The problem is not "liberalism." The solution is not "conservatism."
The left/right partisan split (which has dominated American politics for the last two centuries) was not a designed part of the American Constitution. Judging from the Constitution and Federalist papers, I believe the founders hoped to create a republic with Senators representing States, and house members representing the people.
The founders would be appalled at our current government where politicians represent parties and not the people.
The left/right partisan split came from the French Revolution (you know, the revolution where they beheaded thousands). This partisan dichotomy was not entrenched in US politics until Andrew Jackson who was dead set on preserving slavery. Here at home, the left/right split led directly to a horrid Civil War.
Political manipulation is not new. It stretches through the century.
The modern version of left/right partisanship became entrenched at the foundational level with the philosophies of Hegel and Marx. (Note, Hegel loved presenting paradoxical arguments that framed freedom as slavery and slavery freedom).
I call the process of injecting conflict and paradox into the foundation of reason Foundational Dialectics.
In Foundational Dialectics, the intelligentsia chooses a conflict, and then uses shrill Sean-Hannity-style non-discourse to position the conflict as a foundational rift. Using the tools of partisanship, the rogues create a climate of action and reaction and slowly climb the rungs of discord into power.
The Hegelian notion is that intellectuals can scientifically control the evolution of society by forcing humanity through a series of thesis/antithesis conflicts. Each conflict results in a catharsis which sets up the next conflict.
Foundational Dialectics is the choice methodology of progressives. Progressivism is a system where intellectuals herd the body politic toward the goal of centralized big government and big business. The ideology is built on the paradoxical belief that a highly centralized economy will someone be more fair than a decentralized economy.
The paradox is an illusion. The centralization of the economy leads directly to a society of wealthy insiders and impoverished outsiders. Progressives simply project the results of their manipulations onto the manipulated. Progressives promote centralized exchanges and centralized banks, then project the growing gap between rich and poor on the free market.
We see this process in the current health care debate. Employer based insurance was the creation of progressives. The goal of insurance is to regulate unpredictable medical expenses by having people pay regular amounts into a pool, then fund care from the pool. Despite the fact that insurance is an anti-market scheme to regulate costs, progressives blame the failures of insurance on the free market and deregulation!!!!!
The idea of progressivism is to use contrived conflicts to herd people toward a socialist state. Each crisis in the progression demands greater state control. Each crisis constricts personal freedom.
Progressivism is not a straight forward argument for the supremacy of the state. It is an underhanded methodology for consolidating power. Instead of arguing the merits of bigger government and reduced freedoms, the Progressives seek to define the debate and control both the action and reaction.
George Lakoff provides a great example. George Lakoff popularized the term "framing." In a display of native cunning, Lakoff taught progressives to project the term "framing" onto the reactionaries.
Followers of Lakoff are taught to repeat the political theme that it is the people on the outskirts of the debate who define the debate. So newspapers, schools and social institutions, which are the primary source for defining political themes, play the game that they are transcendent and project the definitions onto others.
NOTE: Lakoff hawks a thesis/anti-thesis conflict in which nurturing parents (progressives) are in a struggle against disciplinary parents (conservatives).
Historically, foundational dialectics comes from the left. The reactionaries drawn into arguing the anti-thesis become as much of the process as the progressives using the conflict to rise to power. For that matter, reactionaries who build their power base on the thesis/anti-thesis conflict become as dedicated to the conflict as the progressives who framed the conflict.
So, back to the point of this post: The problem is not "liberalism." The solution is not "conservatism."
The problem is the underlying structure of the debate.
Our problem is that we have a ruling class (on both the left and right) who use a negative style of discourse based on conflicts to rise to power--Foundational dialectics.
We know that our problems rise from the structure of the debate and not the ideas themselves because the structure of the debate is absurd.
In the Conservative/Liberal conflict we find conservatives arguing for limited government and personal freedom (liberty), while the liberals argue for bigger government and restrictions on liberty.
Conservatives and liberals routinely flip flop on issues. Not long ago, the Republicans were the ones associated with conservation and civil rights. The intelligentsia captured the issue by projecting the traditional position of the Democratic Party onto the Republicans and taking an absurdly unbalanced position on both issues. We associate Democrats with the two movements.
During the Bush Administration, Republicans foolishly flip flopped on fiscal conservatism, leading many to associate the Democratic Party with fiscal restraint and Republicans with uncontrolled government spending and deficits.
The partisan left/right dichotomy has two groups of rogues who use contrived conflicts to rise to power and influence. The nature of dialectics creates a mechanism where both sides resort to the same style of underhanded manipulations to gain power. The left/right dichotomy has on a path of diminished freedoms and greater government controls.
To get out of the rut of excessive partisanship, Americans needs to rediscover the affirmative rationality of our nation's founders. The founders of this nation operated with a well balance approach to rationality that allowed people of diverse backgrounds to communicate and build the foundations of a liberal society without the rancor that dominates politics today.
I like to call the philosophy of the Founders "Classical Liberalism" as it is philosophy of freedom based on the solid tradition of classical logic.
Until Americans make the effort to restore affirmative rationality, we will continue down the road of shrill liberty-centric rhetoric accompanied by decreased freedoms. The dialectical thinking of left/right conflict (Hannity v. Stewart) will not take us where we want to be as a nation.
"Liberalism" isn't the problem and "conservatism" isn't the solution because the two sides of this false dichotomy preserve the dialectical foundations of the false dichotomy.