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  • The Contradictory Nature of Conservatism

    • Posted on May 05, 2016
    I wrote this some eleven years ago, and evidently scrapped it; don't think it was published at the time.  Re-reading it now, it seems to hold up well, and as we witness the utter collapse of conservatism under the guidance of Donald Trump, it rings true.   

    Conservatives want smaller government, but still expect to be protected and defended by a strong standing army/air force/navy/marines/coast guard.  

    They also know that the federal government helps protect the food supply, and has a hand in detecting and preventing deadly epidemics.  Oh yes, they believe that upholding public morality is important, so regulating the media does have a role.  

     And they appreciate quality state education, though they might like to change it to fit their religious beliefs more than a secular government would allow.  They know how expensive private schools can be, so none call for national privatization of public schools.  

     They’d like to be able to drive or fly safely to any destination in the country safely and relatively cheaply, and that requires good roads as well as national oversight of the airlines, particularly when it comes to safety.  

    Oh yes, there’s social security, meaning some kind of assurance that old age doesn’t mean penury.  And Medicaid, which keeps medication costs from sending us all to the poorhouse. 

     All government programs, all costly, all to be continued.  So conservatives want smaller government, but no fewer services.  Ask a conservative what they would get rid of to cut government spending, and you end with a very short list. We’d still have a military, still government standards for food safety and water quality. We’d still have state schools both for grades 1-12, and they must know that our public universities remain the envy of the world.  

    As is the scientific research done at them, much of it funded by the federal government.  Because Americans have gotten so used to government providing so many critical services, from education to safe food to a large military, conservatives don’t seem to know how much they get from it.

     Like air to humans and water to fish, government is everywhere, so it’s taken for granted. In fact, here’s the dirty little secret behind conservatives’ anti-government rants:  they’re actually raving liberals by standards of just a few years ago. Few 1950s conservatives would have dreamed of the need for a pervasive and strong government in a globally-oriented world economy, not to mention a terrorist-threatened world.  

     Except for hot-button social issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and prayer in schools, today’s conservatives would seem rabidly liberal to 1950s conservatives,
    So though these conservatives can’t have a much smaller government, they yearn for it like their recent ancestors yearned for separation of the races, women keeping their place in the home, and a white-male dominated world.  

    We’ve moved beyond those too, thanks to liberal reforms, all of which conservatives fought--and lost. 

     Do any contemporary conservatives want women to stay out of the workplace? Would they now argue for segregation, as they once did so fervently?  Would they insist that blacks and whites not marry, as they once railed against “miscegenation” (interracial marriages) with as much fervor as they now outlaw gay marriages? 

     Of course not.  Such conservatives have long disappeared; we’ll all liberals now, no matter how much they might protest to the contrary.  That might explain why they’re so bitter and angry; except for a few outbuildings, they’ve lost the whole farm.     

     Of course conservatives still walk among us, but they mostly rant about secularism, about issues that they see threatening their beliefs, and about those demon liberals who seem to oppose such beliefs. 

     The major difference between liberals and conservatives these days?  Conservatives tend to base their arguments on black-and-white distinctions and demonizing the opposition, while liberals see complexities, gray areas, and mostly avoid name-calling and button-pushing, Al Franken excepted for his book, “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Liar.”   

     In a culture dominated by religion and the visual media, emotional demonizing will trump reason and facts every time.  

     Conservatives even admit this approach as a strategy.  In a review of Richard Viguerie and Richard Frankes’ book “America’s Right Turn,” conservative reviewer Diana Feygin points out that  “While conservatives have basically been able to say, 'This is good. This is evil. There is no in between . . .liberals have been more hesitant to identify the good and "vilify the bad" in such stark terms.  
    Shades of “evil empire” and “axis of evil,” by Presidents Reagan and GW Bush, not to mention the ugly ranting of the Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of the nasty-wing conservatives.  

     Reviewer Fegin even admits that this all-pervasive and effective conservative strategy could bring the downfall of conservatives.  She ends her review with this: “ a reliance on muckraking to shame the 'bad guys' creates risks of its own. In the end, too much "black and white" victim rhetoric could bring to a premature defeat the movement Viguerie and Franke worked so painstakingly to establish.” 

     Given the fact that most of the liberal causes of a few years ago have already occurred, conservatives have nowhere to go but down and out.  

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  • Brave Caucus Predictions

    • Posted on Jan 31, 2016

    Here is this morning's (1-31) column where I go out to the twigs on the end of the limb. Still, I've been right twice before going out there.  Eight years ago today, before the 2008 Iowa caucusses (cauci?) I predicted Obama would win not just Iowa, but the November election.  So I feel very slightly qualified to do the same today for tomorrow's first political test.   


    Not to brag, but days before our 2008 caucuses, I correctly predicted the outcome, not just of Iowa’s caucuses, but the 2008 election.  

    Here’s what I wrote here on January 30, 2008:  

     “The GOP will collectively decide that they have confidence in McCain’s presidential appearance and nominate him, despite his advanced age and moderate stance on a number of social issues. 

    “The Democrats will opt for making history . . .and nominate Obama.  Hillary will go down fighting, but she will definitely go down. 

     “So come November, we will be choosing between the old candidate who looks presidential, John McCain, and the young candidate, Barack Obama, who looks like no other candidate in our history.  

    And we will choose Obama.”

    Then I explained why voters wanted real change, citing George W’s Bush’s presidency as one of the weakest in history. This was pre-Palin, incidentally. 

    Again on October 6, 2012, just before the Romney-Obama election, I wrote:  “I predict here and now that Obama will win the election over Romney, simply because Romney is the weaker candidate on all fronts.”

    Now, eight years later to the day before the Iowa Caucuses, I’m ready to predict again. Three out of three?   

    Remember that no one has witnessed an election season remotely close to the current political roil and muddle.    

     A billionaire loudmouth who’s never supported anyone but himself runs in front of the GOP pack? Beside him, Bartleby the Scrivener of politics, “I prefer not to” Cruz?   And all the other uncivil Republican candidates carping at each other endlessly and destructively? 

    Democrats supporting the oldest candidate ever to run who proudly proclaims he’s a “democratic socialist” and means it?  And his opponent, the same candidate who lost to Obama in 2008?   Have we entered the Twilight Zone?  

    All pundits and prognosticators have been, are, and will be, trumped (sorry) by this election season’s off-the-charts unpredictability. Only wild cards sit in the deck, including a possible Michael Bloomberg candidacy.  

    Nevertheless I forge ahead, knowing being right isn’t completely out of the question.  

    So:  Sanders will win Iowa tomorrow. Democrats will flirt with idealism and enthusiasm in the form of the Bern, and this will certainly affect Clinton’s campaign.  She must admit that Bernie’s the candidate of change, and much of what he says makes good sense.   

    Then when Sanders loses the Democratic nomination, he will graciously throw his support Clinton’s way, which she will more than graciously accept. 

    A semi-enthusiastic Democratic party will support the Clinton/Joaquin Castro ticket overwhelmingly as their best hope of continuing and enlarging Obama’s legacy. 

    Trump wins our caucus tomorrow.  Still,  the GOP, after months of turmoil, gets the message and  realize that Trump’s blustery emptiness only works for their hard core. 

    He alienated too many potential voters, and Republican straight-ticketers aren’t a majority.  

    They will nominate Rubio, their young candidate of (mild) change. 

    So “experience” will face off against “change”—as in 2008--only with the parties reversed. And who will win?   

    This time, Clinton’s experience wins, because Rubio’s own party fatally undercut him with incessant in-fighting.  Essentially, the GOP will self-destruct.   

     Mark my words.   




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