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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.  

    Go comment!
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  • Finally, Dems and GOP Agree: Craziness Rules the GOP

    • Posted on Mar 13, 2016
    This morning's Courier column--craziness rules the GOP--not just Trump, who seems the very definition of crazy, but Republican ideas, which are just as crazy.  

    It’s kumbaya time for GOP and Democratic Party leaders, united in one deep and ongoing agreement: Donald Trump must never become President.  

     As Republican Senator Lindsay Graham put it, “My party has gone bat---- crazy.”  
    Thank you, Senator Graham, for saying what some of us have been thinking now for months.  Not enough bad can be said about Donald Trump as a candidate, but his own party keeps trying: Phony, con artist, bully, misogynist—from Mitt and Marco and Ted—virtually in unison with Democrats.  Finally, they agree. 

     If only GOP leaders could apply the same sound judgment to their own ideas.  Instead they insist they will support the party’s candidate even if it’s Trump.  Logicians they are not.  

     Consider four other just-as-crazy GOP positions:  
    (1) “Originalism”
    (2) Defunding Planned Parenthood 
    (3) Repealing and Replacing Obamacare with “something better”  
    (4) Not even hearing SCOTUS nominees   
    These GOP ideas deserve no better than Trump. 

    One at a time: 

    Originalism.  Basically, “originalists” insist that founding documents need to be read and applied as the founders intended, not what later interpreters “read into” them.  It’s called a “principle of interpretation.”  

     Get that—principle of interpretation.  Interpretation is what we humans do, day in and out, in order to survive and thrive. That means we inevitably filter everything through our own consciousness.   

    Originalists use this principle to impose conservative ideology onto founding documents, pretending that the founding fathers intended it just as current conservatives now see it, as “originalists.”  However, they’re interpreting.  

     Meaning is co-created; it doesn’t somehow magically exist in a document to be discovered like gold nuggets.  “Reading into” any document, old or new, is necessary and unavoidable.  That’s why we teach literature basically as interpretation.  That’s why we hire lawyers to read contracts.     

     To pretend otherwise is, well, crazy.   

     Defunding Planned Parenthood arises out of the oft-repeated lie that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue, which is illegal, and mostly performs abortion, another lie.  Anyone can look these facts up, or visit any Planned Parenthood clinic. 

    Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, leading the charge, keeps repeating these distortions. Indeed, Ted Cruz tried to shut down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood.  Off-the-charts crazy.   

     Repealing Obamacare.  As Lindsay Graham noted last Sunday on “Meet the Press,” trying to defund a plan that was passed by a President whose name was on the bill was impossible.  Nevertheless, GOP time-wasters voted on it roughly sixty times. No wonder voters are furious.  

     Even crazier, Republicans had nothing workable to replace it. 

     The major bat-guano GOP crazy item amounts to an abdication of constitutional responsibility.   President Obama still serves for eleven months, and no other President has been denied his legal obligation this long to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. 

     It would be one thing to hear and question a nominee—that’s expected.  Reject him/her if you must. But to utterly deny a hearing?  

    That’s crazy, and our own Chuck Grassley deserves national scorn for lack of judgment and party-line toadying.

     So, serious agreement between the GOP and Dems about Donald Trump deserves celebration. Aside from the GOP’s bat---- crazy other positions, it’s a start.   

    Go comment!
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