The Problem With Conservatives Is WHAT They Want To “Conserve”

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.

We Have To Stop Telling Ourselves Republicans Get Away With Things When WE’RE The Ones LETTING THEM Get Away With Things

Republicans having to bend democracy to its will is not a new thing. They’ve been doing it ever since it dawned on them that a rapidly diversifying America had already ended their cultural hegemony. You don’t suppress your own voters, right? You suppress the other guy’s — because they won’t vote for you. Political parties gerrymander Congressional districts in order to pick their voters before voters have a chance to pick them. If Republicans thought they could win elections based on the strength of their ideas, they’d happily win that way. But they can’t. So, they do everything they can to circumvent the majority. Until that majority actually does something to stop them, they’ll persist — like the pathogen they are inside our body politic.

We The People are a majority. Let’s start with that fact. Election after election after election, the MAJORITY of Americans vote AGAINST Republicans and Republican policies. Republicans have not in any way spoken for a majority of Americans since 1996. Keep in mind, our system does not reflect a level playing field. There are reasons we have 50 states today and not 51 or 52. There are reasons we have TWO Dakotas (and it ain’t because there were too many Dakotans for one Dakota), two Virginias, two Carolinas. Democratic Senators — there are 50 — represent 41.5 million more Americans than Republican Senators!

If Republicans were pushing America toward some ideological goal, it would be one thing. In the old days, they used to pretend that that’s what they were doing. Travel writer Stuart Stevens has been involved in Republican politics since the early 1990’s. Growing up in Mississippi in the 1960’s, Stevens saw the Democrats as “Good ol’ boy segregationists” which is exactly what the Southern Democrats/Dixiecrats were. That’s why he joined the GOP. But, Nixon’s “southern strategy” incorporated the racist Dixiecrats into the GOP. He finished the swap historian Heather Cox Richardson describes in her excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party”. The names “Democrat” and “Republican” are almost meaningless in an historical sense. If you were to read the “Party of Lincoln’s” foundational documents, you’d swear you were reading something the modern Democratic Party put forward.

Understanding that bit of history helps explain modern Republicans and modern Republicanism. As Stevens himself puts it in his book “It Was All A Lie”, Ever since Reagan, Republicans have been deliberately and knowingly pedaling a lie to America — about themselves but also about us. About America. Republicans recognized post Reaganism that their hold on American culture was doomed. The demographics said so. Not just the demographics of who was coming to America, but the demographics of who had been in America for a long time already — and was suddenly realizing the power of their vote. The dirty, dirty secret Stevens gives up: Republicans knew the culture war was lost before they declared it on the rest of America. The whole point of the exercise was to seize power in whatever way they could — and then old onto it for dear life.

Republicans regard the rest of us cynically but their survival instincts aren’t wrong. If they could just tweak those instincts away from unilateralism and toward power-sharing, they might yet survive. Ah, but Republicans are all schoolyard bullies by nature. And there is the fact that they’ve committed treason in order to attain power and retain power. They’ve thrown their lot in with treason; there’ll be no coming back from that. That, absolutely, is one thing both sides don’t do.

The first wrong idea we have to let go of is that Republicans get away with everything. Yes, in the past, they mostly have. But then there was Watergate and Iran-Contra — two episodes where Republican corruption became so overwhelming we finally did something to corral it. So, we DO have it in us to put our foot down and say “Enough!” The second wrong idea we need to disabuse ourselves of is that we can pick and choose what parts of the rule of law to follow. That’s exactly how one breaks the rule of law. For the rule of law to work correctly, it must be applied evenly to everyone or people begin to think the rule of law doesn’t apply to them. That brings us to the third wrong idea — that whatever the rule of law is, it doesn’t apply to us. It absolutely does.

If we started thinking of our situation from the rule of law’s point of view, we’d dismiss the idea of Republicans getting away with any thing completely out of hand. The Universe cannot work that way because the rule of law can’t. That’s how WE The People need to think of the Universe and the rule of law. The rule of law is our arbitrator. And our arbitrator demands satisfaction when anyone stops playing by the rules.

For four years, the Department of Justice was corrupted by a racist, international crime syndicate and its enablers. Republicans are already ruing the fact that Merrick Garland now heads the Department of Justice instead of occupying a SCOTUS seat. Garland’s steadfastness as a level-headed prosecutor has already condemned them. Garland has said out loud that he intends to investigate all the corruption of the past four years because THAT is what the American People demand of their “top cop”. Once Garland’s DoJ begins pulling Republican corruption threads, it won’t take long for the entire Republican Corruption Sweater to fall apart in a massive, stinking, corrupt heap.

The fact is, Donald Trump will NOT get away with this. We have to stop thinking it might not happen. Rather, We The People need to think it can’t NOT happen. That way, were it not to, we’d come at it from the proper place: it should have happened & we still want it to. Were Trump to get away with what he’s done to us, we need to be willing to shut America down until that situation gets rectified. In a sense, we’ll have zero choice. Were Trump to get away with what he’s done, it would mean the American experiment is indeed over. Democracy has lost while treason and corruption have triumphed.

The only way that becomes reality is if we let it.