I call myself a “progressive” instead of “liberal”. I’m extremely liberal in most ways but the word’s got too much damned baggage. It’s been abused and misused and neo-ed to the point where, to my mind, it’s become too imprecise to describe how my mind sees the world. I want the American commonweal to progress into the future with gusto. I want us to embrace our challenges. I want us to go as far outside the box as we need to to solve those challenges. I want America to live up to the motto on our Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one. I want America to live UP to its ideals — even the ones it didn’t fully embrace at its creation like ALL “men” are created equal. Here’s the irony — in a way, conservatives WANT America to live up to the same ideal — but EXACTLY how the founders meant it: “all white, Christian men are created equal — so long as they’re landowners.”. That is what too, too many conservatives have in mind when they take up conservatism — America circa 1850.
A debate now rages in conservative circles, started by longtime Republican strategist Stuart Stevens. In his book “It Was All A Lie”, Stevens (who has been instrumental in crafting the messages that elected hundreds of Republicans to office) unabashedly accepts responsibility for having contributed to the deeply cynical enterprise that, he now sees, was always the GOP’s true self. Stevens even sees Saint Ronnie Reagan in this harsh, new light. As satisfying as it may have been hearing Reagan deride “welfare queens” for living off the government, what Reagan really was doing was spewing racism.
Racism and white supremacy have nested at the core of Republican intent at least since Barry Goldwater, Stevens says, and it disgusts him. He now understands: the Republican Party stands for nothing today. They exist to hold onto power however they must. If that means destroying the republic? So be it. This isn’t Trumpism, insists Stevens, it’s pure Republicanism screaming at the very top of its racist, bigoted, misogynistic, ignorant voice. This is conservatives making it crystal clear WHAT exactly they want to conserve.
Obviously, no conservative wants to conserve the future. The future’s the thing conservatives are trying to keep at bay. They want to hold onto as many of their conservative values as possible so as to slow, mitigate or prevent the future from ever happening. The conservative ideal, after all, is to make the future look as much like the past as possible. If the future could BE the past? So much the better (from the conservative POV)!
This isn’t rocket science (a thing conservatives fear because rocket science causes innovation and innovation causes change). Look at anything most conservatives want to legislate. The goal is to keep white people in power. To keep money in their hands. To give them advantages versus the rules that non-white people won’t get. Conservativism, by design, wants to maintain the status quo. To conserve it. The present contains as much of the future as a conservative can tolerate. They want to preserve as much of the past as they can in the present.
If every conservative was honest, that’s what they’d tell you. That’s why you should vote for them — because, unlike the progressive who’s unafraid of the future, they, the conservative, will take you back in time to when it was safer to be white. To when white people felt more assured that the future belonged to them just like the past did. One of the reasons to scream about Critical Race Theory is that CRT demands that we tell the FULL story about the past. The reason so few Americans even knew that a “Black Wall Street” existed (only to be wiped out by a race riot 100 years ago) is because “we” never reminded ourselves that it was part of our story. White people never want to hear stories about white people acting like monsters regardless of how true the stories are. They don’t want to see themselves that way.
That, too, is part of conservatism’s nature. Conservatism cannot look itself in the eye. It can’t self-analyze. It cannot stand being judged (judgmental as it is toward everyone else). It has no sense of humor. Oh, conservatives can laugh — but they never laugh WITH anyone (except other conservatives) while they’re collectively laughing AT someone else. Conservatism regards those not conservative with cynical distrust. It assumes the very worst about the rest of us — that we’re out to destroy the thing they love; for them, even freedom is a zero sum game. It’s not possible, they think, for others to have rights without white people “losing” rights. Power sharing just ain’t in their DNA.
And, so, conservatives gerrymander and voter suppress and even conspire with Russia in order to win elections that they know they can’t win fairly — all in order to conserve a version of America that never existed in the first place except in their minds. That’s the nutshell our problem sits inside of — conservatism can’t even be honest with itself about its intentions. About what IT wants and why.
Good thing the rest of us are here to explain it to them.