Are you a bleeding-heart conservative?


WE’VE ALL HEARD the phrase “bleeding-heart liberal” tossed around to belittle a certain kind of person. You know the type – someone who chokes up at the thought of all the injustices of the world. Someone who wants government to step in and solve the world’s problems, make our nation a better place for the future, all that kind of crap. The “bleeding-heart liberal” is a misdirected do-gooder, a well-meaning but over-emotional sap.

This week I’d like to draw attention to our nation’s unheralded “bleeding-heart conservatives” and help you identify whether you qualify or not.

Bleeding-heart conservatives are folks who get just as emotional about injustice and unfairness as bleeding-heart liberals do. Like their liberal counterparts, bleeding-heart conservatives want the government to address what they see as pressing national injustices. It’s just that the conservatives with bleeding hearts are moved to tears by a different set of injustices than their lefty bleeding-heart brothers. But that doesn’t mean their hearts bleed any less!

The best way to illustrate is by offering some examples. Hopefully these will help you identify whether you have a bleeding-heart – conservative or liberal.

If you think, “my gosh! 43 million Americans lack basic health insurance. The government should do something about it!” Be warned; you may very well be a bleeding-heart liberal.

However, if you think, “my gosh! The nuclear power industry can’t function without subsidized liability insurance. The government should do something about it!” that would qualify you as a bleeding-heart conservative.

See the difference? It’s not about whether your heart bleeds or not. It’s just a question of what makes it bleed.

Here’s another example. Maybe you get upset about the extinction of species and the destruction of pristine wilderness. I can hear you now, crying out, “the government must step in and protect our precious natural treasures!” Well, I’ve got news for you, you’re starting to sound like a bleeding-heart liberal.

On the other hand, you might get more emotional about limits on resource extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. I can imagine you tossing in bed at night, thinking, “the government must step in and protect Chevron and Texaco!” In that case, you’re probably a bleeding-heart conservative.

Example number three: let’s say you’ve got a real soft spot when it comes to kids. You get all upset and bleary-eyed when you think children are getting a raw deal. That makes you a bleeding-heart for sure, but not necessarily a bleeding-heart liberal. It depends on which children you feel most emotional about.

The child-loving bleeding-heart liberal might say, “I can’t stand thinking about the children of this nation being forced to attend run-down, inadequate schools! The government should help them!”

On the right, the child-friendly bleeding-heart conservative is more likely to say, “I can’t stand thinking about the children of the Carnegie and Heinz families being forced to pay taxes on their multi-million dollar inheritances! The government should help them!”

See how the difference isn’t the bleeding-heart? The difference is the target of our affections.

With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of picking the bleeding-heart conservatives out of the bunch. “Shouldn’t the government lend a hand to Americans in poverty?” That’s bleeding-heart liberal territory. “Shouldn’t the government lend a hand to shareholders in agribusiness?” Now you’re in bleeding-heart conservative land.

“Why should so many of our elderly have to choose between food and prescription drugs?” Bleeding-heart liberal. “Why should so many of our investors have to choose between holding onto capital investments and selling them with capital gains tax?” Bleeding-heart conservative.

See, there’s all sorts of bleeding-heart conservatives, and you can have fun identifying them!

Because this column is focused on fairness and balance, I won’t say which of these perspectives I share. But it’s way past time the media stopped promoting the idea that liberals have a monopoly on bleeding-hearts. How about a little fairness to conservatives? They have feelings too.

Chris Giovinazzo’s column appears biweekly.

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