Uncommon Sense

September 25, 2022

Has Conservatism Run Its Course?

Since there is no longer a conservative political party in this country I am guessing that it is a good idea to define what I mean by “conservatism.” (It is different for different countries and different for different times.) My computer tells me that social conservatism is a “commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation” while political conservatism is “the holding of political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas.”

Since social conservatism is at the core of political conservatism, that seems a good place to start.

When I was a youngin’ I often wondered what conservatives were trying to conserve. I was told “tradition” but that just means “the ways we have always done things.” Combine that and “opposition to change or innovation” and conservatism equates to preserving or “conserving” the status quo. Political conservatism therefore equates to preserving or “conserving” the political status quo.

When I was young, there was a conservative political party, the Republican Party. They have shrugged off that mantle, in favor of becoming a personality cult of Donald J. Trump, something conservatives of my past would have run for their guns to prevent.

So, I ask: “Who would want to preserve the status quo”? My only answer would be “the well off.” People who are socially or financially or politically well off would prefer that the good times kept rolling (Laissez les bons temps rouler!). And, lo and behold, the Republican Party of my youth was the party of the rich people and older people. There was even a meme to explain why this was so. It went “If you weren’t a liberal when you were young, you didn’t have a heart. If you weren’t a conservative when old, you didn’t have a brain.” It only made sense for the old folks to preserve their gains whether ill-gotten or otherwise.

So, the Republican Party was the party of Big Business, the rich, etc. and the Democratic Party was the party of “working people,” aka the non-rich, labor unions, poor people, oppressed minorities, etc. And, if you can believe it, each party had conservative and liberal wings, because there were substantial differences between the members of the two parties. This resulted in some overlap between the two cohorts, which made collaboration somewhat easier.

Well, there is no longer a party that wraps a conservative mantle around its shoulders. The GOP is attacking the FBI and other governmental policing functions, when it used to be the party of “law and order.” Oh, yeah, the law, pfft who cares? The only law that applies is “If the Donald did it, it was legal.”

The GOP used to be in favor of infrastructure repairs, voting in favor of projects large and small to keep the country’s roads and waterways and electric power distribution grids useful. They were even in favor of having a clean environment, and having public healthcare. Now they seem to want everything to make profits for the richest of the rich, and government should stay out of almost everything, except the courts and the military. The courts are to keep people who can’t afford good lawyers in line, and the military is for anything else needed to keep the coffers of the rich full to bursting.

So, is conservatism dead?

Plain old social conservatism, you know, conserving the status quo, is dead in the water as the social conservatives have been infiltrated and taken over by the religious right, which is trying to turn the country into a theocracy (and if you really, really, really want a civil war, that sure is a way to cause one).

The conservatism of my youth is dead, and if not dead, it is certainly gone. (William F. Buckley, were he still alive, would surely agree.) So far, only a lunatic fringe has stepped up to take is place. I hope that is not the only candidate. And I am still wondering what will replace the liberals who have disappeared, also. Maybe the progressives currently starting to exert some power?

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5 Comments »

  1. The political term ‘conservative’ hasn’t had anything at all to do with the actual dictionary definition of the word for decades now. My late uncle, who worked on John Kennedy’s campaign back in 1960, would have told you flat out that the word ‘conservative’ was a more polite term for “racist”.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by grouchyfarmer — September 26, 2022 @ 6:35 am | Reply

    • Now, he wouldn’t have been a tiny bit prejudiced now, would he? (In fact, the Dems still had the Dixiecrats at that time. They only switched to the GOP when Lyndon Johnson got Voting Rights Act passed.)

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — September 26, 2022 @ 11:53 am | Reply

      • Oh I’m certain he had his prejudices as well. We all do. But I suspect that most of us up here in the great white north wouldn’t have even known what a dixiecrat was. I didn’t hear the term for the first time until I was in my 30s I think.

        Wisconsin is a odd state. It’s had a reputation of being progressive until fairly recently that is entirely unearned. This is one of the most racially segregated states in the country, the home of the John Birch society is just a few miles from me in Appleton, amd Milwaukee is consistently rated as one of the worst places to live for African Americans.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by grouchyfarmer — September 26, 2022 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

  2. The true conservatives are Democrats.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by silverapplequeen — September 26, 2022 @ 7:10 am | Reply


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