Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reasoned Conservatism MIA

It seems to me that nothing symbolizes the implosion of modern conservatism more than the Right’s obsession with Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate. It has been produced and authenticated by numerous officials. Hawaii newspapers from that date carry the news that a Barack H. Obama was born. But facts just aren’t enough for these people. They are hysterical that he was born in Kenya(and that he is really a Muslim) and no amount of contradictory hard facts will sway them. No viable political ideology can afford to be this divorced from reality.

What lies behind this is a deep-rooted fear of the Other. The Right is deeply suspicious of Obama’s Kenyan father and his cosmopolitan nature. His election marked the end of the era when those of white European bloodline would be sole commanders of authority on the world stage. For some this transitioning of authority is terrifying; and I think that fuels much of the neurosis we’re seeing from the "birther" movement.

I’m a liberal, not a conservative. I believe government has a legitimate role in regulating the market, tackling social inequality, and protecting the environment. But I’m not a deeply ideological person, and I respect true conservatism when it’s sincerely held and not based on fear. I respect honest skepticism from Republicans about the stimulus and the health-care bill. What I don’t respect is when the opposition merely falls back on fear and entrenched ideology. It seems today’s Republicans can’t make an argument against Obama without shouting in fearful and angry tones. I think they would be surprised how much more effective their arguments would be if they were delivered in a more good-natured and reasoned package. I believe Colin Powell said as much when he warned his fellow Republicans to “stop shouting” because the country isn’t listening anymore. Who would you trust more with a nuclear weapon; Colin Powell or Glenn Beck?

Another reason it’s difficult to take Republicans seriously is that they just won’t admit what a disaster George W. Bush was. A true economic conservative would have never passed through the Bush tax cuts without cutting entitlement spending or finding some other way in the budget to pay for it. Ironic that we went from a budge surplus under the “liberal” Bill Clinton to the largest national debt in US history under the “conservative” George W. Bush.

Back in 1988 when another Bush was running for the White House, he promised his conservative base there would be “no new taxes” in his administration. Yet after taking office he realized that economic growth could not come about without raising taxes, so he bucked the base of his Party and raised them. This soured baseline conservatives against him and likely cost him re-election in 1992. Yet many economists believe this gutsy decision set the stage for the booming economy we had under the Clinton administration.

Yet it is the rigid ideology of another Bush which rules today’s Republican Party. And as long as they keep shouting, Obama and liberals like me have no real opposition. I can't debate an ideology which isn't based on reason.


Anonymous said...

As an English teacher, when I teach argumentative writing I first point out that you cannot argue about facts or personal taste, only about issues. No argument is occurring about Obama's place of birth because no one has evidence of other facts. Those questioning his credentials simply can't bring themselves to accept him as president. There is no argument being made.

Sarah C. said...

The Republicans should be all for a president born outside of the US. Don't they want the Terminator to run in 2012?

Dad, I find I can argue for hours about personal taste--the superiority of my own taste, that is.