Why Do Racers Vote Republican?

What’s the difference between a liberal and a conservative? For the quick and easy answer we must go to John Locke and Edmund Burke, the two 17th- and 18th-century English philosophers who cemented the left-right distinction for all of modern times.

The liberal, per Locke, believes in the perfectibility of mankind, whereas Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” a bestselling pamphlet when published in 1790, preached human limitation and the doggedness of original sin. For the conservative, government is suspect. To the liberal, society should be improved through human intelligence, which is the seed of all human progress. Conservatism sees human beings as bestial and selfish; people are basically competitive, as well as unequal in their abilities or value to society, and those who contribute more deserve greater rewards. The well-intentioned collectivism of the liberal, the conservative argues, only deprives society of its vitality and inhibits the achievement that comes with individualism.

Listen to Richard Petty: “The majority of the people I associate with are conservative because they make their own decisions on what to do on the race car, when to make pit stops. They’re very individual people. . . . City people wind up more liberal because they’re depending on somebody to own their house or clean the streets.”

He is not a normal person, no 9-to-5’er with the security of dental insurance, but a self-absorbed, self-enmeshed figure. His job is to live on the edge and do so unrelentingly, with the knowledge that there can be a very steep price to pay for failure.