For all of conservatism’s many negatives, “truth in advertising” isn’t one of them. To its credit, conservatism will tell you right up front what it’s all about and what it wants our collective future to be: our past It’s right there in conservatism’s name — conservatives want to CONSERVE. Fair enough. Conserving the environment is good. Conserving tradition can be good. It can be rotten too. It’s situational. One thing we know conservatives can’t and definitely don’t want to conserve though is the future. Fortunately for them, as the future hasn’t happened yet, it’s the one time frame we can’t conserve. Just as well. The future is the one time frame conservatives want to avoid — by conserving as much of the past that remains in the present as they possibly can — and then locking that version of the present into a kind of stasis,. If conservatism could have its way — which is what they’re trying to do now — America would become a one-party state: theirs. This permanent minority rule wouldn’t just hold us in the present, it would in fact begin to regress us back into the 50’s — an era conservatism and the current version of the Republican Party think of as the “the white man’s golden age“. That’s 1850 we’re talking about!
In America, conservatism is old, Christian white men desperate to maintain what had been a hegemonic hold on power born of a great idea poorly executed. “All men are created equal” needed a rewrite it never got — and diversity — in order to fully live up to its E Pluribus Unum potential. That’s always been the dynamic tension at the heart of the American experiment. Though white people articulated the great idea, everyone other than white people are far better at realizing the great idea’s “E Pluribus Unum” potential. That’s because they are the “Pluribus”. Racism bubbles to the surface when one group thinks it’s superior to another group (as white people do toward Black people and brown people and Asian people and everyone else who isn’t white like them). The reason people from all over the world latched onto E Pluribus Unum is the same reason white Christian men thought “All men are created equal” was just fine as written — and as intended.
The white men who founded America and intended to hold all political power for themselves were actively defining the box they intended America to be. “All men” meant them. White, Christian men intended that white, Christian men would be America’s perpetual stakeholder pool. White, Christian, land-owning men more specifically. No E Pluribus Unum in sight. That’s where “originalism” comes from.
Consider “originalism”. Consider how we get a thing like “originalism”. It’s white, Christian men saying “Well, since we thought of the great idea, we’re the ones who should always get to run it how we like it!” Originalism insists, that America must always be exactly how the white men who invented it intended it to be. Any other version of America, says originalism, is an aberration, E Pluribus Unum be damned.
“Originalism” is “the box” with a tired, old bow on it.
The reason conservatives (and therefore Republicans) can’t run on the strength of their ideas is simple. They have none. Their new idea is to turn America back into how it was. That’s why Republicans have to resort to suppressing Democratic voters and gerrymandering. It’s why they’re corrupt. They’re so desperate to hold onto power that they even co-conspired with a hostile foreign government actively engaged in cyber war with us. Think about that! Conservatism saw more common purpose with Putin (and now with the coronavirus) than it did or does with other Americans. That, to bring it around, is because all those “other Americans” aren’t “them”.
By its nature, conservatism cannot innovate its way out of our problems; that’s because the act of innovating itself threatens conservatism. How can there be new ideas when the old suffice? If new ideas work to solve our problems, it means old ideas can’t or don’t. Any problem conservatism can’t solve poses a threat to conservatism itself because the only way out is through innovation — doing it differently than before. And, most likely, doing it better, too.
Two words conservatives hate are “new” and “improved” because “old” and “how it was” is how they like it.
If not for the Electoral College’s artificial hold on the presidency — if we actually just elected our POTUS via popular vote — it’s likely a Republican would never win the presidency ever again. Future Democrats would run up even bigger margins than Joe Biden’s 7 million vote cushion. Ah, but the EC is another old, artificial, racist governing structure trying to keep “All men are created equal” from turning into “E Pluribus Unum”. Just like the structure of the Senate — another example of white power tilting the playing field toward itself.
Conservatism’s answer to virtually all of our massive problems is the same: do nothing (as if doing nothing was a cheaper option) regardless of whether the problem is climate change, racism, corruption or treason. Even among conservative Democrats, there’s a latent desire to just “kiss and make up” — to go full bi-partisan kumbaya with the very same bad actors trying to destroy the American republican from within. Doing nothing is invariably the most expensive option of all.
If we do nothing to save our democracy, it will go away. If we do nothing to save our environment, it will become uninhabitable. If we do nothing to save human decency, indecency will eventually come for us.
Solving these problems demands, first, acknowledging them. White America is balking at the whole idea of walking in the door to marriage counseling. They don’t want the marriage between them and everyone else to endure — at least, not the way everyone else imagines the relationship. Like I said, it turns out that everyone BUT white people seem to have a knack for democracy. Black Americans have such a solid grasp of it — and why it matters — that they have endured three hundred plus years of brutality by the white people with the great idea in order to manifest the great idea in ways white people would never have thought of — because they were always in power.
When people keep putting obstacles in your way, problem-solving around them becomes second nature. Joe Biden’s administration could write a few volumes on the topic. Afghanistan could fill a whole library. The pandemic could fill a zip code full of nothing but libraries. The conservative response to Afghanistan was “get greedy”. Its response to climate change is deny it’s happening. It’s response to voting rights is restrict them as much as possible because — as Donald Trump himself put it, “when too many people vote, it’s bad for Republicans”. Yeah — exactly.
Democracy itself is bad for Republicans.