It was already possible, by the early ’90s and actually long before them, to trace the terms of the current partisan divide in America. Conservatives — think in Jonathan Haidt–ish terms here — value tradition, authority, and group identity; liberals value tolerance, fairness, and care. Or whatever; you can draw the distinctions however you’d like. The point is, The Next Generation depicts a strict military hierarchy acting with great moral clarity in the name of civilization, all anti-postmodern, “conservative” stuff — but the values they’re so conservatively clear about are ideals like peace and open-mindedness and squishy concern for the perspectives of different cultures. “Liberal” ideals, in other words. You could say, roughly, that the Enterprise crew is conservative as a matter of method and liberal as a matter of goal. They sail through the universe with colonialist confidence sticking up for postcolonial ideals. I mean, Starfleet has a Prime Directive … but it’s explicitly non-interventionist! This is so weird that it’s almost hard to notice; your mind just sort of slides over it. But it’s fascinating in numberless ways. Picard is both indisputably the most patriarchal Star Trek captain and indisputably the least likely to punch anyone in the face.
‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ turns 25 - Grantland