Saturday, February 28, 2009

Conservatism Today? Baby, I'm Too Through

I have to vent. Unless something monumental happens in my life, I will never be a conservative, at least not like those who use that moniker today. I've never seen a more spiteful, mean spirited, condescending, heartless, sanctimonious, selfish group of people in my life. Now, I have certainly found some elements of intellectual conservatism interesting. But I've always been one who appreciated genuine ideas presented thoughtfully. I've heard nothing close to that from any of these people who tout their conservatism.

During the years of the Bush administration, I felt like a person in exile. I didn't hate the old POTUS, but there was never a sense of pride for him from me. The lies, the obfuscation, and all of the other maledictions that came like waves crashing on a shore at the approach of high tide, were utterly depressing. Meanwhile, so called conservatives, who now claim that Bush was no conservative, said virtually nothing. Bush was praised for all sorts of things that deserved nothing of the kind. And it was incredible to see.

Now that the POTUS is Obama, it seems that these same conservatives are edging toward the precipice of madness. The term "Socialist" is bandied about to scare the populace. People still suggest that Obama is not an American citizen. People still suggest that Obama is a secret Jihadist lying in wait to destroy this nation.

The saddest element is the proliferation of racially charged comments, gaffes and pronouncements that have been coming from the right. I've always been bemused by the cry of political correctness that comes from the right, because people call them out on being rude. I certainly believe in freedom of speech, but there remain responsibilities with that freedom. Why not just say that you want to say "nigger," "faggot," "spic," et. al.? Own up to it. Naturally, this does not apply to conservatives as a whole. That would be ridiculous. Yet, I think there are too many conservatives who are too cowardly (thank you A.G. Holder) to tell that truth.

Earlier, I read a post on Andrew Sullivan's blog, and it drove me to distraction. I could not believe that he actually felt that liberals seek "to punish" those who are successful. I wish I was in a position to complain about that type of punishment, because that would mean that I was clearing at least $250K annually. Please tell me when that became middle class. Please tell me when that type of salary engenders suffering. I call it selfishness, plain and simple. Sullivan is not alone in his sentiments. But I would be glad to pay my share to help others, because I would be so blessed to have enough to give back.

Too many conservatives seem comfortable with the notion of failure. Too many conservatives are comfortable with the idea that people deserve to fall through the cracks, and naturally it was the peoples' fault for having done so. Too many conservatives are comfortable with the idea of people dying on their own, without health care. In my opinion, too many conservatives simply do not care for people, particularly middling to poor people. I don't see how many conservatives can afford to be conservative. I can understand these types of positions from someone making a quarter of a million dollars annually, but how does that work when you make $30K? Why do they not understand, or see, that true conservatives (of the ideological stripe out front and center now) do not have your interests at heart in the least.

A broke conservative would benefit from universal health care. A broke conservative is about to miss out on needed unemployment funds, if he lives in Louisiana, South Carolina or Mississippi, three of the poorest states in the Union. A broke conservative cannot simply pray his way out of his troubles. Can I get a witness? Peace be still.

Pulling oneself up by the boot straps requires boots. I believe that it is perfectly fine for the government to provide boots to those who need them. If I understand current conservatism, then I suppose that those who needed those boots don't deserve such a handout; it will denigrate them. Now, I am the first one to say that government, particularly in minority and poor communities, has done some horrible things with even worse results. Yet, there were millions who have been helped over the years, and too many conservatives dismiss that reality.

I've really tried, and I will continue to try to maintain as open a mind as possible to learning the tenets of conservatism. Again, I like well presented ideas. But the folks who call themselves conservatives now will never be in a position to broaden the appeal of their ideology. Never. If I am wrong about that, let me know. State your case.


vmichael said...

Amen. And as the bailout under Bush proves, those who call themselves conservatives today actually don't own up to the idea of failure when it happens to them. The last POTUS was an excellent example of entitlement masking an unending string of failures: someone who would have fallen through the cracks time and time again without the privelege of birth.

Kirk Hilliard said...

Jeff-the amazing thing is the amount of poor Republicans in VA, NC, SC, TN, KY, WV, MS, AL etal who have no health care and yet they vote "conservative". These are the very people that get screwed by the Republican policies on healthcare and the middle class. Unfortunately-Guns, Gods and Gays often trump what should be common sense. Example-Why in the world is South Carolina spewing so much crap about "Socialism"? They take $1.35 from the Federal Government for every $1 they put in. That is not socialism that is Welfare. MS is similar yet it is a Republican stronghold.

Scott said...

Very thoughtful for a "vent" Free.

I think President Obama really does want to engage in a thoughtful debate about something that has been a central argument for as long as this country has existed. To what extent are we (and should we be) a nation of individuals who sink or swim on the basis of our own hard work and initiative, and to what extent are we (and should we be) are a nation that believes that at least to some extent we are "our brother's keepers?"

Are there things beyond simply defending our country's borders that we might, as a society, choose to use government to do? Or does government, when it tries to "help" people simply destroy that individual responsibility and initiative that has made us successful?

The problem is that the debate is always drawn in the extremes. If you believe that government should stay small and keep taxes low, you are a fascist. If you believe that government should be in some cases an instrument of collective action, you are a communist.

There are reasonable arguments on both sides of the "how much government" discussion. That debate should revolve around where we draw the line between the individual and the collective. This is not an "all or nothing" deal.

The more fundamental problem for people who call themselves conservatives these days is that they don't know what argument they are trying to make. To the extent that "conservative" has come to mean "Republican" they have, for political expediency, sold their party to the "social" right wing, the "Christian right" who want to argue about abortion and guns and gay rights, and who know and care little about the basic debate on the size and role of government.

Until the old-school, Edmund Burke economic conservatives can detach themselves politically from the social-right, they don't even know what they are debating.

Anonymous said...

Well it sounds as if someone is either a bit jealous of others' successes or a bit disheartened by his own lack of achievement.

Just as Libs like to ponder how anyone could vote with a Conservative with so much victim-hood surrounding us, I ponder how you and yours willingly accept entitlements (hand-outs) that you didn't earn without shame or embarrassment...and then like most Conservatives, I go to work to support the deadbeats.

hscfree said...

@anonymous: Just to make it clear, I have done well for myself, and I decided to become my own boss at the end of 2008. I am not remotely jealous of anyone. Yet, I am more than comfortable with the idea of helping those who are not in my position. I don't blink at that at all. Perhaps, it is related to my family and the things that they have done to help those less fortunate than us. I've inherited that sentiment, and I am proud to help as I can. I hold to the idea that someone making $250K annually has little to complain about. That is a blessed status to hold in this society, and I would be more than happy to offer my share to help those move toward a similar milestone.

As far as you going to work to support the deadbeats, I hope that you plan on not accepting a single entitlement that comes your way when you are able to receive it. I can respect those who put their ideological perspectives where their mouths are. I am ready to pay more, when I reach that income level, if my business gets there. I will not blink. I will happily pay it forward to help someone else, and live in the tradition of service and sacrifice that my family has put forth.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I are both Pediatricians. We own our own practice together. We have one PA and 7 other employees. We each gross about $200 K a year. We have 3 young children at home, 2 of which are not in school. We also employ an in home Nanny. My wife has been torn for years about not being at home for these children, which are our biggest investment in the future. We operate parallel S corperations as PC's, with a 50/50 ownership of the LLC that is our business. We file taxes jointly. After crunching some numbers concerning the President's tax hike proposals, I have come to the following conclusions. If the President's plan is inacted, we will do the following:

1. My wife will become a stay at home mother.

2. At least 3 of my 7 employees will be released.

3. The practice will downsize to a smaller office space, i.e. less rent.

4. The number of patients cared for on a daily basis will drop by 40%.

5. My wife will come out of the forced ER call schedule for good.

6. I will gross $249,999.00 a year, exactly.

7. The net income of our personal home will decrease by less than $10 K a year from where it would have been if we changed nothing.

Scott said...

If you go to Google and in the search box enter (with the quotes)--

"My wife and I are both Pediatricians"

You will discover something interesting about the level of intellectual honesty that drives the "greed is good" movement that is today's Republican party.

hscfree said...

Thanks Scott. I really appreciate honest arguments and perspectives; thanks for looking out.

TC said...

I'm a conservative.

I know many people who are conservatives, and I often discuss politics with a certain group of them (especially on the internet).

I don't follow every single statement made in the blogosphere or by the conservative pundits in DC. I live out in real America.

And nothing in this post represents what the conservatives I know say or believe. Maybe my sample-size is too small; or maybe the left just refuses to understand the right's arguments or attributes to them the most evil of motives.

But nothing I read in this post gives me any hope of a common ground between the left in the right.

hscfree said...

@TC: Though I hate the line, I really do have good friends, real friends, who are conservatives (and they are Republicans as well). My degree is from one of the nation's most conservative colleges (Hampden-Sydney College). Your reaction to my rant was similar to theirs. Did you catch any of the information coming from CPAC? That is what I am ranting about. I am thinking of the people who claim that anyone who supported BHO is a proto-Socialist. I am thinking about the people who have convinced themselves that BHO is a foreign national who has duped millions to become POTUS.

I respect ideas, not platitudes. I think that someone like Wm. F. Buckley was indeed a thoughtful man. Though I may not have agreed with many of his perspectives, I would engage them happily, with respect (and if TC is who I think it is, then you really know what I am talking about).

We need a strong two party system, but what I have been reading and seeing seems to point to one of those parties not being strong at all. That is not good for the country.

All liberal ideas are not good. All conservative ideas are not bad. I just want to see real ideas, and right now conservatives don't seem to have many, period.

Finally, the left is simply reacting to what the right is giving. I recently launched a discussion on facebook that ended up with almost 60 comments. It was a rich discussion focused on ideas.

Ron Ward said...

i can't BELIEVE anonymous is a "cut & paste" cookie-cuttin' ditto-head. PLEASE bring some more enlightened conservatives into the fray - please, i say!

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey, my friend, you are clearly worked up!

A couple of quick thoughts:

1) Don’t confuse Conservatives and Republicans. There is often overlap, but they are not synonyms.

2) The Republicans are going to have to thrash about in the wilderness for a few years before they rebuild the party and their ideas. This is going to take a while. They may even have to lose some more elections before they figure it all out. Don't confuse the thrashing around for a party position.

3) Despite W's presidency there are core conservative ideas that still stand up--fiscal responsibility, strong defense, tough on crime, respect for families, etc. You can rightly say that Bush didn't adhere to these ideas, but that doesn't necessarily devalue them.

4) There's a difference between politics and governance and academia and writing. You make all kinds of compromises that you wouldn't make if you were king. To say that Republican conservatives applauded Bush even as he ran of deficits (for instance) is not much of an allegation. If they were academics they might have criticized him, but they are in the political arena and politicians on the right and on the left do all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons.
Senator Moynihan was a true democratic intellectual, but he cast a lot of party line votes in his time.

5) I thought that Obama's election would diminish the conspiracy tendencies on the left about the secret racial hatred that they believe boils in the blood of all Americans, but I see that you are still having difficulty shaking that particular belief.

6) Holder's blanker indictment of Americans as "cowards" was deeply offensive to Americans of all ideologies and backgrounds that fought in the Civil War, were in the Civil Rights movement, or who work every day in small ways for better racial relations in this country. Personally, I don't think you, for instance, are a coward--quite the opposite.

7) I find that accusing people who don't agree with your public polices as "mean spirited" and "heartless" can be effective politically, but is not really engaging their ideas. I think liberals can be just as "sanctimonious, spiteful, and selfish," as any other group. The left enjoys telling people how to live their life just as much as the right. Don't use gasoline! Don't smoke! Big oil, big tobacco, big food, big sugar, are out to get you. What's the common thread? Corporations are preying on you! They are just more skillful at delivering their message. How about the push by the left to mandate that all chickens be "free range" which would drive up the average price of chicken for poor people (don't laugh I saw it on Oprah). How about their casual disregard for the victims of crime while they twist themselves into a pretzel to explain away the responsibly of some habitual criminal predator. I'm not arguing the merits of any of these issues, just the fact the characteristics you assign to conservatives are shared with liberals.

8) It is true that liberals have strong anti-capitalist tendencies in their core. I've always believed that when you are poor you are liberal, when you are middle class and upper class you tend to be moderate to conservative, and when you are really wealthy you become a limousine liberal. The absence of ANYONE on Obama's team with business experience is telling. I'm not a private sector guy, but if I was trying to fix this economy, I think talking to some businessmen might be useful. I believe in progressive taxation but it is a fair debate about whether $250,000 is "rich." Is it $250k in DC, NYC, or San Francisco, or Iowa? Is it a family 4 or is it an individual? Are they carrying 400k of medical school loans?

9) Finally, regarding the perpetual question that it raised by one of your readers—why do poor people vote for Republicans, when Republicans don't seem to support their economic interests? I think the question could be formed the other way—why can't Democrats seem to get the support of poor people that they are theoretically fighting for? I think the answer is that working class people understand that the urban wealthy elites that now dominate the Democratic Party hold them and their values in contempt, even while they claim to fight for them. They look down on their faith and they mock their lifestyles—where are the leaders in the Democratic Party who speak for rural voters? For NASCAR voters? For immigrants? What I see in the Democratic party leadership are ivy elites like Hillary Clinton who used Arkansas as a launching pad and then escaped to NY at the first opportunity.

hscfree said...

@Anonymous (aka Paul): I re-read my comment. I was quite clear about using conservative, not Republican. Most conservatives I know support Republicans.

I am not going to go point by point.

I think that you forget that there are quite a few Ivy Leaguers in top ranks of the GOP.

The lack of businessmen/women in Obama's midst could have to do with that massive vetting process, and those folks not wanting to have to go through that level of scrutiny. That is not necessarily a vote of no confidence.

Anonymous said...

There's no question that there are plenty of ivy-leaguers in the GOP as well. However, the Democratic Party has historically claimed to be concerned about the plight of the working class--it is disappointing to see the heart and soul of the party seized by urban elites who have no respect or connection to the group that they claim to speak for. Where in the Democratic leadership are the union leaders, the people who went to public university, who served in the military, the immigrants?