May 1st, 2005


The Death of Conservativism

It's a little early to start partying, but it looks like a backlash is building against the Republicans. Just like the arrogance of the Democrats killed them before, it seems the same may be happening to the Republicans. Here's a few reasons why:

Bush's Social Security plan creates private accounts, while doing nothing to extend the lifetime of Social Security, and under the new plan, there is no guarantee that people will be making the same as under the old. In other words, if the goal is to fix Social Security, his plan does nothing. However, it DOES divert Social Security funds into private investments (read: rich people's pockets), reducing the dependency of recipients on government-provided benefits, meaning less outcry when he, or his successors (because the Republicans are quite obviously assuming they're going to run the country for the foreseeable future; see "filibusters" below) start cutting benefits "to extend the lifespan," preparatory to eliminating the program entirely. Unfortunately for the plan's backers, Americans in general are NOT as stupid as they think. The red-state farmers (who remain the single largest industry in the country, and are among Bush's most numerous supporters) don't have big retirement funds or IRAs -- they NEED a stable Social Security system to support them in their old age, and they realize Bush is trying to take it from them. Their approval of him has been plummeting ever since the plan came out.

Filibusters: This one has surprisingly little opposition, since most people don't understand that our entire system of government was designed to MAXIMIZE obstructionism and delay, and that slowing approval of nominations is a GOOD thing. Also, I don't think people understand how important the nomination process is to the balance of powers, or how vital the filibuster is to maintaining minority rights. Still, it's a sign of enormous arrogance -- what happens to the Republicans when they're the minority again, and they can't block the majority's nominations that will undermine all the Republican's goals? Clearly, the Republicans are operating on the assumption that they will never be the minority again. A conspiracy theorist might link this to the new voting machines, but I'm not a conspiracy theorist -- I think they're just a bunch of pricks unwittingly screwing themselves as they attempt to screw everyone else. Oh, and an exercise for the reader: Look up the number of Clinton appointees to the federal courts that got rejected. Then look up the number of Bush appointees the Democrats are trying to block. Calculate them as percentages of total appointees (rejected approved), and compare the results between the two presidencies. Notice how close they are?

Terry freakin' Schiavo (I am so sick of hearing about her!): The Republicans championed themselves as abhorring "government interference." People bought it when they were just laying down laws about who can have sex with whom, who can marry whom, and what women can do with the little parasites growing in their bodies, but then they got between a woman and her death, and the backlash was enormous. Apparently, a government agent with a clipboard is allowed in your bedroom, but not at your deathbed -- anyway, all the major players saw major drops in approval rating.

Appropriating God: This is the other thing Republicans do constantly which you'd expect to offend their base, yet get away with. But apparently, claiming that opposition to Bush's court appointees was an assault on "people of faith" (conservatese for "wild-eyed mobs of fanatical super-Christians") went a little too far. Polls are just coming out on this one, but its looking like the rank-and-file of the Christian right are starting to call their crazy leaders to account on this one. Meanwhile, people like Jim Wallis (author, God's Politics) are suggesting that maybe the party of hawks, industrialists, and tightwads isn't the best match for a religion that professes to value peace, love, charity, and environmental stewardship.
Just a couple of months ago, it looked like the best bet for liberal ideals was hope a new party could grow out of the Democrats' wreckage in 20 years or so. Now, it's starting to look like maybe, if they take advantage of the current situation, the Dems might just be able to win an election or two next year -- maybe, if they can find a real candidate for once, even the big one in 2008.

Next-day Update Re: The Title: Conservatism is rather like the Corn King -- it continually dies and is replaced by a new conservatism as if nothing had happened. Every time it dies, society lurches forward as the blocks to progress are momentarily removed; then conservatism returns, and progress stops again. Each incarnation yearns for the world as it was one cycle ago -- hence, modern conservatism yearns for the 50s; the next cycle will yearn for the 80s. And this will continue until civilization collapses, which, on the rare occasion it isn't due to natural disaster or foreign invasion, is usually the fault of too-rapid progress.

So, I'm not referring to the permanent end of conservatism in my admittedly grandiose title. That is neither possible nor really desirable -- yes, I'd rather live in a more progressive society, but the conservatives prevent us from leaping to it all at once, which would probably collapse us into barbarism. To use a fairly stupid analogy I just came up with, conservatives are the brakes and liberals the engine on societal progress. The engine is what gets stuff done, but it's suicidal to try without the brakes. Still, it looks like it might be possible that a death of conservatism is at hand, with a corresponding lurch of progress.
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