2008

29 October 2008: Conservatism not what it used to be, because it never was to begin with

Conservatism not what it used to be — because it never was to begin with

“Conservative,” I suggested.

“I know that,” smiled Joe Soccer Dad. “I find it ironic, however, that the term is still often defined in bland terms.

“Barry Goldwater laid out in Conscience of a Conservative the bedrock principles of conservatism as he saw them. Then two years ago, John Dean, Nixon’s Watergate lawyer and a good friend of Goldwater, came out with Conservatives Without Conscience, which he was co-writing with Goldwater before the senator died. In it he encapsulates the failure of conservatism.”

“Right,” joined in Suzy Six Pack. “Conservatives today are trying to mask their failure by spouting platitudes such as smaller government, lower taxes, and stronger national security, but they’ve failed in all three areas.

“Both Ronald Reagan and George Bush the Elder raised taxes more than lowered them; George Bush the Younger expanded government exponentially; and with the continuing imbroglio in Iraq, our security is being considerably compromised.

“The fact is conservatism is not only not what it used to be, it never was what it used to be.”

“True,” said Joe. “It has been a tale of smoke and mirrors. For example, they call for lower taxes, but the effective rate of taxation is not what the government collects, but what it spends.

“Here in Colorado we know the effective rate of taxation because we must balance the budget. That’s not true for the federal government, which can run up deficits like nobody’s business—which is exactly what Bush has done. He took trillion dollar surpluses and spent them like the proverbial drunken sailor.”

“It’s certainly credit-card government,” I agreed. “Instead of taxes, we simply charge it. In the end, the piper has to be paid as we can now see: bankruptcies, escalating unemployment, mortgage defaults, and the big goon hiding in the lagoon—inflation.”

“It’s not the way my parents raised me,” said Suzy. “We were taught to work hard, save a bit each month, be careful about running up debt and, most important, pay your bills on time!”

“Yeah,” Joe chuckled sardonically. “McCain is Oliver Hardy to Bush’s Stanley Laurel. When the market crashed in September he said to Bush, ‘Another nice mess you got us into today, Stanley.’”

I then asked them for their predictions on the election.

“Suzy is more optimistic than I,” said Joe. “I’m worried that this smear campaign will work, like it did in 1988 against Dukakis and, of course, with the swift boating of John Kerry in 2004.

“This is far worse. Those trying to paint Obama as a terrorist sympathizer or un-American are bigots who are terrified that an African American will be our President and his wife, our First Lady. So in turn, they are trying to terrorize the rest of us.”

“Like he said, I’m far more optimistic about people rising to be their better selves,” said Suzy. “Look, for example, at Colin Powell and other thoughtful Republicans who are now endorsing Obama.

“But he’s right about the hate campaign. We’re members of the Southern Poverty Law Center that tracks hate groups and crimes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some psychos at McCain and Palin’s rallies being featured in their next news magazine.”

“But what I don’t get” she continued after sipping her beer, “is that people practice guilt by association only with Obama and not McCain and Palin.

“You know, McCain has had a close relationship with Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy, who has a rap sheet of domestic terrorism a mile long, and courted the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, who is hell bent on bringing about Armageddon and the destruction of the United States in the process.”

“And Sarah Palin’s husband was and, for all I know, still might be a card-carrying member of the Alaska Independence Party, which wants to secede from the US. No wonder she polls so well in the old South.”

“I don’t think many people would admit to fear and hate,” said Joe. “The two emotions are close relatives, though. You see the hysteria being whipped up in the name of Islamic extremism, and I swear the next thing we’ll be seeing is a 21st-century version of the Children’s Crusade of the 13th century.

“It sounds ominous,” I concurred. “But the only way for us to rise above it all is to get this done, so that people can see that race doesn’t matter and that government can work when pragmatic problem solvers are in charge.”

“One other thing,” added Joe. “It’s fascinating about the latest buzz word socialism being evoked. It’s like Obama is Strelnikov.”

“Who? I asked.”

“In Dr. Zhivago. The revolutionary.”

“Ah.”

“I am supposing,” he went on, “that those using that word are also for repealing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the GI Bill, and the Small Business Administration”

“Exactly,” said Suzy. “Just like Sarah Palin being governor of the Socialist Republic of Alaska that taxes the oil companies to share the wealth with its citizens.”

“Yes,” agreed Joe. “They used to be social conservatives, but now, as one wag has put it, they’re conservative socialists.”

“Or, as John Dean calls them,” laughed Suzy, “‘conservatives without conscience.’”

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