What do Conservatives conserve?
by the national gadfly, Sun Nov 16, 2008 at 08:22:18 AM EST
- disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
- cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
- traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: conservative suit.
- a person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc.
- a supporter of conservative political policies.
- a preservative.
The dictionary definition above does not make it sound so bad. I mean, it sounds like part of a spreadsheet on a CPA's laptop or maybe something out of home economics class. How can anyone have any objection to conservative thinking if it's this benign? Well the problem for me has always been the wide chasm of disparity between their simple sounding identity and the racism, corruption, bloodlust and tyranny that they promote.
They claim to be saving something, right? So, what are they saving? Well, I looked at their core beliefs:
(Cross posted at The National Gadfly)
- Belief in natural law
- Belief in established institutions
- Preference for liberty over equality
- Suspicion of power--and of human nature
- Belief in exceptionalism
- Belief in the individual
Here's how these break down in comparison of what is stated and what is delivered.
Belief in natural law - This is the claim that God is in charge, so we do not need to make laws. That's a swell one and no wonder they put it first. It basically paves the way for everything else to be OK. In a (wing)nutshell, God doesn't administer things day-to-day, but God's representatives here on Earth will let us know what God wants. If they don't have any announcements on something, then it must be OK with God. Example: George Bush wants to invade Iraq to secure oil industry revenue for Exxon, Halliburton and Blackwater. He checks with his minister who tells him that God wants him to do this, for the good of everyone. Verdict? This is part of natural law.
Belief in established institutions - This is their way of saying that there are a few people that have most of the money and power in the world right now and they should continue to do so - for everybody's good. These people are better educated and they've been looking at all the big problems for a long time. They are really best equipped to handle the big challenges and we should trust them. Without question. It's the philosophy of brutality, slaveholders and tyrants. Example: "I got mine and I'm taking yours." Or, as recent economic troubles have illustrated: Socialized debt, privatized wealth.
Preference for liberty over equality - The actual dilemma is a balancing act. The argument, as used by conservatives, is a smoke screen used to facilitate the previous point. There are countless past, present and future situations where we, as a society must choose a solution that favors one over the other. There is no one choice for every situation. The only true solution is to seek balance, considering the past choices and the future ramifications. The imbalance of an unbending policy of choosing one over the other consistently creates negative effects that cannot be ignored.
The conservative sales pitch for choosing liberty always is their fearful claim that fat, lazy, stupid masses will be given all the fruits of the labor from the hard working people. In turn, the hard working people will become slaves to the undeserving masses. There are hard working people in all walks of life and this appeals to them all. It is very easy to resent the idea of someone taking what we've worked so hard for. Example: "After all, some people are just better at things than others, aren't they? So, why not just accept it? Why punish the people that can do well by making them give it to others? That's communism!" These are the typical arguments.
However, the inequality gap has gotten so wide that the society will not be sustainable. The swelling ranks of the poor and the diminished middle class serve only the short term gains of the very wealthy. To sustain a working, liberal democracy - the middle class must be healthy and the rule of law must provide equality. There is a whole lot of healthy gray between the black or white extremes favored by any unbending solution to the argument of liberty v. equality.
Suspicion of power and of human nature - Ronald Reagan pronounced that government is the problem. The irony is that he did so as he claim the throne of said government for himself. This is what magicians call the slight-of-hand. Make the audience watch one hand while the other hand is doing things that the performer does not want them to see. If the voters were to see how the GOP is funneling their tax dollars into the bank accounts of defense, oil and financial corporations that support the GOP; then they would vote them out of office. No more gravy train.
Example: this narrative of government's failure to make people either become adamantly defensive (activate the GOP 'base') or hopelessly depressed (keep the Democrats too depressed to organize). It lowers voter turnout across the country, thereby insuring an easier path to re-election. It also provides cover for poor performance while in office. It's deviously efficient. I can't help but thinking that Josef Goebbels would approve.
Belief in Exceptionalism - This is basically 'the white man's burden' and 'trickle-down economics'. Exceptional people should be allowed to be exceptional for the good of everybody. The best way to tell who is exceptional? Why, whoever has the most money, of course. Gimme a freakin' break! Next.
Belief in the Individual - This is the "you're on your own, sucker" policy that they tell us is for our own good. Now, they have extended families with with wealth, connections and influence. They have fraternities, corporate sponsorship, tax exemptions and rule from a position to employ private and public mercenaries, armies and police. You and I? Well, we have our famous bootstraps that we can use to pull ourselves up by. Isn't that something special?
I don't pretend to know everything, and if you consult my friends they will offer proof. However, I do know a pile of dog crap when I see it. Here's a basic thing to keep in mind: when someone filthy rich is telling you that being poor, unorganized and unprotected is good for you - it is a lie.
On one hand, there is this image of Conservatism as thoughtful intellectuals that is typified by Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley and on the other hand there are the "kill him" outbursts from Sarah Palin's rabid Klansman. It has always looked to me that Conservatism is nothing more than a paint job on robber barons and tyrants. Ultimately, I do what the FBI does: I follow the money. I don't listen to the rhetoric about racism, welfare, socialist threats. I just look at where the money is going and then I measure the gap between what they promise for us and what they get for themselves.