Monday, May 07, 2007

Conservatism Has Failed

Watching the Republican debate last week really highlighted the fact that conservatism is dead. Not so much in the sense that no one believes in it anymore (those 20 percenters are still hangin’ on), but that it has been discredited to the point that very few are willing to give it another chance.

How can you remain a Republican if you believe in smaller government, little or no foreign engagement (to the point of isolationism) and freedom from government intervention in private affairs? The truth is, you can’t, at least not if you want to retain any kind of intellectual honesty. And as much as I’d love to lay blame at the feet of the Bush administration, this one is not entirely their fault.

Conservative ideology has been given a chance, and it has run its course, to the detriment of the country and possibly to the near permanent hobbling of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, the rest of us were forced to suffer the injuries inflicted by its running its course straight into a brick wall, but the wounds will heal, and so will our nation.

The Right Wing think tanks, the Republican controlled Congress and the Bush administration, together implemented the conservative agenda, virtually unmolested by the Democrats, and here we are. It’s not quite the Utopia they thought it would be and while incompetence played a supporting role, the real failure belongs to the brains of the operation, and we all know that wasn’t George W. Bush. Iraq would still be a disaster even if it had been handled properly. The disparity in wealth we are currently experiencing is by design and the infeasibility of a financial structure based on debt is the legacy of conservatism in practice. There’s a reason the neo-cons have left the building, failure is the orphan these conservatives have no compassion for.

Think of the great experiments in liberalism, Social Security, Medicare, the Environmental Protection Agency, the five day work week, child labor laws (the list is a long one), all still going and despite conservative intervention (attempt to destroy them) over the years, all still working relatively well considering. On the other side you have experiments in conservatism, trickle down economics, perpetual war to feed the military industrial complex, the unitary executive that says the President is above the law and should be above the law in times of crisis (of their own making), all have failed and all are costing the average American time, money, security and peace of mind.

After six unfettered years of conservative rule, we work harder for less, with little or no security or opportunity to claim even a small piece of the American dream. We worry about our health because we have no healthcare, we worry about our food because it’s not properly regulated and we worry about our future because there is no security in working a job anymore. We worry about our children because a good education is harder and harder to come by and we worry about our parents because they don’t have security in retirement. This is what conservatism has wrought (rot?) and why an overwhelming majority of Americans say we are on the wrong track. Sure, the current crop of Republicans will attempt to eek out enough votes by pandering to religious fundamentalists and preying upon the fears they’ve instilled in voters of “the others” be they Mexican immigrants, Muslims or gays, but ultimately they will lose because there simply aren’t enough simple minded people that haven’t been clued into the fact that the words Republicans utter are simply words without meaning, and while words may be cheap, the actions, policies and experiments in conservatism that we have seen implemented, speak volumes. We can hear you now, we just don’t want what your sellin’ anymore.

We don’t want to live in a country where obscene wealth is accrued on the backs of hard working people that can’t afford to educate their children. We don’t want to live in a country where government serves only the top 1%, that celebrates war and shuns diplomacy and that cedes its moral authority by condoning and implementing torture. We don’t want to live in a country where leaders tell us we must give up our rights while they flagrantly violate the law. In short, we don’t want to live in a conservative Petri dish. If Iraq was the clean slate on which to write the conservative dream, I think we’ve seen enough to determine, conclusively, that we are not now, nor are we interested in becoming, a conservative country. We need to get back to our liberal roots, that is what will feed our future.

31 Comments:

Blogger Michael Kwiatkowski said...

The saddest part is that the Democrats aren't much better. The two candidates who probably appeal most to voters at this stage of the long campaign ahead are the ones the corporate media do the most to ignore and marginalize. I'm talking about Kucinich and Gravel. Edwards is finding his political liberalism with the help of his wife, but he voted for the Iraq war and I'm not too hot to vote for him--not unless he ends up being the nominee against whichever joke of a GOPher nabs his party's nomination. What America needs, now more than ever, is another FDR.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous david said...

Well, try reading FDR's campaign speeches from the election of 1932. Smart people look beyond the speechmaking and check out where the candidate comes from. Which is why I am so taken by Obama. I like his creds.

Gravel and Kucinich are always good for a party's conscience, but their provocative stands divide rather than reconcile. When Kucinich was mayor, he took a noble stand NOT to privatize the public utility. However, he did seem to antagonize people.

Neo-conservativism has failed. I think we will always have conservativism. Indeed, the thing is what are conservatives trying to conserve? If it's the family, why are they so pro-Big Business and so anti-Union? Why do they fight the Greens so hard? It seems to me that there's plenty of good things in conservativism if only we could lead the faithful back to the roots of their movement: Tradition, Nature, and the Family.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous david said...

I'd also like to add that extremes are always bad. You know, feast or famine, flood or drought.

I was reading a TIME interview with Gore Vidal in the dentist's office yesterday and he mentioned that the novel was no longer discussed publicly --taken serious, that is.

Art is always the mark of a vibrant, healthy, and mobile society. The moment income inequality sets in, Art dies.

Shakespeare lived at a time of great activity and the birth of the England's middle class. But there's nothing after Shakespeare's time because of grotesque income inequality and that leads to the Cromwell and regicide.

America's most fertile periods of creativity coincide with upward mobility and income equality. Where are the great artists of the 1980s? Greed might be good to Gordon Gecko, but nobody ever hung a dollar bill in a gallery.

9:01 AM  
Blogger KELSO'S NUTS said...

A view from an ex-pat...I only left the USA in January of this year and already I can't believe that YOU people live like that. In my new home country, we have universal health care with no restrictions on abortion, over the counter birth control of all sorts, universal pre-K through HS, with subsized college and post-graduate education, a president who's smart and fearless and LIBERAL, encrypted cellphones, completely private banking, a top tax rate of 10% and cap gains rate of 2%, no death penalty, no "sentencing guidelines," a demilitarized police force, a culture of tolerance in which a large Jewish and Muslim population not only don't fight, they socialize, and on, and on...to the point that we now have an "immigration" problem of our own involving Colombians and Venezuelans from the South and people from all of the Central American nations to the North. Oh, people gripe among themselves, but the kind of discourse that's normal in American media just would not fly down here.

And the right-wing opposition would fit somewhere to the left of David's man Obama. In fact, Obama's STATED VIEWS would be considered not only unacceptable, unfair, reactionary and completely ancient, but downright fascistic as well by pretty much everyone here, left, right and sideways.

You cannot imagine the pleasure I got when MY president, Martin Torrijos, invited to Washington to sign a trade deal, smiled for all the pictures, shook hands with all the suits, and told Bush to fuck himself and his trade deal. Oh, he wasn't too pleased that this same family had his father, General Omar Torrijos, assassinated so Manuel Noriega could be inserted and then dispatched with extreme prejudice when no longer useful.

You barbarians have to elect Kucinich or somebody and join the 21st century.

In the end, though, I know Bush and The Shoe Lady are going to find a way to fuck this whole region up once again, probably by invading Venezuela or something unless the Chinese or Saudis can stop them in time, time of course being the election of a Democrat. Or at least a Democrat to the left of that absurd empty-suited hawk Barrack Obama.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous biloxi said...

Hooray for Kelso's nuts. Study the website givemeliberty.org - then and only then can anyone make an educated decision about America's 2008 "election."

2:54 PM  
Anonymous david said...

Well, I'm very happy for you kelso's nuts, but I find your instant identification with Panama so very unCanadian. It's rather presumptive.

In Canada, a person moving to the Maritimes would not be considered one of them; they'd always be refered to as "from Away". That's what makes Canadians so good at the UN, we always qualify things.

That's one way I can always tell my expat American friends from real Canadians: they're just too damn certain about their opinion and overly possessive of the common good.

I think you exaggerate the Leftness of the government. And I hope the cash cow Free Trade Zone isn't jeopardized by the cough syrup scandal.

Any way, on topic, I wanted to link to the essay Conservative Assault on America's Families by Beth Shulman.

And, frankly, I see Obama as being far more left than his "stated views" because I can read between the lines in a very Canadian way. Well, his sister is married to a Canadian. And I've read some of the stories published by his mother's friends in Indonesia.

It's sad that Americans have no manners. They always wanted to know what's not their business. Consider the poor Queen. When she first met Dubya, many years ago, his mother had put him on the opposite side of the room hoping it would never happen. He staggered over and chuckled to Liz, "I'm the black sheep of the family, who's yours?" The Queen gave Georgie a forced smile and said, "None of your business." I can only wish more Americans knew what was and was not their business.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Stogie said...

Great Post, I Love The Way You Write.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Dale H. said...

"That's what makes Canadians so good at the UN, we always qualify things."

"It's sad that Americans have no manners."

Sadder still that SOME Canadians are unable to live up to their lofty claims within the short span of 6 paragraphs!

7:19 PM  
Anonymous david said...

Good to hear from you, dale h. I was listening to a Canadian comic the other night discussing the differences between Americans & Canadians. He pointed out our linguistic differences --not just "owt" and "oot". Canadians use words not spoken in America --like "please" and "thank you".

That punchline got a roar of laughter. But all kidding aside, there is always hope for America. I loved Judith Martin's book Star-spangled Manners in which Miss Manners defends American Etiquette.

I quote: Her argument is based on two notions: first, that American manners are bad, and second, that because the United States is a nation of immigrants who share "the desire to be treated fairly, the imagination to sketch a new life, and the determination to pursue it," Americans are uniquely positioned to improve their manners and create an etiquette system that could serve as a model for the international community.

It's that sentiment that makes the World look to America with hope. And, sadly, the World too often is met with insults about the French, Muslims, or excessively polite Canucks apologizing for not being American.

Am I laughing up my smug Canadian sleeve? Why, YES. I'm sorry to have offended you, dale h. I know you're a very proud American. I'm proud to be Canadian --and we've got tons of frozen wasteland to be proud of. (Now thawing thanks to you guys.)

All kidding aside, self-deprecation is not a lofty claim. I leave lofty claims to the land of the Free and the home of the Brave. The key to Canadian humour is satirical irony. (Which may explain why more Canadians watch The Colbert Report than Americans.)

The Conservative ideology of the Reagan/Bush years has failed. And it's failed because it was never viable in the first place. It was entirely Nostalgia. (I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but the TV version of the Little House was pure hokum.) And the attempt to turn back the clock to some mythic time in America's past would have made a great episode of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone.

I'm not asking you, dale h, to say "please", "thank you", or even "sorry". I've come not to expect that from the average American. (And LGND is an exceptional and wonderful American.) All I'd like to hear an American say is "What does the World want?" It would be nice to be asked before you tell us.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous dale h said...

David said:

"Canadians use words not spoken in America --like "please" and "thank you".

That got a laugh!? Humor standards up there have clearly declined since the golden age of SCTV.

It was less a case of my being offended than bemusement at the ease with which you resort to sweeping generalizations about Americans.

I use and encounter plenty of "please" and "thank you" from my compatriots.

I guess the 'satirical irony' in your self-contradictory claim of a national trait of
"qualifying everything" and then not doing so, was too widely spaced among your paragraphs for you to keep up...with yourself?

And, notwithstanding your opinion of the the estimable LGN, you'll appreciate that your designation of who is an "average American", together with your low expectations of same, is of no interest to most of us as much for its preening arrogance as for its reek of condescension.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous david said...

That Americans have bad manners is a given. (I thought Judith Martin's testimony would be enough.)

I am more bemused by your being offended by my segue into a joke about Dubya and the Queen. But then I think you, dale h, are just a wee tad uptight.

I'm Canadian. As your neighbour to the North with the longest undefended border in the world and an army one can fit in the back of a humvee, it's part of our culture to insult the World's Only Superpower. Somebody's gotta do it. And anyone else who's tried it, you've bombed.

I use and encounter plenty of "please" and "thank you" from my compatriots. I roared when I read that. I don't know why. I just suddenly had this image of John Wayne drawling "Smile when you say that, stranger."

Of course, I already know about American hospitality. You've offered to beat me up down there while I've offered to buy you coffee & donuts and listen to you threaten to beat me up down there up here.

Please, thank you, and SO SORRY. Or as Canadian Mike Myers would say NOT. That you are steamed by my comments just tells me you don't get my comments. You don't get the jokes without punchlines and the punchlines without jokes.

And I don't even expect you to get that these lofty claims, preening, and condescending comments are funny in themselves. But that's largely because you don't see yourself as the redneck bully to our nerdy milquetoast. (That there are exceptions is perfectly true, but it doesn't get a laugh.)

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Dale h said...

"I use and encounter plenty of "please" and "thank you" from my compatriots. I roared when I read that. I don't know why. I just suddenly had this image of John Wayne drawling "Smile when you say that, stranger."

Dumb, and not funny. But not surprising from one with a low threshold of roardom.

"That Americans have bad manners is a given. (I thought Judith Martin's testimony would be enough.)'

Wasn't enough. Doesn't allow for exceptions, therefore a sweeping polemic that unnecessarily insults too many of us.

"I am more bemused by your being offended by my segue into a joke about Dubya and the Queen. But then I think you, dale h, are just a wee tad uptight.'

Stupid unfunny segue. And there you go again with what passes for thinking.

"Please, thank you, and SO SORRY. Or as Canadian Mike Myers would say NOT. That you are steamed by my comments just tells me you don't get my comments. You don't get the jokes without punchlines and the punchlines without jokes."

On the contrary, I do "get" your comments. After all, it's not as though your comments are the subtle, insightful, ironic witticisms that you think them to be, rather than
the fatuous, unfunny and clumsy bleatings that they are.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous david said...

Well, dale h, I am glad you're so confident in your flatfooted observations. It rather confirms my impression that moderate American liberals are really the equivalent of Canadian conservatives. (And about as funny.)

But how do you see your America personified? (We all know it's not George Bush, but only Americans need that spelled out for them.)We know stereotypes are ironic, but they are telling ironies. And sarcastic when insulting. So, how do you see America personified?

LGND's thread was about the failure of conservatism. (I'd have qualified it as neo- or paleo-, but that's me.) And I can see her point. The conservative American wanted to be seen as John Wayne, rough, tough, corny and confident.

Wayne was a limited actor, but not a bad actor. Unfortunately, he made too many formulaic movies that present a naive view of American life and Western values. His best movies can capture the true spirit of America or can ironically tease the myth of the Western, e.g. True Grit. But mostly he's all legend and no reality.

I think the world would like America to be Humphrey Bogart. Tough, but classy. A street smart human being who nevertheless could rise to greatness by being true to his inner moral code. A honest man who doesn't put up with the propaganda and the 'official' story.

Some people see Wayne and Bogart as just two tough guys. Rugged individuals. But, boy, is that a laugh.

BTW, I still think I write pretty funny posts. It just doesn't play in Indiana.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Dale H. said...

"BTW, I still think I write pretty funny posts. It just doesn't play in Indiana."

Don't live there myself, but based upon the contempt for Americans that drips from your posts I'd take a Hoosier over
an ill-mannered, condescending, patronizing pseudo intellectual Canuck like yourself any day.

Have fun with your straw man film school debate.

7:53 PM  
Blogger KELSO'S NUTS said...

As to "leftness" of the Panamanian government, given the choice of these two, pick the Southpaw: Harper or Torrijos. Go ahead, PLEASE (!)

And while we're on the topic, "presumptious" is the word you were looking for, but of course I identify with a place that wants me and my taxes and is willing to give me a lot of help to guarantee they get them. What does the Dominion offer me? No privacy and full cooperation with Bush Administration. I'll pass.

10:19 PM  
Blogger xenophon said...

Good little essay on the difference between what the country was promised, and what it actually got.

It just gives the creeps to see the similarities between the Republican party of Herbert Hoover, and the Republican party of George Bush.

I don't think modern conservatives really know what they are about, they are ideologically weak because they have been cut loose from their moorings, as David said "tradition, nature, and the family" by unscrupulous political hacks who are in the game for power, money, and dominance.

The Bushies winning the big trifecta turned out to be a good thing in the long run. As you said they've had it all their own way, almost totally unmolested by the democrats, and now we see the undiluted, unmitigated results of what they really have to offer, and what they are actually capable of accomplishing. And it sucks.

So now they have run out of steam with almost two years to go, they are pretty much discredited and they have nobody to blame but themselves. Good. What more could we ask?

8:57 AM  
Anonymous david said...

It's good to see someone so knowledgeable posting, kelso's nuts.

Poor Mr Harper hasn't made any gains in the polls and so we remain in a minority situation.

I wish you well in Panama. I just hope you can prevent the destruction of the coastline and the mangrove forests from American developers. And I hope you're not caught in the real estate bubble that seems to be corrupting Panama City.

I understand Panama and the USA did strike a Free Trade deal. I just hope it's not undone by new Congressional provisions to improve workers' rights and environmental protections. I'm not sure where to source this FU rejection of the FTT by Torrijos. As far as I can tell, he signed it and it's awaiting approval in the US Congress.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a stupid article. Only a complete nutcase would write that kind of bullcrap and think it was serious prose.

Unf%^&ing believable.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yah, it's too bad the U.S. isn't more like those liberal utopias the old Soviet Union or Cuba, right?? How's that Castro workin' for all those Cubans? Why is it that Castro's own daughter said that the dream of every Cuban under the age of 70 is to LEAVE Cuba?? That's your ideal taken to its far extremes....and it's a hellhole where they shoot you if you try to leave.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or how about commie China? In order for them to make their commie system work, they feel they must kill children in the womb, because their commie socialism can't handle more than that, in their minds. So they have no problem grabbing pregnant women out in the country and forcing abortion on the spot. Yah, it's horrifying, but that's where your liberal dreams lead---straight to death.

11:18 PM  
Blogger pudge said...

There's are some huge holes in your theory. Here's one whopper:

No one who understands conservatism believes the GOP Congress or Bush are conservative. No Child Left Behind is one of many examples of far-left liberal policy that has come out of the last several years of Republican control. Vastly increased discretionary spending is another.

Further, and this is a bit beside the point since the GOP in DC has not acted conservatively: what's this "utopia" that you say conservatives believed in? The overwhelming majority of conservatives quite clearly disbelieve in the possibility of utopia (at least, in this physical life on earth).

In other words: you say conservatism is dead, but you don't actually know what conservatism is, and you damned sure haven't actually seen it in DC lately.

11:45 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Pudge--I find it amusing to watch conservatives coming out of the woodwork to disown George W. Bush now that his approval rating is 28% and Iraq is a disaster with no solution. Bush is your baby, you don't get to foist him off on us now that his failure is complete.

I understand what conservatism used to be, but I also know what it is today. That it has lost its moorings may be true, but that is the fault of conservatives as well, and in the end, it's just an excuse. Just because you don't like the modern conservative movement with it's resource wars, erosion of freedoms and the move toward theocracy, doesn't mean you get to mislabel it liberal. Conservatives own the failure and I will be happy to remind you of that, over and over again.

As for No Child Left Behind, the name may be liberal, but that is all. The program was designed and implemented to destroy public education. Mission Accomplished. It's as it has always been, liberals build it and Conservatives tear it down.

We've been shocked and awed by conservative rule and as we look around at the rubble, we recognize that it's time to start building again. Do you really think the American people are going to give the guys with the sledgehammers the job of rebuilding? No, me neither.

11:22 AM  
Blogger john a. bailo said...

You don't seem to understand the definition of Conservative. Conservative means upholding the status quo...making few changes.

That means that mainstream Conservatives, such as Rudy Giuliani, say, "yes, having those social programs are a good thing, but I don't want to expand them, nor would I ever remove them".

A Conservative says, yes, as in the past, we must protect our borders and defend ourselves, even if that means fighting overseas.

I agree -- a paradigm was set back in 1932, it is called the Liberal Consensus....but, paradoxically, a Conservative is someone who wants to preserve that Consensus, not more, not less.

It is the Liberals of today who are actually the extremists because they are putting down all the structures that make our society viable, like a strong defense and reasonable limits on both business and some personal freedoms.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe everything my university professors tell me. Che.

1:20 PM  
Blogger juandos said...

So the so called, liberal girl makes this silly comment: "Watching the Republican debate last week really highlighted the fact that conservatism is dead"

Well this is yet another indicator of how libtards can't come to grips with reality because they confuse Repugs with conservatives...

Then again should we actually expect anything intelligent from liberal parasites?

4:25 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

john a. bailo & juandos--The problem is not my misunderstanding of the words, it's your failure to accept the fact that conservatives have bought into the Republican Party and what we see now is essentially conservatism in practice. Conservative theory is one thing, how it is applied in the real world is something altogether different, and not pretty I might add. Conservatism, as currently practiced in this country, is a complete and utter failure. This is not a far left position, but rather a mainstream opinion now. Get used to it.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Xray said...

Pudge says that NCLB is a liberal idea? I hate NCLB. It's stupid- telling states that they have to impose standardized tests in order to hold school's accountable? That's not a liberal idea. It's an idea from people who hate the teacher's union and who hate public education. And... it destroys liberal education. Schools have to devote their resources to math, reading and writing and no longer teach kids history, social studies, art.

Pudge is a fool if he thinks the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration are liberal. The fiscal mess of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress isn't a result of liberalism- it's the result of two things: the Republican wetdream of cutting taxes combined with the political graft of the Republican party. Pudge: don't blame the mess on liberals. Blame it on the guys you wanted in office.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous drm said...

lgnd,

ha ha ha... You say NCLB destroyed education... Tell me, who was it that started the Federal Department of Education? And since its inception, ask anyone in this country if public education has gotten better or worse... I laugh at hearing those on the "left" claiming to know what "conservatives" are about and think they are able to lable it dead.

First a few pointers. 1. Conservatism and Republicanism are not the same. In our 2 party system those with conservative beliefs have found the Republican party more agreeable than the Dem party, thus a vote for GW.
2. There are many types of conservatives: social/moral conservatives, fiscal conservatives, economic conservatives, and law and order/strong national defense conservatives. Being a "conservative" does not mean you hold the 4 conservative principles, more likely you fit into a few of the categories.
3. The key to the Republican party is trying to bring the 4 conservative groups together and get their votes. When a candidate can get these 4 groups on his/her side they are probably always victorious.

Now back to GW, after 6+ years how do you classify him. Social/moral conservative YES, fiscal conservative definitely NO, economic conservative YES on lower taxes, law and order/national security conservative: mixed bag, YES on national defense but NO on law and order with Immigration Reform being the big negative.

In closing one asks well is "conservatism" or "liberalism" dead? Tough question, one way to look at it is via what are people voting for/against via state initiatives because they are usually one topic type elections. I would say the majority of initiatives that pass via direct elections are more Conservative than Liberal. That is why liberal turn to the courts to implement their agenda because they cannot do it at the ballot box. Hey, what an idea, why don't you turn to the Courts to defund the war?

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