I AM a Democrat. Here is what I am told to believe, and therefore I do:
I believe that government is duty-bound to protect the welfare of all citizens.
I believe "liberal" is an honorable word embracing all that is good about humankind. The term "compassionate conservative" is an impossible contradiction.
I believe in the inherent goodness of all people, including those who commit criminal acts. They deserve to be rehabilitated and given another chance at contributing constructively to society.
I believe it is government's responsibility to reach out to its weakest citizens and offer a crutch when they are down on their luck.
I believe universal health care deserves serious consideration when so many Americans don't have insurance and can't get it.
I believe in affirmative action. Inequality is unacceptable in a country whose formative document declared that all are created equal.
I believe all individuals have the right to marry without regard to gender.
I believe in the labor movement. I recall the often bloody history of management-worker relations decades ago and I fully understand and support how unions came to be necessary. Today, in an economy weaker than at any time since the Great Depression, our unions must stand tall for their members.
I believe that greater regulation and oversight of business and industry ought to be a national priority. I have seen the harm done by human greed, bad judgment, and criminal acts in the executive offices of our biggest corporations.
I believe in investing our nation's financial resources to deal with the serious issues of the day. I support higher taxes to help pay the bill.
I believe the United Nations must continue to promote peace and human rights.
I believe that a woman's body is her own, not government's, and that aborting a fetus early in a pregnancy, in keeping with the law of the land as set forth by our highest court, is her prerogative and right.
I believe the death penalty is wrong and does nothing to deter crime. It is hypocritical of conservatives to oppose abortion of a fetus but advocate the death penalty for a breathing human being.
I believe our planet is being harmed in potentially irreversible ways. Global warming is demonstrably real and the dangers to our atmosphere, our oceans, our endangered species, and our resources will one day doom us all if left unchecked.
I believe in a strong military deterrent but I consider war to be abhorrent. Our nation should remember that half a century ago we renamed our Department of War the Department of Defense. We should concentrate our military effort in the defense of our country.
I believe that the Founding Fathers' definition of the "right to bear arms" reflected the times they lived in, and their intent was to provide for an armed militia in the event of a national emergency.
I believe that conservatives are so preoccupied with their own little world that they lose sight of the often unfortunate predicament of their fellow man. They are self-centered weasels and they are always wrong.
I AM a Republican. Here is what I am told to believe, and therefore I do:
I believe that government governs best when it governs in moderation. Government is at its worst when it meddles excessively in the lives of its citizens.
I believe that the best way to deal with crime is to come down harshly on the criminals. Coddling the bad guys never works. Locking them up does. I hate the "L" word and I have no respect for "limousine liberals."
I believe that government programs generously lumped in the category of "helping our less fortunate" only succeed in encouraging our less fortunate to stay that way. Some of them, such as workers compensation and unemployment compensation, invite and even tolerate fraud.
I believe that universal health care is socialism and that we already have the best health-care system in the world.
I believe individuals should be judged on their ability, not their race, and that reverse discrimination to right past wrongs is itself wrong.
I believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. Same-sex marriage is wrong.
I believe that the trade union movement, established with the noblest of goals, has long since lost sight of its mission and represents a grave threat to our nation's economic well-being.
I believe that government spending is grossly excessive and wasteful and encumbers future generations with debt and obligations they cannot meet. Taxes should be cut.
I believe the United Nations has repeatedly failed in its mission to preserve world peace.
I believe that life begins at conception, a marvelous gift from God, and that none of us who consider ourselves God's children have any right to interfere.
I believe capital punishment is neither cruel nor unusual. It is hypocritical of liberals to support abortion at one end of the life cycle but oppose the death penalty at the other.
I believe that the threat of global warming is overstated and that we place too many obstacles in the way of progress. Responsible offshore drilling makes eminent sense. We have far too many laws and regulations providing excessive protection of our forests, wetlands, and animals.
I believe a strong military force superior to any other on Earth is essential to the security of America. We must track down terrorists wherever they live.
I believe that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution could not be clearer. If I wish to own a gun, government has no right to stop me.
I believe that liberals are so preoccupied with being "do-gooders" that they lose sight of what is best for their country. They are out-of-touch tree-hugging zealots who never put America first, and they are always wrong.
So where do you fit in? Hopefully you are able to embrace certain elements of both philosophies, which would make you dangerously close to being - yes - an independent.
But if you are still conflicted, perhaps this will help: Two years ago, researchers at New York University and UCLA studied two distinct kinds of cognitive thinking - liberal and conservative. They concluded that one's political orientation may depend on how his or her brain processes information.
Conservatives, they decided, tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments while liberals are more receptive to new experiences. That could explain why former President George W. Bush was so single-minded about the war in Iraq, and his 2004 opponent, John Kerry, changed his mind about it.
Here's one last test to help you decide where you land in the political spectrum. If you believe the NYU-UCLA study was right on target, you're probably a liberal. If you think it's just so much academic hooey, you're probably a conservative.
This much I know: you both need to lighten up.