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Bronze-level articleConservative

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Conservative, n.: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
—Ambrose Bierce

A conservative on the political spectrum tends to be for the status quo, consistency, and traditional forms, while being against change on the grounds that it might be for the worse. In the United States today, the term has been conflated by many with very narrow social and religious prescriptions and co-opted by neoconservatism. During the 2008 election campaign, an article in Atlantic Monthly contrasted the old-fashioned conservatism of Edmund Burke with the right-wing radicalism of Newt Gingrich and company.[1]

Note that left/right and liberal/conservative are only regarded as synonymous in the United States. Following a hung parliament in 2010 the Liberal Democrats entered into a coalition government with the Conservative Party. In Australia, the Liberal Party are the direct analogues of the US Republicans or the UK Conservatives — they're economically liberal and socially very conservative. Explaining this to American conservatives tends to make their heads explode.

A lot of conservatives are mad at the damned liberals for disagreeing with them, and frequently attack them as general purpose scapegoats for any ills of society as seen from their perspective.


[edit] Social and economic conservatism

I cannot call myself a cultural conservative, because that term, hijacked by the media, is customarily used to describe a person preoccupied with such matters as the preservation of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance; the defense of marriage as an institution for heterosexuals only; the promotion of premarital chastity; and the protection of cancer patients from marijuana addiction.

—Susan Jacoby[2]

Conservative is a very loose term, essentially meaning only "in favour of conserving." While there are many, many types of conservatism, one essential distinction in the field of politics and society is between social conservatism and economic (or fiscal) conservatism. Although the two often go hand-in-hand, especially in American politics, they are not inherently connected, and it is quite possible to be a fiscal conservative without being socially conservative or vice versa.

Social conservatism emphasizes convention, morality (or old-fashioned notions of morality) and established roles within society and the family. Social conservatives are often, though not always, strongly religious. They support traditional gender roles, marriage and "family values" (a term with a multitude of meanings). Social conservatism is often accused of being homophobic, due to its distaste for same-sex marriage and sometimes racist and sexist to some degree because of the associations with traditional hierarchical societies in which everybody knew their place. Demands for "equality" or "justice" tend to be seen at minimum as lofty, abstract proposals that are likely to change with the seasons of intellectual fashion. Disrupting settled folkways in the name of these abstract beliefs will always run afoul of the iron law of unintended consequences, while the traditions that would be changed may be sacred, and certainly are our own. They often express outrage at political correctness and perceived moral decline (e.g. "Hollywood values"). Social conservatism can be extremely influential in politics; the "pro-life" movement to outlaw abortion is an example of social conservatism in action.

The problem with social conservatism is that it's directly contrary to the tenets of small, limited government and personal freedom and responsibility. Wanting the government, especially the Federal government to enact and enforce laws based around your morality directly contradicts this. There's a reason social conservatives used to overwhelmingly support the Democrats: they believed in a strong welfare state to support the public good, for example, based on ideas of christian charity. It was only after the American Civil War that these same voters shifted to the GOP, creating the current contradictory cocktail of conservatives and social regressives/reactionaries calling themselves conservatives.

Economic or fiscal conservatism is also very significant politically. Fiscal conservatives support low taxation and free market capitalism with minimal regulation. This benefits the economic interests of certain industries, entrepreneurs or the ruling class in some countries. In Europe, many economic conservatives are not necessarily socially conservative, often being non-religious and unconcerned by issues such as same-sex marriage. In America, however, the two forms of conservatism are heavily intertwined, especially within the Republican Party and its supporters. This bundling of the two major types of conservatism with each other is extreme to the extent that many conservatives cannot recognise the distinction - and see both concepts as central to "conservative values," leading to the idea that you can be all in favour of abolishing tax, deregulating the market and abolishing trade unions all you like, but if you make a single pro-choice statement, you're labelled as a RINO liberal.

[edit] Conservatism in various countries

Worldwide, better-off people are generally less likely to be discontented with the status quo and therefore more conservative. Poorer people have more reason to be discontented and are therefore more likely to want change.

[edit] Australia

Australian conservatives are, ironically, represented by the Liberal Party of Australia, so named because it was first formed on a platform of economic liberalism (although they are center-right by global standards). They stand for traditional values, and all the other stuff that US conservatives stand for (except gun control, and quite a lot of their members are pro-choice). They generally support some government intervention in the economy, particularly in health care and education, but aren't socialist by any means (they especially don't like the unions). The former leader of the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, is a devout practicing Catholic and a cold opponent to abortion. For some reason, the Religious Right doesn't have much of a voice in Australian politics, but clearly it does exist. The fundies are represented by the Christian Democratic Party, the Family First Party (which has no representation on the federal level). Though, the current leader of the Liberal Party, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, is actually a borderline liberal (he is from the smaller, moderate faction of the party).

[edit] Brazil

A dull and unimaginative copy of the conservatism existent in the US. Old Conservatism was represented by puppets of the military regime, with some of them (being footstools of US power and the "free market") pushing policies that even the junta wanted nothing to do with, such as the privatization of lucrative or nationally-strategic industries and services. Any half-hearted attempts at wealth redistribution are usually squashed flat. It's incredibly anti-competitive and backwards, even by western standards.

With the first defeat of the right-center coalition in 2002, and the deaths (or at least fading power) of the old technocrats and regional oligarchs in which they were centered upon (due to rampant opportunism, most of those hacks found posts in the left-wing government while still maintaining their ultra-conservative affiliations), the new conservatives emerged. In a sneak preview of Trump et al., everything is centered around media personalities—with more emphasis on showmanship than any real talent or political acumen—whose main task is to distract from the ongoing economic crisis. Not that any of the antecedent conservatives showed a lick of competence in similar situations. But for these people, the chance of toppling a Castro-Chavist movement in advanced phase of implementation is numero uno (even if the center-right candidates are considered by most to be pinko democrats—sound familiar?).

Nowadays, the subtypes of conservatives in Brazil are not much different than those in America, as Brazilian conservatives are, by tradition, modeled if not outright ripped from American models: you got your government-allied conservatives, and your small fringe of back-biting reactionaries. In fact, the most outspoken conservatives, who are also the ones perceived as most corrupt, are part of the ruling coalition in a openly quid pro quo relationship that has led to many scandals. It's a feedback loop of corruption, incompetence, and insanity with no end in sight. Coming soon to a superpower near you.

[edit] Canada

Conservatism in Canada has, like its counterpart in the United States, shifted further to the right in recent years, and rather strangely. The Tories were once known as the Progressive Conservative Party, which was centrist by today's standards and even pragmatic enough to win votes from the most hardline Dipper. The Social Credit Party once occupied the space further to the right; with the collapse of the SoCreds during the 1980s, the Reform Party of Canada (1987-2000) emerged with a social conservative platform and its base of support in the Western provinces, replaced by the Canadian Alliance (2000-2003). The Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance merged in 2003 to become the Conservative Party of Canada, who - at their very best - are like the worst of the Blue Dog Democrats circa 1996 (with the crime bill and welfare reform admiration). Thanks to Harper, who helped spearhead the merger, attempts at social conservatism (tried to ban abortion), transparent xenophobia regarding Muslims (the "burqa ban" nonsense in 2015), an anti-science agenda, and a hard-on for warmongering (tried to merge the Canadian and American militaries together) were all adopted by the Tories. Harper is the most viciously and fervently right wing Prime Minister in their history, but if you put him in America, he'd be the "moderate" (which is a commentary more on America than on Canada).

[edit] Europe

The multitude of nations in Europe (resembling a firecracker factory on fire) exhibit three different patterns of relations between conservatism, Christianity, creationism, liberalism, socialism, leftiness and rightiness. For a human from any saner continent,[3] the political conditions of Europe are most probably very confusing.

[edit] Catholic sphere

The conservatives are generally represented by Christian Democratic parties that are large center-right parties, but seldomly extremely right, since the extremist niche is occupied by fascistoid parties and far-right populists that don't fit well in fine balls. The local Catholic Church generally gets somewhat involved in the politics and usually supports some center party ex. the Catholic Church in Italy heavily promoted the Christian Democrat Party (Democrazia Cristiana) against communist forces for much of the Cold War, going so far to excommunicate all communists between 1949 and 1983.

Liberals are generally center, seldomly left - the left niche is occupied by socialists and social democrats that however usually prefer to compete with the center liberals. The Pope has officially endorsed Big Bang as "The One and Only True Creation," so Young Earth creationism and other pseudoscience is not considered "Christian values." The far-left is occupied by a few socialist or Communist parties that either rejected Soviet ideology very early or have kept the "red Soviet faith" until today - long after Communism was falsified by itself.

The Catholic sphere is constituted by the Romance-speaking nations, plus South Germans, Austrians, plus some western and southern Slavs, the Polish, the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Slovaks, the Slovenians and the Croatians.

Christian Democratic parties are increasingly becoming "catch all" as religiosity - and particularly the influence of Catholic clergy - declines throughout Europe. In Italy Aldo Moro[wp] went so far as to hold coalition negotiations with the Communists and in Germany Angela Merkel[wp] became the darling of many to her political left by being less of a dick than most of her party in the face of people seeking help and shelter. You know like Jesus would have. The only explicitly catholic parties that are as religious as one might assume are currently in Poland and - to a much lesser degree - Spain, where they are still staunchly anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-communist and pro "traditional family values". Of course the current corruption scandal the Spanish conservatives are implicated in has nothing to do with anything.

[edit] Orthodox sphere

Among the Greek Orthodox, Christianity is rigid and stands for Christian values in the war bunker sense. The Grand Enemy were the commies, that had a tendency to nationalize church property, which automatically drove the Orthodoxes into the arms of the enemies of Communism. Orthodoxes often stand for far-right conservatism, quite often militantly so. The conservative position partially coincides with fascist movements. Liberal parties tend to be center-left to center-right, and they compete in the same political left-right range as the former communist parties that scrapped communism in the same millisecond that Gorbachev said they were free, and relabeled themselves as social democrats. On left side of these new social democrats a vacuum emerged, which was later filled up with new communists that have little continuity back to the Soviet bloc communist parties. The most weird case of such a black hole party are the radically reactionary left-right-extreme (but nothing inbetween) National Bolsheviks of Russia: how they manage without violently killing themselves is not known.

The Orthodox sphere is constituted by Romania, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, but also some Central European countries such as Hungary share traits with this pattern.

[edit] Protestant sphere

The Protestant countries invert the pattern of the Catholic sphere: Protestant broad churches meddle little in politics, except for purely humanitarian reasons. Conservatives and far-right liberals usually coexist in the same party, which is called "The Right" (Höyre) or some muddled "Moderates" or some such. Pure liberal parties are intermediate to small sized, and position themselves at the center, slightly inclining to the right. These are market-liberals or social liberals. The large center-right Christian Democrats are replaced by large social democratic parties, usually broad center-left to center-right. The left is occupied by reformed former communist parties that originally sided with the Soviets and Stalin. Originally they competed with the Greens, the latter of whom in a very short time drove rightwards to compete rather with the Social Democrats. Christian Democratic parties - if they exist - are tiny and pathetic and try to adhere to the US-styled conservatism of the Republicans, up to and including their pseudoscientific inclinations. They work in coalition with the large conservative-liberal coalitions, but are generally politically despised for being religious trolls, and so they're politically ineffective. They have their main voter foundation amongst Christian fringe sects. The far-right parties are populist and xenophobic, but either under a strong pressure to suppress their xenophobia and other neuroses.

The Protestant sphere includes the UK (foremost England) but its center is Scandinavia, and it includes northern Germany and the Netherlands.

[edit] India

Indian conservatism is represented by Hindu nationalism. The Bharatiya Janata Party is the chief conservative party in India.

[edit] New Zealand

The New Zealand political sphere has no strong conservative representation and the right, like Australia, are centre-right. The New Zealand National Party won the 2008 elections and are traditionally considered to be a right leaning party, however their policies would be considered more liberal than Barack Obama's. While there is economic conservatism, social conservatism is almost unheard of, until the shit hits the fan.[4]

[edit] South Africa

Prior to its first democratic elections in 1994, South African politics was dominated by the conservative National Party, which governed the country on the basis of "Christian nationalism" and "separate development" - the basis for apartheid.

The Conservative Party of South Africa only came into being in 1982, when a group of ultra-conservatives, led by Dr. Andries Treurnicht (a Dutch Reformed Church minister), broke away from the National Party. They objected to the creation by PW Botha, of the so-called Tricameral Parliament (which gave token representation to Indian and coloured South Africans, whilst ignoring black South Africans) and other reforms, which the Conservative Party felt were a threat to white minority rule.

In other words, the Conservative Party of South Africa came into being, because they felt the ruling apartheid regime wasn't being racist enough.

Today the ruling African National Congress while being nominally socialist/social democratic is such a large party that individual planks of the platform and several high ranking members are quite conservative, especially on social issues. There are also numerous smaller explicitly Christian parties of any ethnic composition. The main opposition party (Democratic Alliance) is a Centrist catch all party that tries to style itself after the Obama-era Democrats.

[edit] United Kingdom

The UK Conservative Party (often going by its old political nickname of the Tory Party) would, in all irony, be defined as liberal by US conservatives. This is because in UK politics there is less of an extreme divide between the left and the right - it could be said that all parties are essentially battling for a middle ground, with only a slight hint of left/right political alignment, mostly inserted due to party tradition. While in the last decade the Tories have struggled with presenting a united front and have been through various leaders, it recently elected David Cameron as leader. In 2010 they formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. As a sign of evil liberal infection within the party, it supports publicly funded healthcare (the NHS)[5] and has many Muslim members[6] - a Muslim stood for a seat in Parliament representing the Conservative Party in a recent election (he lost... for some reason). They also seem to be okay with abortion and civil partnerships for gay couples and aren't too hot on compulsory religious indoctrination either, and Cameron was able to pull off full gay marriage rights in England and Wales under the coalition,[7] at the dismay of most of his party.[8]

However, their fiscal policies are still within the realms of conservatism. Much of the 2010 UK election was fought over what to do with the economy to pull it out of the recession; characteristically, the Conservative Party favoured immediate spending cuts to cut the country's budget deficit while the more left-wing Labour Party preferred to hold off any cuts until later and pay for it with a tax rise.

[edit] United States

This whole argument is a complete misconstruction of the idea of freedom. You should not be "free" to duck a measles shot just because you’re a fucking moron. That’s not what American democracy was designed for... And now here come Paul and Christie, ready to fucking undo it. They don’t even really believe it, and yet people will follow them, turning this into yet another backwater wedge issue that keeps 21st century progress from moving forward at all. I can’t even get America out to the car because it won’t put its shoes on.
—Drew Magary[9]

[edit] History

Prior to the 1960s conservatism in the US could be thought as being split into at least three factions; the Old Right who supported laissez-faire economics and isolationism, the more centrist progressive conservatives, and the often Southern based far-right beliefs that were much more socially conservative, religiously based, and conflated white supremacy with conservatism. While they all had a few broad agreements, such as opposition to socialism/communism and (varying levels of) American nationalism, they were otherwise largely at odds with another. Robert Taft could be considered the leader of the pro-business, low tax, Old Right but nonetheless was generally pro-civil rights, however he was barely willing to compromise on New Deal programs due to his generally intense dislike of high taxes and government growth. In many ways this could be considered the inverse of the more far-right Southern Conservatives (led at the time by Richard Russell[10]) who were more accepting of government spending that benefited rural (white) people but were far more intensely socially conservative and utterly unwilling to compromise on the issue of civil rights. Finally the progressive conservatives, led in the 1950's by Dwight Eisenhower but earlier by Thomas Dewey, were generally pro-civil rights and more tolerant of government intervention in the economy so long as said intervention was more gradualist than radical and still wanted to minimize government intrusion when thought realistically possible.[11] In many ways the progressive conservatives were the closest embodiment of Burkian ideals, whereas the Old Right was more proto-libertarian/classically liberal and the Southern Conservatives were largely reactionary. To further complicate matters they were in different parties, with both the moderates and Taftian conservatives being at odds with one another in the Republican Party (where the moderates were at the time the more dominant faction) while the white supremacist social conservatives were in the Democratic Party.

The Old Right remained the weakest version of conservatism due its lack of support among many ordinary Americans. In the 1950's this began to be noticed by conservative intellectuals such as those at the National Review and in response they proposed "Fusianism",[12] a combination of the economically libertarian ideals of the Old Right with the social conservatism often found among more rural conservatives, thus creating a coalition thought broad enough to defeat liberals. In the 1960's this movement was embodied by Barry Goldwater and sought to cast out the moderates from the Republican Party in particular, which they succesfully did after Goldwater defeated the moderate/centrist Nelson Rockefeller in the 1964 GOP presidential primary.[13] This event permanetly weakened the progressive conservative presence within the party[note 1] and gradually led to many of them becoming either independents or even Democrats. However Goldwater's ideas were still too extreme for the country as a whole and he lost the election by a historical landslide. Eventually Goldwater-styled conservatism would find its successful avatar in Ronald Reagan, at which point it was clearly more reactionary, longing nostalgically for a time that only really 'existed' in those godawful Mickey Rooney movies. The conservatism of Goldwater and Reagan became known as New Right. The New Right is/was far to the right of conservatives in other Western nations. They had little compassion for the underprivileged, overvalued the free market and were deeply suspicious of anything that seems like government interference. (For example, Republicans in Congress, all oppose the Affordable Care Act, which is seen as dangerously socialist,[14] even though it had rather conservative origins.[15])

By the mid-60's right-wing populist styled white supremacism based largely (though definitly not exclusively) in the South was in a crisis. The Democratic Party leadership had been far more liberal than they predicted under Lyndon Baines Johnson and the civil rights movement was gaining momentum which culminated in the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act which began to knock down explicit Jim Crow styled laws. George Wallace became the new leader of this particular group of conservatives and ran a couple independent presidential campaigns on an explicitly segregationalist campaign but it was nonetheless becoming increasingly clear they were in retreat despite their hold on several states in the Deep South and attempted terrorism from their de facto paramilitary wing. While white supremacists had voted Democratic for over one hundred years they were already breaking off due to increasingly liberal influence from the party leadership, with many voting for Goldwater in 1964 and Wallace in 1968 and 1972. On the local level they had begun to "fill up" the empty local and state Republican parties, but were not comfortably brought into the national fold until at least the 1980's[note 2]. Richard Nixon usually gets "credit" for bringing them into the GOP but in truth he was probably riding a wave that would probably have happened regardless due to the perceived betrayal on the part of the National Democratic Party supporting civil rights and the fact that the US can only really support two parties at one time.[16]

The explicitly religious side of the modern American conservatism likewise grew out of this late 1970's to early 1980's period, and is largely an evolution of this earlier form of social conservatism. By the mid-1970's explicit white supremacism was increasingly politically toxic. However one of the few significant institutions that held out from desegregating were Christian churches that were protected by the separation of church and state and the fact that pastors did not have to answer to the nation as a whole but merely their own congregation, and as a defender of "traditional" Southern values the Southern Baptist Convention had long been a hotbed for white supremacy.[17] In a move to prevent integration Southern Baptist private schools began to emerge which encouraged de facto segregation and counted on the seperation of church and state to protect them. In the late 70's the Carter administration moved on these schools, requiring them to show they were not racist if they wanted to maintain their tax exempt status. This mobilized a mass backlash in the form of the "Moral Majority" and its leader, Jerry Falwell, made common cause with conservative Catholics in the North (despite the two hating each other not ago) by adopting their positions on issues such as abortion in return for support on the national level. This coalition would be vital to voting in the "Fusianist" conservative Ronald Reagan. With this religious fundamentalists who had formerly been mocked (yes even by conservatives) managed to make themselves the vehicle of rural social conservatism which could not survive explicit appeals to white supremacy on the national scale and effectively used fundamentalism as a cover for this culture war.[18]

Bringing the religious right into the Republican fold was a political success in the 1980's but also further turned off some moderate conservatives. However party leaders still largely adhered to either latter-day versions of "Fusianism", neoconservatism, or business conservatism and figured these more intensely socially conservative voters could be pandered to and then mostly ignored. As these voters became an increasingly active and large force within the Republican Party the GOP began to shift further and further right, and went through a series of radicalizations. The first and second major catalysts for this were the aforementioned victory of Goldwater in the 1964 Republican Primary and Ronald Reagan's electoral landslide in 1980 but despite these events shifting the party in a more right-wing direction it maintained a center-right wing and was competitive at the national level. The next event that shook the party was when it seriously began to lose control of the social conservatives during the 1994 Gingrich Revolution,[19] when the GOP took over the House of Representatives due to corruption within the Democratic Party. Whereas other prominent Republicans merely pandered to the Religious Right and culture warriors Newt Gingrich and company were (or at least came across as) true believers and were more than willing to openly wage a culture war. The fact they had gained so much power from within both the party and the government in so little time made them impossible for the "Old-Guard" to control, leading to them making increasingly disastrous political decisions such as threatening (and partly "succeeding") at shutting down the government and a failed attempt to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying under oath. It didn't help the establishment Republicans that new conservative media was also making their politics increasingly sensationalistic and extreme, and likewise was largely pandering/activating this grouping of social conservatives. During this period "conservatism" in the US was becoming associated with increasingly intense right-wing positions who were quickly displacing the Establishment Republicans (who themselves had displaced the earlier Rockefeller Republicans).

In the 2000 GOP primary the contest came down beween the more traditionally conservative John McCain and George W. Bush, the latter of which was further right and had far closer ties to the religious right.[20] McCain's defeat and Bush's subsequent election might be considered the last breath of relative moderatism in the GOP dying, and the party cemented its support as mainly coming from more hardline conservatives. During this era neoconservatism was also influential on the Bush administration as its political presence grew. Mushily conservative on domestic policy most neocons focused their support on pursuing a hawkish foreign policy thanks to a hyper-nationalitic view of America and the belief that with the proper force the United States could spread democratic values and also reinforce its place as a superpower all in one go. Neoconservatism remained a somewhat fringe ideology only popular among a handful of conservative intellectuals and politicians while largely being unpopular or just unknown by the public at large. When the 9/11 attacks occured however Bush began to take foreign policy advise from this grouping of conservatives on how to respond, which resulted in the Iraq War and massive military spending. Meanwhile Bush's domestic policy was much more influenced by his own origins as a religious conservative which resulted in policies that were often either disastrous (i.e. such as defunding stem-cell research) or simply bizarre (i.e. advocating intelligent design). Despite winning re-election in 2004 he left office in 2008 with the lowest approval rating of any president leaving office since Nixon which massively damanged support for the mainstream conservative movement.[21]

Establishment Republicans did manage to nominate John McCain as 2008 candidate though he had to shift further right in order to obtain it. He chose as his running mate Sarah Palin who unbeknownst to him was a radical right-winger with astonishing ignorance of US politics, history, and legislation. Her less "respectable" approach to politics energized much of the GOP's increasingly frustrated base, which would later encourage the formation of the Tea Party that increasingly considered the Bush presidency a betrayal of their values.[22] Advocating ultra-libertarian economics, even more hardline social conservatism (often in the form of opposition to immigration), refusal to compromise on legislation, and conspiracy theorism this movement managed to return Republican control to the House of Representatives in 2010 but turned the party into an explicitly radical right-wing/populist party that was far more extreme than even the "fusionist" conservatives preceding them were. Increasingly explicit appeals to white populism/nationalism which had formerly been hidden behind dog-whistles and religious fundamentalism became increasingly acceptable during this far-right rebellion against Establishment Republicans, leading to the emergence of the Alt-Right in both the Republican Party and "conservatism" in general. Basically, the white populist reactionaries whom the GOP leadership pandered to before ignoring realized they now easily outnumbered the Establishment Republicans within the GOP, especially after the Bush presidency and their inability to unseat Barack Obama left the latter discreditied in the eyes of the former. This culminated in the 2016 nomination of Donald Trump.

Meanwhile the progressive conservative philosophy was somewhat able to find a home in the Democratic Party during the 1992 Presidential Election when Bill Clinton and other New Democrats shifted the party towards the politics center.[23][24][25] Endorsing compromise, balanced budgets, social liberalism, and free trade this wing of the Democratic Party would win virtually every Democratic presidential primary from 1992 onward. While Barack Obama ran as a more liberal candidate he has governed in this vein.[26][27]

[edit] Current

It is part of the Republican philosophy that everything should be viewed in terms of monetary value. The world is literally dollars, and the entire moral system is based in that. If it makes you money, it is the absolute right thing to do regardless of any externalities involved. What little scientific research survives is done largely in secret, for fear of handing the next big thing to a rival. The private sector is only interested in research that has a direct application toward turning a profit.[28]. This same mercantilism is being applied to the social institutions in America. Why should poor people get something for nothing? Social welfare seems like a "bad deal" because minorities, immigrants, and the underprivileged are getting food, clothing, and housing for nothing in exchange. This is a cardinal sin. Foreign policy is an extension of this brand of mercantilism. If another country gets something from us, they have to pay for it. But since America's perception of reality is always though the lens of monetary value, they often fail to see the other historical, political, and social realities involved. Speaking of which, conservatives also advocate for increased McMilitary and police spending to moralize the world, whatever that may mean.)

Politicians from both US parties appeal to their core constituencies through fear-mongering of one sort or another; however, the Democrats lack the tie-ins the Republicans have, from the right-wing noise machine Fox News, to fundamentalist churches preaching prosperity gospel and condemning the vile socialists, to think tanks and talk radio, most of which exists solely to ramp up the fear of liberals and foreigners. The GOP has turned fear-mongering into a highly-profitable industry. However. it does have a downside as it's morphed their already-radical platform into a philosophy of no compromise or governance, because how can you negotiate with godless terrorists bent on giving free hugs to poor people destroying your freedoms? No other party in the world does this thought-killing nonsense like the GOP does; there's gold in paranoia and the whole infotainment cabal is in on the scam.

The American conservative movement has incessantly been pushed further and further to the "right." With each success, the bar is moved further to the right; with each failure, it is likewise moved. It now has a tendency to incorporate strong elements of fundamentalist Christianity, most notably in a willful ignorance towards science (i.e. global warming denial), barely-veiled hostility toward women (Modest is Hottest!), and a bellicose nationalism—usually couched in the cliche that America is the "Greatest Country in the World" or "God's Chosen Nation," one with the moral authority to tell other countries how to live and govern. The Bible nowhere mentions America, but the religious right doesn't let that get in way of their spin. Conservatives in the U.S. promote religious indoctrination in schools, such as prayer in public schools or the erection of Christian statues in front of government buildings. It has also limited the field of candidates who can realistically run for office on the GOP ticket. Romney was in much deeper trouble than he realized, not just because of his flip-flops on abortion, but the deeper sin of not being a Southern Baptist.

Surprise: It turns out that cutting government funding for education and science[29] (Big Science is an evil statist charity, especially when it outlaws bad drugs and predicts environmental disasters, because that stuff is unbelievably profitable! -Ben Stein), instead cutting taxes on the already privileged and allowing for tax havens, under the faulty logic that "the market" will allocate enough for R&D,[30] is not a recipe for a healthy and competitive ecnomy. What of the growth of third world industrialization killing off American manufacturing? The only ways to deal with it are tariffs (which are against Republican orthodoxy) or massive education reform (that also involves retraining and vocational technology training), and those are too complex to put into soundbites. One of the strongest factors contributing to the US' downfall was a rush to embrace free trade (by both Republicans and Democrats) which lost the US a ton of manufacturing jobs to China and Mexico, combined with having very poor educational standards as compared to the rest of the industrialized world. In the shifting global economy, the US is going to suffer quite considerably. Right now the Republican strategy appears to be finding new ways of cutting jobs without shrinking the gargantuan military or their present wealth.[31]

While not all conservatives, obviously, embrace all these views, walking away from more than a few can easily leave a politician "outside" the "big tent." American conservatism has moved so far in some directions[32] (invasion of personal privacy[33] and big government[34] for instance), that many traditional conservatives have been stranded in its wake; many of these adrift voters have been gathered up by the techno-fascist Libertarian Party and anarchic Tea Party,[35] both of whom reliably vote Republican. (Dance with the one who brought you.)

But if you ignore all the negative parts (What's left? Flag-waving and backyard barbecue.), American conservatism is a very positive political philosophy.

[edit] Libertaryan

The secession envisioned here is along the lines of Singapore, not the Old South, but to this writer, they’re the same thing.
—J. Arthur Bloom[36]
The words "individual rights", in a civil-society context, are often Libertarian-ese for "business". That's what they derive as the inevitable meaning of rights and freedom....the whopper of "right to have the State back up business". That's a wild definition of freedom.
—Seth Finkelstein[37]

Back in the 70s and 80s, Libertarianism had a mean anti-immigrant and "God before Country" streak to it. These were the guys lining up behind Branch Davidians and talking about how Bill Clinton was a fascist intent on taking away our precious liberties with UN black helicopters. Ron Paul's newsletters (the ones he says he totally had nothing to do with and what racism are you talking about?) were tailored to this demographic.[38] He and Pat "I never met a racist stereotype I didn't like, but hey! I'm a conservative who isn't pro-war!" Buchanan were bosom buddies. God, Gold, Gays, and Gringos were what they campaigned on.

Modern day Reddit-Libertarianism isn't as religious, so that's a third of the platform out the window; the Libertarian Party in America is oriented toward fiscal but not social conservatism, which is the opposite of the libertarian ideal. They aren't the dyed-in-the-wool racists that their parents' generation were, either (which isn't to say they aren't racist, but they're more "white people are the REAL victims" types than genuine white supremacists). And gold just can't compete with the allure of Bitcoin.

Libertarians align with the GOP on the economy, but in fact, their monetary policy is even more radical: their taxes are far more regressive, and their attitudes toward labor are more Social Darwinist. Overall they are just closeted Republicans, but the GOP suffices for them come election time. Which is why they must push aside all of the "social liberal" stuff to pursue a radical fiscal agenda−one only a draconian government can implement.[39][40] The Libertarian Party needs to purge half its membership if they ever want to appeal to moderates or sensible conservatives.

Libertarianism has a popular rhetorical appeal, but it never seems to catch on in practice. (Make a lot of libertarian-sounding grunts and you can be a Nixon or a Reagan or a Bush Jr.; then you implement all the sweeping neo-con policy you like.) Most people are too scared, or too entrenched in privilege, to be truly radical, so libertarianism has become a safety valve for bottled-up righteousness. You can still talk the talk of armed revolution, waving around guns, Orwell, etc. and seeming to be up on radical politics, but anyone with a brain knows you're just another cog in the system.[41][42]

[edit] Ouroboros

At the start of the 2016 election cycle, many newspapers foresaw what they called the "libertarian moment".[43] That all changed in the summer of '15. What we're seeing is the Koch-funded candidates are perceived as too liberal by the majority of the base;[44] libertarianism has devolved back into Angry Old Manism.[45][46]

The lesson here is that introducing libertarianism into conservatism is a slippery slope. At the top of the slope you've got Republicans: These are people who reject the predominant liberal notion that government can improve peoples' lives. Once you start down that slope, someone will say to you "Oh, you're a Republican because you think that in some cases the government does bad things, have you ever considered that government does mostly bad things?" So if you agree, then you find that you are in fact a Tea Partier. And you settle comfortably into that niche for a while.

But then some asshole comes along and says "Oh, you're a Tea Partier because you think government mostly does bad things, have you ever considered that government only does bad things?" And if you find yourself agreeing with that person, then you're a libertarian. And then eventually somebody comes along and says "Oh, you're a libertarian because you think that the government only does bad things, but have ever considered that the government has only ever done bad things in the history of mankind?" And if you find yourself agreeing with that person, then you're an AnCap or Alt-right. Every person that starts down the Libertarian slippery slope ends up at the AnCap bottom eventually. Because once you start to realize that you can blame all of your problems in life on the government, there is very little resistance against slippage and great force initiating slippage.[37]

Post-2008, the legacy of George W. Bush was one of libertarian rebirth. He said he was a small government, anti-interventionist conservative that wanted to get government off people's backs. He started two wars, created the Department of Homeland Security and signed the PATRIOT Act into law. The GOP was also going down in flames, its credibility shot to hell by by the financial crisis and the Wall St. bailouts. Obama shit the bed by extending the drone war and NSA spying, and by signing into law the ACA, a half-measure so ill thought-out that conservatives are even considering a single-payer option[47]; this (and the public relations failure of OWS) soured many liberals.[48] And the debt. So much debt.

So the GOP asked Americans, "Has it ever occurred to you that government does mostly bad things? Here's a Tea Party for you to join!" And millions of voters collectively started tumbling head-over-heels down the slippery slope.[49] Surprising that it took 7 years for them to start hitting bottom.

[edit] Supply side economics

This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to the other two characteristics of conservatism; its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces.
Friedrich Hayek, Why I Am Not a Conservative (1960)

You can't have a discussion about modern day conservatism, especially economic conservatism, without talking about supply side economics. Supply-side economics is defined as an economic theory which articulates that the economy could be best served by reducing barriers to supply/production as opposed to trying to raise demand. The epitome of supply side economics is the Laffer Curve, which is the precept that government revenue is equal at zero and 100% taxation. Supply-side economics is widely criticized by neo-Keynesian economists, who are in turn voraciously criticized by libertarians.

In just eight years, the Bush Administration grew the government faster and larger than any other President, with borrowed money, and demanded $700 billion more to buy up all of Wall Street's bad mortgage paper and preserve the status quo. But when asked to boost the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by $250 million dollars to help low-income families pay their heating bills over the winter of 2007-08 with record oil and gas prices, Bush vetoed it as pure socialism.[50]

[edit] Relative and historical nature of the term (or, why defining conservatism as a fixed set of values is pure incoherence)

It should be remembered that, like liberal, conservative is always a relative term defined by the context in which its used. For example, to the US, Deng Xiaoping was considered far more conservative than Mao Zedong, but in China the opposite was true. This, along with similarly varying interpretations of "left-wing" and "right-wing," can lead to a great deal of confusion when talking about political leanings in different contexts. The idea of conservatism has always revolved around the preservation of the status quo, in the face of change. Russian "conservatism" basically reflects the opposite of what Americans feel to be the tenets of "conservatism," simply because of a difference in historical experience. Similarly, elements that would be perceived as "liberal" in contemporary America would be considered in Asian societies as being "conservative" - these include welfare, as well as government intervention in economic sectors. In Latin America, "labor" parties have often been right-wing populist, left-of-center parties avowedly socialist, and military dictatorships (typically viewed as right-wing in the West) could range from outright reactionary to left-wing populist; examples being Augusto Pinochet of Chile and Omar Torrijos of Panama respectively.

Similarly, the binary of "left-wing versus right-wing" ideas to a great extent does not apply in some countries outside of the Western experience, i.e., Malaysia, Turkey, Singapore, and Indonesia (where communism never really played a great role in mainstream politics, except in special occasions - such as Indonesia under Sukarno). In Malaysia, the left-right debate has been eschewed in favour of a debate between the Barisan Nasional (the centre) and the Democratic Action Party (social democrats) and the Parti Se-Tanah Melayu Islam, which is the Islamic right.

Let us also consider how conservatism changes over time, such that a figure like Edmund Burke can, 200 years after his death, be claimed by both liberals and conservatives even in the country he lived in.

[edit] What conservatism is not (or doesn't have to be)

[edit] Conservative psychology

There is something inherently paradoxical about being an intellectual Conservative: a good measure of the party's raison d'etre resides in the counter-intuitive belief that ideas should be inherited and ignored, not acquired and defended. And they never take the form of convictions.
—Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton[wp][51]

Four researchers surveyed research literature about the psychology of conservatism.[52][53] They discovered that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality. No shit. The chief psychological factors of conservatism are Surprise, fear and ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to Ronald Reagan and a nice uniform:

  • Fear and aggression - an easy way to support a conservative position is to scapegoat some convenient "other" and demonise it as a threat to "civilised" values. Islamophobia is simply the current version of this conservative train of thought. Students of history may find other examples.
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance - this may lead to the drawing of premature conclusions or resorting to stereotypes.
  • Need for cognitive closure - As Dubya once said "My job isn't to nuance."
  • Terror management - such as declaring amber alerts at opportune moments, calling opponents "supporters of terrorists" etc.

It is debatable whether these factors are associated chiefly with conservatism. One admitted shortfall in this study was that "little or no empirical data are available from the major communist or formerly communist countries" on this subject,[53] which made a study of communist psychology in general very difficult. However, the researchers acknowledge that these factors were also exhibited by many communist dictators, such as Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro. They respond by claiming that these men, because they resisted change while in power, "may be considered politically conservative, at least in the context of the systems they defended."[53]

In fairness to conservatives, some studies of political extremist groups have suggested that the far-left has very similar traits to the far-right in terms of their tactics and preference for authoritarianism.[54]

[edit] Prominent conservatives (in America, at least)

If the attitudes of the above become not just a US phenomenon and overwhelm the rest of conservative thought, then Goat help us all.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes

  1. Richard Nixon governing as a progressive conservative (despite being much more right-wing in his campaigning and personal views) and his subsequent resignation likewise damaged, if not finished off, the reputation of progressive conservatives within the GOP
  2. Afterall in the 1976 presidential election they voted for Jimmy Carter by default as he was a Southern Baptist and his opponent was a Northern moderate who was from the business world. Carter would go on to disappoint them.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Mr. Conservative, The Atlantic
  2. Jacoby, Susan The Age of American Unreason p. 13. 2008. Pantheon Books. ISBN: 1-59722-793-5
  3. Depending on their definitions of "sane."
  4. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10335923
  5. Well, allegedly. Despite a 500% increase in NHS privatisation under their rule and a reclassification of what counts as healthcare – i.e. counting the bed that a patiant stays in after an operation as "hotel fees".
  6. Conservative Muslim forum UK
  7. But, under the Tory majority government, elected a "minister for equalities" who voted against same sex marriage rights.
  8. Blow for Cameron as 128 Tory MPs vote against gay marriage. New Statesman. Published 21 May 2013. (They really should have thought about renaming that article...)
  9. Magary, Drew, "Turns Out Brian Williams Is a Pretty Terrible Liar", GQ 2.6.15.
  10. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/government-politics/richard-b-russell-jr-1897-1971
  11. http://millercenter.org/president/biography/eisenhower-domestic-affairs
  12. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/426606/fusionism-60-years-later-jonah-goldberg
  13. http://www.theprogressiveprofessor.com/?tag=eastern-establishment-republicans
  14. "Obamacare: Quintessential Socialism"
  15. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=4337 Nixon's health care proposal
  16. http://blog.chron.com/goplifer/2015/02/the-myth-of-the-southern-strategy/
  17. https://goplifer.com/2015/01/31/evangelicals-and-white-supremacy/
  18. https://goplifer.com/2014/03/29/how-protestant-evangelicals-shifted-their-abortion-stance/
  19. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-m-gillon/the-gingrich-revolution-a_b_8272054.html
  20. https://goplifer.com/2016/09/10/agents-of-intolerance/
  21. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bushs-final-approval-rating-22-percent/
  22. https://www.nationaljournal.com/s/69360/george-w-bush-he-gave-rise-tea-party
  23. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/19/opinion/how-clinton-is-like-ike.html
  24. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/clinton/interviews/panetta3.html
  25. http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-28155578
  26. Barack Obama, Left Conservative, The New Yorker
  27. How Liberal is President Obama?, The New York Times
  28. Myhrvold, Nathan, "Basic Science Can't Survive without Government Funding", Scientific American 2.1.16.
  29. Keyes, Scott, "111 Republican Incumbents And Candidates Want To Eliminate The Department Of Education", ThinkProgress (11/28/10 1:57 pm).
  30. Plumer, Brad, "American companies are investing way less in science than they used to", Vox (2.4.15 12:30 p.m. ET).
  31. Montgomery, Lori, The President's budget adds 15,000,000 jobs. The Republicans' cuts 700,000., WaPo (3/13/2011 6:14 PM).
  32. http://www.aclu.org/safefree/resources/17343res20031114.html
  33. USA PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping
  34. Transportation Security Agency (TSA), Medicare drug programme expansion
  35. Mark Ames, "Homophobia, racism and the Kochs: The tech-libertarian "Reboot" conference is a cesspool", Pando. ("“I avoid saying ‘Republican’ so people don’t think I’m part of crazy right-wing stuff.”)
  36. Bloom, J. Arthur, "https://theumlaut.com/2014/02/15/to-mayberry-minerva-or-the-matrix/", The Ümlaut 2.15.14.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Seth Finkelstein, "Libertarianism Make You Stupid", 1997. Finkelstein: Since there's no Libertopia, they never have to admit being in error as to what will happen under their proposed regime. That's a great debating advantage.
  38. "Ron's Paul's Most Incendiary Newsletters", New Republic 12.22.11.
  39. Tyler Cowen, "The Paradox of Libertarianism".
  40. Jesse Walker, "The Mad Dream of the Libertarian Dictator", Reason.
  41. Stephen Metcalf, "The Liberty Scam - Why Robert Nozick, the father of libertarianism, gave up on the movement", Slate.
  42. RJ Eskow, "11 Questions You Should Ask Libertarians to See if They're Hypocrites", Alternet.
  43. Robert Draper, "Has the Libertarian Moment Finally Arrived?", New York Times.
  44. Molly Ball, "The Kochs Can't Control the Monster They Created", The Atlantic.
  45. Scott Clement, "Millennials are just about as racist as their parents", Washington Post.
  46. Arthur Chu, "Occupying the Throne", Daily Beast. ("How do you go from, in 2011, marching in self-declared solidarity with the '99 Percent' holding a banner saying 'Give Class War A Chance' to, in 2014, tweeting that liberalism is 'Truly one of the ideas ever' calling for a return to aristocracy with techies as the aristocrats and saying the solution to the unemployment crisis is to bring back chattel slavery? You wouldn’t think it was possible. But Google software engineer Justine Tunney did exactly that.")
  47. Avik Roy, "The Conservative Case for Universal Coverage", National Review.
  48. Ron Fournier, "Millennials Sour on Obama and Obamacare", National Journal.
  49. Bill Schneider, "How far right can Republicans go?", Reuters.
  50. Bush veto hits heating bill aid program for poor
  51. https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2010/jun/05/roger-scruton-interview
  52. Researchers help define what makes a political conservative
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 The original paper
  54. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science/article/similarities-and-differences-between-left-wing-and-right-wing-radicals/C46411F0228745583D2EB8E91A19D881
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