Archive for January, 2021

What Is Conservatism?

Today’s nasty politics bring up the question of what is an actual conservative.  Is conservatism Trumpism?  That question also forces us to think about liberalism.  Is liberalism a path to socialism and/or Communism?  We sadly live in an era in which those who call themselves conservatives or liberals use the opposite term to insult people with a different perspective.  Too many ignore the basic definitions of each term.

Being conservative is a synonym for being traditional, holding back from innovation in order to preserve traditional values.  Put into a long-established political perspective, conservatism was centered on free enterprise, private business ownership, and individual rights.  American traditionalism is preservation of our republic’s democratic characteristics, such as people’s rights to vote.  In addition, American conservatism focused on state’s rights, pushing that many policies should be overseen on the state level, and in numerous cases a very local level, mostly not the federal level.  Further, conservatives have consistently argued that the government’s budget should be balanced.  

Being liberal is respect for other people’s thoughts/opinions, openness to new ideas – general broadmindedness.  Politically oriented liberalism pushes for civil rights, democracy, and free enterprise.  Liberals are much more open for issues being decided on the federal level.  An important example was the passing of the civil rights legislations in 1964 and 1965.  Despite the  differences between conservatism and liberalism, there are aspects both might share.  The basic rights of individuals plus the importance of free enterprise are values held by conservatives and liberals.  The best scenario is a balance between both, preserving the right traditional values and innovating what is necessary.

An appropriate debate between liberals and conservatives would not be over individual’s civil rights, but whether their rights should be overseen at the federal or state level.  An example was the approach of Senator Barry Goldwater to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  He opposed segregation and suppression of African Americans but opposed this particular act because of two segments he felt needed to be determined at the state, not federal level.  He believed federalism would result as negative for African Americans.  It turned out that over two thirds of the senate thought he was wrong when they passed the Act.

Throughout his career, Goldwater pushed a conservative approach to issues within the Republican Party, yet many of today’s conservatives would condemn him as a phony conservative, accusing him of being a liberal.  Here are some examples why.  Goldwater defended the rights of gay Americans stating, “The big thing is to make this country – quit discriminating against people just because they’re gay.  You don’t have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay.  They’re American citizens.”  A lot of his quotes in favor of gays were expressed when their presence in the military came up as a controversy.  In 1992, he also expressed his support for women choosing to get an abortion.  All of this was part of an opposition he began expressing in 1981 to what he called the “new right,” which was essentially the New Majority, a religious group led by Rev. Jerry Falwell.  Here is one of his thoughts about the effect of this religious group.  “Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy.  They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives.”  Almost 30 years ago, Goldwater, an historical conservative, predicted how conservatism could terribly decline.

Today, Christian Nationalists are controlling a lot of conservative perspective. They see their views as the only alternatives.  They claim that liberals are trying to eliminate Christianity, not accepting the version of Christianity followed by anyone who is liberal.  Included in Christian Nationalists are people connected to Proud Boys, Boogaloo, believers in the falsehoods of QAnon and many people connected to many white supremacist groups.  Some participants are even members of neo-Nazi groups. The most awful event done by these groups was the riot which led to the invasion of the capital in D.C. on January 6, 2021, while congress was meeting to approve the presidential electoral votes.  There were participants wearing shirts with anti-Semitic content.  Some carried Confederate flags.  This article by Dr. Michael Pasek gives an insight into the motives of the Christian Nationalists for this riot.  https://beyondconflictint.org/news/why-white-supremacists-and-christian-nationalists-tried-to-subvert-american-democracy/?fbclid=IwAR03mubHnpEpS9OjIjBYPhn3ABEjP-thz_zJ6_ZANDuWXfO3sHBR7hUNXQs

The Christian Nationalism of today’s conservatism is so intolerable of other viewpoints, that they accept falsehoods instead of proven facts, to justify their actions protecting their positions.  The most recent and obvious is President Trump’s constant claim of his losing the election because of voter fraud.  That was the cause of the riot.  A following lie was a claim that disguised Antifa people were the ones who caused the violence.  Further, Christian Nationalists accept the nasty, false words that Trump and other key leaders use to degrade their opponents, because Trump expresses support for their positions.  A typical example is the claim that the Democrats and/or liberals are becoming Socialist, even Communist.  While some leftwing Democrats favor certain policies that are called “socialist,” these are policies practiced by Great Britain and many European countries, even when conservative parties are leading their governments.  A typically criticized policy is universal health care, which exists to help people in need.

The priority of Christian Nationalism is to convert people to their beliefs, and to strongly oppose those who do not have their beliefs.  They believe their religious position must direct our country’s policies, not tolerating the input of Judaism, Islam, or even segments of Christianity they see as too liberal.  The worst segments of Christian Nationalism are racist, anti-Semitic, plus they are open to violence.  Their goal is to attain ruling power over the country, even if it means destroying our democratic traditions.  That makes Christian Nationalism parallel to the German conservative movements of the 1920s that destroyed the Weimar Republic by caving into following the Nazi party in 1933.  This version of conservatism mis-defines liberalism in order to condemn their opposition.

Yes, there are those on the left who are also radical.  Yes, there are those on the left who refuse to have an open mind to different viewpoints, commonly on university campuses.  Yes, there are some leftist groups that have caused problems.  But the reason a segment of the left limits their perspective is because they are opposing racism and favoring political policies that will benefit the lives of people in need.  Their increase in the refusal to tolerate other viewpoints over the last 30 years is in response to the unreasonable rise of narrowminded religious factions in conservatism and the Republican Party, just as Goldwater predicted and opposed.  

Trump’s rise is linked to the success of Christian Nationalism controlling a greater segment of the Republican Party thus changing how many people judge what is conservatism.  Many more approve of the nasty condemnation of people with different points of view.  If we are going to save our country, we need a large group of very diverse people, including true conservatives, to be “liberal,” i.e. willing to have open minds, accept actual facts, and work with each other.    

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