I generally have tried to stick to facts and primary sources here, and truth be told, I am not varying from that format today. However, some of you may take issue with that statement. I recognize that in advance. It doesn’t change reality. In fact, that is precisely what we’re going to address today. Reality.
The simple truth is this. Modern Conservatism is not based on logic and reason. It is a religion. It is based on a faith and belief which does not respond to the presentation of data and causal relationships when demonstrated. This is the essential difference between Liberal and Conservative positions.
Really, it always has been. Liberalism is based on scientific thought processes and evolving. Seeing what isn’t working and finding a solution to make it better. Conservatism, on the other hand, used to be based on holding on to what was known and trusted. It was an unwillingness to try the new, because “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” Modern Conservatism though is even worse. Even in the face of the facts showing that it can’t be trusted, the dogmatic religiously held beliefs can’t be let go. This does not imply that Liberal thought is incompatible with any religion any more than Conservative is incompatible with other religions. It only indicates that sociopolitically, Liberals are more adaptable and better able to survive in the long run. (The ‘fun’ part is that today’s Liberals are all too often tomorrow’s Conservatives.)
For example, the Arizona Secretary of State, Ken Bennett (appointed to replace Jan Brewer when she became Governor in 2009) is still demanding of the state of Hawai’i confirmation of President Obama’s birth certificate, which the state of Hawai’i is saying he will need to prove a legitimate need for, again. How many times do we have to go through this? I have been abundantly clear that I am not an Obama fan, nor am I even a supporter of the Democratic party, since I am actually a Liberal, but why are we still wasting time on this? Hawai’i has repeatedly confirmed he was born there and he did finally release his full birth certificate. So, again, why are we still having these discussions? At an official level even? Because for many on the far right, this is an article of faith. It is an article of faith that Obama wasn’t born in the US and is therefore an illegitimate pretender to their throne. No amount of presentation of fact will convince them otherwise. Let us not forget that they ignored the fact that we knew for certain that John McCain was born in Panama, and thus there are legitimate questions that could have been raised about his eligibility to serve as POTUS.
Another example is the experiment with supply side economics of the last 40 years, and particularly of the last 12. This is the true heart of the modern “Conservative position, and they have failed utterly. The beloved banks and other corporations of the far right have failed to thrive under these policies, and, in fact, would have failed to survive if not for a bail out from the rest of us. The “free market” failed, and when it did, what did the Conservatives do? Did they stand by their espoused principles and let those businesses fail? Absolutely not! They leapt in to save them. To the tune of $700 billion, in the first round alone! Then, not only did they not learn from this and adjust their policies, but they continue to insist that these policies must be continued, and even strengthened. “We haven’t done enough!” they cry. The icing on that cake is that then, the far right Republicans use this as an attack point on the center-right Democrats, when in truth it was passed first under the Republican administration and then continued under the Democrat administration.
As has been demonstrated, over and over again, these policies not only don’t work, but they are actually the cause of the economic crisis we’ve been facing. These policies created false bubbles and then when they collapsed, the right screamed that the solution was to use the same policies which created the bubbles in the first place. They are incapable of achieving long term success.
We have to rehash the same arguments over and over again, because we are not actually having an argument or a debate. We are foolishly struggling to attempt using reason to convince someone to change their religion. So, the question is, what brings on a religious conversion? Fear, obviously has worked on a great number of people, but as a liberal we choose not to use fear. That is a tool of the right. Hope? Well, hope works but it’s a slow dull tool that only works when the more base needs on Maslow’s hierarchy have been met. Given the current environment in America, a lot of people have been taken over by their pressing economic needs (actual or perceived) or the fears which have been so carefully inculcated by the two dominant wings of the monolithic party, people are too preoccupied with their basic needs. So, what are we going to do?
I was rereading a 77 year old anti-war brochure by a highly decorated USMC Major General named Smedley Butler, called War is a Racket. I was struck by many points in it that are relevant to today. Not from an anti-war perspective, though I am. (Honestly, I believe that the vast majority of people of all political persuasions are. I sincerely believe that it is a very small percentage of people who are actually pro-war. Unfortunately, there is a much larger percentage who are persuaded by fear, but I digress.) What struck me though was how much of it was relevant to our problems from an economic and political stand point. Not only the famous Eisenhower quote warning of the military industrial complex that I referenced last week, but through our entire economy.
The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits – ah! that is another matter – twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent – the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.
Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and “we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,” but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket – and are safely pocketed.
Both the Democrats and Republicans have used this fear to keep America on a war footing for decades. Whether it be the War on Drugs, the Cold War, the War on Terror, or what have you, by keeping the people constantly distracted and afraid, then it feeds into the bubble of higher profits. The real difference over the last 40 years is that the far right has succeeded in removing any responsibility for paying for this. They are succeeding with their “Starve the Beast” campaign to bankrupt America.
In the short term, there really isn’t much we can do except to keep fighting the good fight. In the long run though, history is a clear march of progress. There are bumps in the road. Some of them are quite severe. (Dark ages any one? Brought on by a radical conservative reaction!) In the end though, we as a species continue making progress. Or, we will die out. Those are really the only two choices.
In 2006 at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, Stephen Colbert put it quite nicely in his disarmingly humorous way, “And, reality has a well-known liberal bias.”