Intellectually Dishonest Conservatism
What are Conservatives Saying?
The conservative echo chamber (that is, FOX News, conservative talk radio, right wing think tanks and Rightward leaning punditry) have convinced many people that liberals, Democrats and their allies, are a group of elitist, snobs who are too caught up in intellectual pursuits to be taken seriously. The criticism goes something like this; "Liberals are intellectually dishonest. They delude themselves by thinking that Progressivism is anything other than pure Communism, which doesn't work."
Liberals do often fool themselves into believing that only their policies can work perfectly, or that liberals themselves have a monopoly on the truth. History is full of unwise moves from liberals. But it seems that liberals are not the only ones who delude themselves. The Tea Party movement has often used the slogan "We want our country back!" This suggests a certain nostalgia for the past. Many conservatives who laud themselves as "fiscal conservatives" promote a brand of Laissez faire economics that even Ronald Reagan avoided as impractical. America's unique brand of individualism is being taken to extremes by many representatives of the modern conservative movement. And during the 2012 Republican National Convention, the Republican Party adopted a plank that denied the reality of man-made global warming. These are a few ways in which conservatives are intellectually dishonest.
What does it all Mean?
Lets begin with the slogan, "We want our country back!" Tea Party groups often display it at rallies. In some ways, it has become a rallying cry. It speaks of nostalgia, and a yearning to go back to the way things were. But a quick look at where the United States has been shows why Liberals call themselves "Progressives." In the 1950's, the South, and many states outside it, were strictly segregated on the basis of race, a woman's role in life was to stay at home in order to tend to the family, and the lack of federal regulations against certain industries meant dirtier air, poisoned land, and rivers that caught on fire. During the 60's, the Civil Rights movement came to a head, three major assassinations shook the country and the United States waged a deeply unpopular war in Vietnam, leading to deep divisions in American society. In the 70's, the country entered a long period of economic stagnation. The pullout of American troops in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal and two feckless Presidents shook Americans confidence. All of this is to highlight the fact that no one really wants to go back to the conformity of the 50's, or the upheavals and scandals of the 60's and 70's. Every era has a dark side, and the our current era still holds the promise of a better future.
Another conservative argument is grounded in the belief that investing in small businesses can do more to cure inequality and poverty than anything the federal government is capable of doing. Conservatives recite all of the virtues of individual hard work. They list all of the small businesses that have succeeded; Sears, Staples, Dominoes Pizza, Walmart. The problem is that none of these businesses are even remotely "small." In fact, between 1977 and 2010, the number of new business owners and entrepreneurs declined by 53 percent. The number of Americans who are self employed has declined 20 percent since 2010. And the gap between the haves and the have-nots of our society is growing. Granted, these trends continued right on through the Clinton years, but conservative economic policy does little to help reverse it. In fact, many conservatives do not even acknowledge that the trends exist. The result is that there has been no national debate about how to truly create a good environment for small businesses. Meanwhile, Republicans keep on proposing to secure the current tax rates for big businesses and the richest Americans, an irresponsible policy that would ensure that the above trends continue.
Conservatives often speak of community, of small towns in America's heartland. Small towns, they say, are perfect examples of how conservative principles actually work in terms of law and order and family stability. And it is true that many small towns and communities (though certainly not all of them) trend Republican. That talk clashes with their individualism, because Republicans also talk about the importance of hard work and individual self worth. It is ironic that when conservatives go misty eyed over small, close knit communities, they are actually embracing the one thing most dear to liberals. You see, no society can ever exist without a sense of community, and liberals have historically understood this. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal worked because every community in America implemented it in some form. It is hard for me to imagine how any federal program could work without input from people and communities of all stripes. Yet conservatives of late have been saying that individual freedom is paramount. But communities only work best when the people in them are truly invested in the community, which is what liberals have been trying to say for years. When Republicans ask the question "where is that old sense of community?" they might want to take another look at radical individualism.
But the recent election showed just how intellectually dishonest conservatives can be. In a sign of how contemptuous they are towards the issue, Republicans adopted a plank that denied the reality of human caused global warming, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. Newt Gingrich, early in the 2011 Republican Primaries, had to backtrack from a commercial he had made with Nancy Pelosi warning of climate change, saying "I was wrong." In the last few months of the campaign, when polls showed a small but steady Obama lead over Romney, many Republicans formed conspiracy theories about a supposed liberal bias in polls and the media, a sentiment nurtured by the conservative media...
In conclusion, it appears that conservatives are quite capable of intellectual dishonesty. Their modern message is one of nostalgia, inconsistent and irresponsible economic policies, radical individualism and a denial of inconvenient facts. Republicans should do some serious soul searching, because their current ideology is at odds with the country as a whole.
Do Conservatives need to reexamine their positions, or abandon some beliefs?
- Politicians Have a Talking Problem
Politicians really need to shut up. And Americans really need to stop listening to them.