
Hawkins gives the game away in his first paragraph when he says that liberalism is "nothing more" than emotionalism. He reiterates that point in the sentence following the quote above. So if we can find even one aspect of liberalism that is something more than emotionalism, he loses. But that's too easy. For purposes of argument, let's assume that he actually thinks liberalism is some sort of political philosophy, or at least an ideology. Let's assume that some general understanding of liberalism vs. conservatism applies: that conservatives generally favor less government than liberals, that conservatives generally are more resistant to social change, that conservatives are more likely than liberals to base their political views on an underlying belief that moral and religious absolutes should govern human behavior.
How does the paragraph quoted above fit within this framework? It's pathetic. If Hawkins is to be taken seriously, we must believe that liberals are less likely to wage war than conservatives. Over the course of world history, this may be true. Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun and Spartan warriors were probably more conservative in important ways than their contemporaries and adversaries. But the analogy breaks down in American history. American conservatives were loyal to the Crown during the Revolutionary War. Liberal abolitionists and federalists beat the drums for the Civil War. A classic liberal was commander-in-chief during World War II, and liberal presidents started and then expanded American involvement in Vietnam. Even the Iraq War makes sense only as a liberal war -- principled conservatives such as the Cato Institute, Pat Buchanan, William F. Buckley and George Will were either skeptical about or outright opponents of the war from the beginning. The only really coherent case for war in Iraq that I have heard came, predictably, from a liberal, Christopher Hitchens.
Hawkins next presents the idea of giving government money to the poor as a product of liberal emotionalism. But nearly all sides now agree that at least some level of government assistance should be available to those most in need. If somebody falls unconscious in the street, cops gather and an ambulance is called. Even those least able to care for themselves through illness or accident generally can find a place to eat and sleep, and I don't hear conservatives complaining about that. We're really just arguing about how much government support is justified, and that is a question that doesn't rely heavily on emotion. There is no bright line dividing conservatives from liberals on exactly what level of assistance should be provided. That's what politics is for.
Are the liberal positions on abortion, gay marriage and immigration based solely on emotion? This gets confusing because my own positions on these topics seem solidly conservative to me, yet they get me pushed into the liberal camp. I am pro-choice on abortion because Americans have been unable to reach moral consensus on what the correct position should be, and I don't think the government should step in on moral questions that the people themselves can't resolve. I think gays should be allowed to marry because I don't think telling people whom they can marry is any of the government's damn business. I accept the need for constraints on immigration, but I also know that this country was built, and is still being built, by immigrants, and immigration policy must take that into account. It amazes me that any conservatives disagree.
Finally, is concern about global warming emotional? This is the perfect question for such a debate because the existence of human-caused global warming (as opposed to what the correct policy response should be) is purely a factual question. The planet doesn't care what conservatives or liberals think. But if either side is relying on emotion in this debate, it seems to be conservatives. My conservative values tell me that global warming might be for real, and if it is, the consequences could be devastating, so I should support reasonable steps to deal with it. Actual conservatives seem to argue that every scrap of evidence in favor of global warming should be discounted or ignored, and every scrap of evidence against it should be trumpeted.
Why? Pure emotionalism, so far as I can tell. Conservatives don't like the way a world with global warming would look, so they set about to deny it for as long as possible. Indeed, an emotional attachment to tradition and to belief in higher powers seems to be the cornerstone of what Hawkins believes conservatives are. Liberal democracy, which is at the heart of Western greatness, embraces knowledge and accepts changing conditions. By Hawkins' own standards, the real enemies of logic and fact in political discourse are conservatives, not liberals.