Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saving Conservatism

Don't misread me by that blog title; I actually have little interest in saving political conservatism in this country. Backward-thinkers and stay-the-course ideologues hamper forward progress, both socially and politically. But there has been lots in the news lately about the Republicans floundering around for a new direction in the wake of their electoral smack-down this cycle, so of course I've been thinking about conservatism in a sort of devil's-advocacy way. Pundits, disembodied voices and Max Headroom clones are everywhere, frantically braying about the future of the GOP and generally eating their young in a way we're more recently used to seeing Democrats doing. As a self-proclaimed liberal, who typically finds that the Democratic Party best represents my concept of a free and productive society, please allow me to nevertheless lay out an honest, workable 5-point plan for resuscitating American Conservatism.

1) Ditch the ├╝ber-evangelicals. Face it: Reagan sold the soul of your party to people who advocate social restrictions and intolerance. If these Christists, who use their pulpits to sow hatred and divisiveness, couldn't get you elected this time, they ain't never gonna do it again. Take this time of regrouping to say "No thanks, and fuck you!" to the Pat Robertsons, Ted Haggards and James Dobsons of the world. They are power-hungry preachers whose whose attempt to remake the United States into a theocracy is a simultaneous dismantling of the very constitution they claim to uphold. Simple-minded fear-mongers are an anchor on your party: cut 'em loose and sail away.

2) Embrace, don't fight, unstoppable social changes. Embracing change, even in a limited way, accomplishes an end-run around a need to admit failure. Bad: "We need to keep those blacks from using our drinking fountains and going to school with our children!" Good: "We are proud to support full equality for all members of our society." Bad: "Blacks & whites marrying will undermine the institution, and erode traditional family values!" Good: "We are ecstatic to see so many new families being recognized by both the state and by Our Saviour Jesus Christ." Racial bias and anti-miscegenation laws now look so archaic, we often forget that they weren't part of the 17th century, but the 20th. Sexual orientation has now become the cause of social erosion that the GOP fights tooth-and-nail. Here's a clue: stop fighting. The change is a-comin', and while at first you might seem to be "protectors" of social & moral values, eventually you become a wrench-in-the-works obstacle, insisting that the world, she's-a flat. Personal homophobia is one thing; a party platform that includes repression and legal restrictions on fully-functional members of society is another. Both are reprehensible, but in the first instance it's only one person's opinion. In the other, it's a guarantee that you'll just piss off the moderate voters you so desperately need in order to win elections.

3) Live up to your own moral standards. Oh, I've no doubt that power, as a corruptive force, doesn't really care which party you're from. It's just that, shee-IT! A whole lotta Republicans have really gone way, WAY outside the bounds of their own morality recently. It's as if the moral compass of your party has its poles reversed, so that up is now down and north is south. It's not just the creepy falls-from-grace that some of your evangelical supporters have suffered; it's the fucking indictments and convictions of your own elected officials! C'mon, foot-tapping for sodomy in an airport bathroom? Dirty text messages to 17 year-old pages who are "almost adults"? The general public has a simpler term for "almost adults": CHILDREN, you dipshit! It's that very kind of dissembling that looks like, sounds like, and acts like exactly what it is: sayin' one thing, doin' another. No one is going to put their faith in a moral compass that points by your own professed standards, and if you get something rotten in the party, quickly and efficiently do away with it yourself. You'll gain face, public favor, and the power to take the high road when it's time to claim to be the "Party of Values."

4) Reestablish a commitment to fiscal responsibility. Spending on two wars aside, the Bush administration has been laughably incompetent at money management, resulting in exploding budget deficits. Some savings can come from a true disavowal of "pork politics." Rather than say, "Hey, here's $200,000,000 just laying around...if I don't get it for MY district, someone ELSE will!", try instead to say "Hey, we don't need anything even remotely CLOSE to that amount of money!" and then upbraid another Congressman - from another party, perhaps? - for taking it. It's another version of taking the high road, but from a financial point of view. Remember: you always look worse for decrying something, then getting caught doing that very thing, than you do for never indulging in the temptation in the first place. I know a Republican who took some form of "state aid" (generally translated as "welfare") even though she was living just fine on her pension; turns out there was some sort of loophole she reached through to get the money, claiming "Well, it's out there, I might as well take it!" Right. And you might as well take that jacket just hanging on a hook at a restaurant, no? Well, obviously: NO! If you don't need it, and it ain't yours, don't take it. That's how you start to get spending under control.

5) Reposition the "look and feel" of the GOP. Face it: the public mental image of "Republican" is pretty much "rich, older white guy." Sarah Palin was a good step in that direction, but her kooky answers to pretty pat questions during the campaign raise some serious doubts about her political future. AND she really only appeals to those very tight-assed religious conservatives that you've already done away with re: item #1 above. So, younger people, yes, but BRILLIANT younger people. Don't cowtow to the lowest mental denominator of your voting bloc by chiding intelligence and education; celebrate it as an accomplishment of its own and let it be a new standard to reach for. Get more women involved in the party, really strong & independent women who aren't just baby-makers for their rich, older white husbands. And CERTAINLY recruit minorities to the party! If the GOP lost big this time, it was among both the youth vote and the minority vote. I know, it's tough to disregard the black vote going for Obama, but what about the Latinos, many of whom share a pretty common religious thread with the Conservatives? Strict, anti-immigration policies don't look very friendly to the fastest-growing segment of the American population...especially considering that, excepting American Indians, we ALL are immigrants! We all came from somewhere else to try to achieve that "American dream," and closing the gate AFTER you've gone through it just looks snotty and exclusionary.

If these suggestions seem to make the GOP look too much like the Democrats, well, maybe that's because the Dems have done a pretty good job of reinventing themselves after years wandering the political wilderness. It's not just the economy that won the election for their party this year; claiming that would be disingenuous as best, and simply ignorant at worst. You gotta give people what they want, inasmuch as you desire to represent them in government; if that means it's finally time for the Republicans to come a little bit more back toward the center and reaffirm their commitment to a truly smaller government, well, that seems a pretty fair price to pay.


Blogger Gknee said...

thankfully not all Republicans are so far Right-sided! Hopefully my party can get their heads out of their rears and realize that. Or I can just continue voting against my party *shrug*

3:18 PM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

This is why it's a beautiful thing being Independent.

I love supporting those Republicans and Dems that I think have their heads screwed on straight and will take their respective parties in the right direction.

I hope the GOP can find their way. They are impossibly lost at this point.

Just ask Ron Paul.

7:56 AM  

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