Shortly after writing my two-part "On Unions" articles, I decided to include a brief and reworded excerpt from one of them on my Facebook page. Needless to say, a vigorous debate ensued, one that I have seen fit to post in full below.
Matthew Rozsa - Original Facebook Status
"There is not a more dangerous experiment than to place property in the hands of one class, and political power in those of another... If property cannot retain the political power, the political power will draw after the property."
While conservatives and liberals agree on this, the former use it to justify giving the rich disproportionate political power, while the latter wishes to establish economic democracy.
Matt, that's an incredibly simplistic description of an incredibly complex reality. It's also, frankly, inaccurate and unfair. I'm more of a moderate than anything else, and I am continuously disappointed by the efforts of those of all political persuasions to demonize their opposition.
Actually, moderate is a bad way to describe me. I'm more of a libertarian with some handpicking from both sides of the aisle.
You describe America so perfectly
Kevin, I don't view my comment as being in any way unwarranted. When conservatives support "supply side" tax policies, deregulation of big business, and the disempowerment of labor unions, they pursue policies that can only have one possible outcome - the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the wealthy at the expense of the middle and working classes. The only difference between the right-wingers of Daniel Webster's era (the quote above comes from a speech delivered by the great Massachusetts orator in 1820) and their 21st century counterparts is that the former were very open about their elitist objectives, while the latter - having brilliantly interwoven populist cultural themes and a knee-jerk distrust of "big government" into their message - are able to come off as egalitarian.
Incidentally, I have a great deal of respect for the politically independent-minded (which is how you describe yourself), and am by no means a left-wing ideologue. On economic subjects I am a liberal in the tradition of Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt; on social issues my sympathies are strongly libertarian; and on foreign policy I am left-of-center, supporting the humanitarian internationalism of Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman.
That said, my personal open-mindedness doesn't include a reluctance to "call 'em like I see 'em". While I respect honest differences of opinion, I resent it when people claim they prefer a position for one reason when they are really driven by an entirely different set of motives. When the Federalists, National Republicans, and pre-Harrison Whigs (i.e., the early conservative parties) waxed poetically about the wonders of having a nation ruled by "the rich and well-born" and sneered at the concept of having the rest of the citizens participate equally in the political process, at least they were honest in presenting what they believed and why they believed it. It is the sneakiness with which contemporary right-wingers claim they have one agenda when they in fact have another that I find so infuriating.
I think you are confusing conservatives with Republicans. I know that sounds trite, but I am serious. The vast majority of hard core Republicans I have met would never meet the definition of conservative. Here's why:
Actual conservatives support a lack of intrusion by the government into the daily lives of citizens. The Republican party has repeatedly shown this to not be one of its core ideals (in action, if not in words). Actual conservatives support less government spending (part and parcel of smaller government). Same deal as above regarding the Republican party. If you are equating Democrats with liberals, you are equally wrong (in my opinion). Real liberals encourage everyone to have an equal voice in government. The Democratic party encourages everyone who AGREES with them to have an equal voice in government (the Republican party is just as bad). The Democratic party, for all its talk of empowering the non-wealthy of the country, was instrumental in the concentration of yet more wealth in the hands of those who already have it (TARP money, among other things). Matt, as I said in the beginning of this post, perhaps our difference is a matter of definition of terms rather than ideals. I tend to see both major parties as shills for the wealthy and powerful rather than as representatives of the people of this country.
I think your characterization is simplistic here. The Democratic Party is a motley crew of old-fashioned New Deal liberals, New Leftists, Blue Dogs centrists, big city machine politicians, and countless other ideological (to say nothing of cultural and demographic) factions. There is no "Democratic" philosophy, anymore so than there is a "Pennsylvanian" philosophy. One of the key reasons Democrats have had such a hard time passing meaningful legislation is that, since the disintegration of the New Deal coalition in 1968, the presidents produced by this party have had to try to whip into shape a coalition so inherently fractious that there is very little upon which they can agree.
Republicans, on the other hand, were built into a very powerful and effective political organization by Ronald Reagan and his conservative movement during the 1980s (which was then carried into the future by Newt Gingrich in the 1990s and George W. Bush in the 2000s). By purging all but a handful of the moderates and liberals who used to make up a sizable chunk of their membership, as well as exploiting reactionary cultural positions and falsely conflating them with their economic and international agenda following the 1960s, the Republicans figured out a foolproof formula for not only dominating the last three decades of American political history, but also of becoming an ideologically cohesive group. And what of the conservatives who you say differ from the Republicans on these particulars? While I do not doubt that they exist, they are so few and far between that it is painful. Take, for instance, the "Tea Party" protesters who claim that they are "true conservatives" who never liked George W. Bush but now object to the taxation policies of Barack Obama. If that is really the case, then where were they when Bush spent trillions of dollars on an unnecessary war in Iraq? Where were they when millions of dollars meant to help New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina were used on - well, we still don't know what? Why didn't they get up in arms against Bush when he squandered Clinton's budget surplus early in his presidency on a tax cut that primarily benefited the rich? The fact of the matter is that the so-called real conservatives didn't have a slight problem with George W. Bush when he flouted the principles on which they stood (or if they did, they were surprisingly silent about it), and only began distancing themselves from Dubya when his political stock began to plummet during his second term (although they couldn't get enough of him during his first term, convenient revisionism aside). Obama, on the other hand, they began to oppose almost from the first day he took office. In short, if conservatives want to be viewed as separate from the Republican Party, they need to distance themselves from that party on occasions OTHER than when it happens to be unpopular with the rest of the country. Until then, I consider the vast bulk of the conservative movement to be interchangeable with the GOP.
Just as a point of reference, I squawked like hell when Bush was running our country into the ground via bad fiscal and foreign policy. I'm continuing to complain now because I don't think things are being done the way they should be. That being said, I'll return to your points:
I'll grant you that. People have a tendency, it seems to me, to flock to whatever banner purports to support their cause (even if the reality is very different). Often they do this because the people carrying said banner look like them. As a corollary, I would argue that those people calling themselves true conservatives (the Tea Party types) are blatant dupes of those who have absolutely no stake in their true best interests. They hear someone who claims to be like them say, "They're going to take your money and give it to people who don't work. They're going to decide what kind of medical care you can have. They're going to enforce euthanasia on the elderly. THEY THEY THEY!," and they believe what they are told without ever looking into it for themselves. Whether those people are true conservatives or not, they are woefully (sometimes willfully) ignorant.
Ra Ra Kevin. It is a rare bird who recognizes the true nature of the conservative view.
It is indeed, Kevin. Kudos to you. Out of curiosity, have you ever read the memoirs of Barry Goldwater (co-authored by Jack Casserly)? It seems like you would enjoy them quite a bit.
I haven't. I'll have to look around for a copy. Anyway, I have to run. Time to conduct another appointment.
I would also highly recommend "The Conscience of a Conservative", another book by Barry Goldwater. I meant to mention it in my last post but forgot (hence the misused "them").
By the way, I strongly disagree with Goldwater on most substantive policy questions. That said, I have the highest regard for his intelligence, integrity, and ideological consistency - and yes, that alliteration was partially intentional. ;-)