Civic Republicans and Liberals in Daily Life

The political distinctions of civic republican and liberal not only impact how people view government and politics, but also how they act in everyday life.

I apologize for the lengthy back-story on how I came to this conclusion, but if you read it you can either feel thankful the events did not happen to you or feel smug that you would have immediately known what to do. If the latter, I envy you.

I live on campus and so I have to park my car very far away on north campus in the green road lot. Since it is so far away, I don’t check on it as often as I should. When I went to pick up my car last Tuesday, it would not start. To refresh your memory, Tuesday had absolutely horrible weather: cold, wind and torrential rain. Now, I can check the oil and even change a tire, but jumpstarting my car is a bit beyond my skill set. (Side note: I know I could have called AAA, but I didn’t have time to wait before I had another class, because I was picking up my car in between classes so I could leave right after my last class.) The parking lot was almost deserted, but I did see one older gentlemen getting out of his car across the lot. I sprinted over to him in the pouring rain and desperately asked if he had the time and skills to give me a jump.

He was going to a meeting, so he ran inside quick to let them know he would be late and then very kindly helped the pathetic car-idiot start her car. I thanked him profusely, and he smiled and shook his head like it was nothing. I was touched by this man’s kindness. Since I am taking this class, I thought about how his actions coincided with civic republican ideas. He was willing to help out a member of his community and put their needs in front of his own. If he had simply done what was best for him, he would not have been late to his meeting, nor would he have gotten sopping wet in the rain. He did not tell me I was “not a leaning willow, but can and must detach” and figure out my own problems for myself (Emerson 32). He saw an individual in need and since he was able to help them, he did so altruistically.

What Ayn Rand has to say about altruism

I unfortunately was not able to let my car run long enough to fully get the juices running because I had to get to my class. So after, my last class at 9pm I was in the same place I was before, asking strangers to help a girl out so I could get home. This time however, there only seemed to be classic liberals on the street. I asked a few individuals who said they did not have time, but eventually, I found a dad waiting for his daughter to load up their car and go home who said he would help me. Fifteen minutes later, he told me had changed his mind. I ended up having to wait for roadside assistance.

While I was greatly pleased that I was able to find a civic republican to help be the first time, I tried not to get upset that the second man would not help me. He was simply doing what was best for him. After all, “we must go alone” (Emerson 30). If he had helped me, how would I have figured out how to handle things on my own? It was already late and he wanted to get home, end of story.

I have a four-hour car ride home, so after I was finally on my way I began to think about how much misunderstanding and conflict is caused by individuals following a different ideology. One is not inherently better than the other, they simply value different things, so it makes since then that people following different ideologies would act differently. Additionally, which sort of individual does the greater service, someone who helps you out of a tough spot or someone who makes you figure your own way out of the tough spot?

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3 Responses to Civic Republicans and Liberals in Daily Life

  1. Nicole Y says:

    I found your post really interesting, given the contrast between people’s responses to your need for help. It reminded me of something I had read in an intro to public opinion course. McClosky and Zaller (1984) did research examining if/how liberals and conservatives differ on core values. They found that not only do the two groups differ on the appropriate means to an end, but also on the end itself (that is, there was a significant difference in values). Thus, I wonder if the people who were too busy to help (specifically the father who changed his mind), identify as a classic republican or classic liberal, and conservative or liberal?

  2. brbarlog says:

    I think this blog post does a excellent job relating the course themes of civic republicanism and classic liberalism to a personal experience. My first reaction when reading this blog post came after the concluding question: Whether one is too busy to help or whether one helps another in a difficult situation or whether to use an experience as a teaching moment. I would like to think (and I hope others do the same) that I would help the individual in need. I think whether or not a person has the skill to help out is irrelevant, if they may be able to contact another person. Regardless, there are many instances, in my view, where using a civic republican mentality to help others is essential. This is used in conventional wisdom when communicating with others and, for example, applying to jobs. It seems to me that when describing one’s character, we feel inclined to say that we care and help others. While no one should ever always receive a free-pass in life, some people need drastic help. I would hope to see myself as the “helper” or the “civic republican” in this instance.

  3. cindylyon says:

    Wow! What an awesome question to pose. It’s tough to even begin to formulate an answer. I may know what ideology I tend to follow, but lately I have been realizing the value in accounting for others ideologies. I may look at a situation and instantly come to one conclusion, while my neighbor would like at the same situation and come to the complete opposite conclusion. It’s always good to remember that people are different, they have different upbringings, different inclinations, different experiences. All of these things factor into their decision making. I think you made a keen insight when you said, “one is not inherently better than the other, they simply value different things.” I loved that. That’s not an easy thing to keep in mind when people are actively choosing not to help you out in a time of need. I commend you for keeping such a level head. While reading Emerson, I couldn’t believe he was saying some of the things that he did. The whole thing felt cold and far-off to me, but maybe there’s a reason he wrote those passages. Maybe he found himself or someone he knew in a position where a little bit of tough love (or even maybe self love) was necessary. Your take on the two opposing ideologies really forced me to take a step back and think bigger picture. Thanks!

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