“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Conservatism Is Dead

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Main Entry: 2conservative
Function: noun
1 a : an adherent or advocate of political conservatism b capitalized : a member or supporter of a conservative political party
2 a : one who adheres to traditional methods or views b : a cautious or discreet person

Main Entry: con·ser·va·tism
Function: noun
1 capitalized a : the principles and policies of a Conservative party b : the Conservative party
2 a : disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change
3 : the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change

Does this sound like anyone you know? It does to me. Want to know who? Me. It's sounds a bit like me. Does it sound at all like you? Could one consider Social Security and public schools to be established institutions? I think so. Well established institutions at that, and I'm very much interested in preserving them. At the latest Potter-Randall Democrats meeting someone stated, in regard to the club's finances, something like, "We are the true fiscal conservatives." In a lot of ways, he's right. I'm a fiscal conservative. I'm a conservative spender and a conservative investor. I can't afford to not be.

There's a problem here, though. I'm a liberal. Again from Merriam-Webster:
Main Entry: 2liberal
Function: noun
: a person who is liberal: as a : one who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways b capitalized : a member or supporter of a liberal political party c : an advocate or adherent of liberalism especially in individual rights

Main Entry: lib·er·al·ism
Function: noun
1 : the quality or state of being liberal
2 a often capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard c : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties d capitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party
I'm not so sure about the notion of a "self-regulating market", but other than than this sounds a great deal like me as well. So there is a difference between an individual conservative/liberal belief and a conservative/liberal belief system.

I started working on this post about a week ago and wound up putting it aside. Ironically this guest column by frequent contributing wingnut Steve Holland appeared in the Globe-Republican after that time: Conservatives hold sincere belief in personal responsibility. It's the typical, self-congratulatory piece that we've seen rewritten dozens of different ways by whatever-conservatives-are-now. To paraphrase, "I went to college blah blah blah. Government can suck because I donate to charities blah blah blah." He does make one point I agree with though: "Today's American version of political conservatism doesn't remotely resemble the dictionary definition of conservatism." Yes, very true, because conservatism is dead.

Five and half years of Bush policies have blown conservative talking points out of the water left and right. Reductions in taxes and social spending are about the only classic conservative pet causes where Bush has held true. Other than that, the deficit is out of control, the national debt is over $8 trillion, we've invaded and occupied two nations, the government has greatly expanded it's ability to spy on all of us and the private and public sectors have been rife with corruption, just to name a few issues. Does any of this sound like the definition at the top of this post? There's nothing conservative about any of it.

So who has taken the place of the conservative? The authoritarian cultist? The corporatist? The theocrat? All of the above? It seems that those-who-call-themselves-conservative are having a bit of an identity crisis. They try to reconcile their supposed beliefs with what is happening in the world around them and either wind up watering themselves down to little more than middle of the road moderates or exposing themselves as true radicals. There is little conservatism either way. Conservatism is dead.