Monday, April 23, 2018

What Happened to Responsible Conservatives

Once upon a time conservatives and Republicans put country first and were advocates for science, knowledge and education.   They even believed in the social safety net.  Those days are gone and today's hideous version of the Republican Party and the foul occupant of the White House now seem hell bent to turn America into something resembling a banana republic from the 1950's.  One cannot help but wonder what the hell happened.  In my view, two things: (i) the Christofascist take over of the GOP base, and (ii) the GOP's embrace of white supremacy.  To the Christofascists, science, knowledge and good education are a threat since they run the risk of enlightening would be adherence to a toxic dogma that the entire Christofascist worldview is based on fantasy.  As for the embrace of racism, the party is now obsessed with an us versus them mindset where "winning" requires that others lose, both in terms of civil rights and whose is viewed as a"real American."  As a column in the Washington Post reminds us, things were not always like this:
The past several days underscore why not only political progressives but genuine moderates are at their wit’s end with the Republican Party and what passes for contemporary American conservatism.
If conservatism in the United States has claimed to stand for anything, it is the idea that government authority should be limited. Conservatives regularly argue (especially when Democrats are in the White House) that the executive’s clout should be checked and that legitimate law enforcement authorities deserve our respect, particularly when they are investigating abuses of power.

The behavior of House Republicans in demanding former FBI director James B. Comey’s memos about his conversations with President Trump, which were subsequently leaked to the media, shows a GOP that has abandoned all principle. It is willing to do whatever it takes to protect a president who has no regard for the truth, the law or established norms.

Any doubts that Republicanism and conservatism have given themselves over to one man, his whims and his survival were dispelled by the GOP’s use of the congressional oversight process to undermine a legitimate probe into a hostile power’s interference in our elections.

As it happens, the actual memos are embarrassing to Trump and support Comey’s veracity. And if the Republicans’ obstructionist triumvirate of Reps. Devin Nunes of California, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina had hoped to prove that Comey leaked classified information, the memos reveal exactly the opposite.

It should be stunning that the chairs of the Intelligence, Judiciary and Oversight committees are more interested in doing Trump’s bidding than in figuring out how Vladimir Putin may have helped to elect our current president. It’s possible to imagine that, somewhere, Ronald Reagan is weeping.

The ongoing frustration of many of us who really did respect conservatism once upon a time is not just about the movement’s capitulation to Trump. It is also triggered by the supposedly substantive side of the news: The only thing Republicans in Congress know how to do now that their corporate tax cut has proved to be unpopular is — to propose more tax cuts. There is an emptiness where problem-solving conservatism used to be.

In the period when democracy planted deep roots in Western Europe and was thriving in the United States, conservative parties were led by figures such as Dwight Eisenhower in the United States, Harold Macmillan in Britain, Konrad Adenauerin West Germany and Charles de Gaulle in France.
Applying the insights of this more responsible version of conservatism to our time would lead us to seek the best approaches to the very discontents that helped put Trump in the White House in the first place — for example, growing inequalityA 2016 Congressional Research Service report found that income inequality has been increasing since 1970. And between 2000 and 2015, incomes actually went down for the bottom 60 percent of earners. There are many causes of division and resentment in our country, and this is surely one of them.

We need a politics where the democratic left and right compete over who can most effectively and efficiently excise this social cancer from our body politic. Such a debate could be both instructive and productive.

Alas, except for a small, honorable cadre of writers and think-tankers, the American right has taken itself out of the game. Our politics will remain broken as long as conservatism confines its energies to cutting taxes and defending a reckless president at all costs.

No comments: