BY CALVIN WARNER
It is an upsetting thesis, and undoubtedly a controversial one. But there is over a century of historical evidence for the idea that conservatism as an idea – today manifested most obviously in the Republican Party – has been a tool used by the elite to persuade the general public to support anti-populist ideas, ideas that are against the interests of most people, through the use of fear, distraction, religion, and divisive “Us/Them” distinctions.
Fortunately, it is also well supported by the evidence that these tactics are not going to work anymore.
To prove this thesis, it must be shown that the ideas being advocated by conservatism are indeed detrimental to the interests of most people, and also that these aforementioned tactics have indeed been used by conservative leaders in the past to build support.
The first idea I have argued in almost every article I have ever written, that from everything to their opposition to healthcare reform and gay rights to their support of the extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires, the conservative movement has shown itself to be a stalwart enemy of equality, both economic and social.
What would motivate people to vote against their own best interests? My theory is that the religious right has by and large been hoodwinked by the conservative wealthy elite into accepting economic policies that don’t do them any good in exchange for lip service to social conservatism.
The means by which the wealthy elite deceived the masses are many, but the two most powerful are biased media and religious propaganda. The first mode of deceit is simple. If you have unlimited money, building smear campaigns and propping up surrogates to promote your agenda is easy enough. Having an entire cable network that is loyal to your agenda helps, too.
But it wasn’t strong enough for the wealthy elite to say that liberal political policies are ineffectual. They had to make a stronger case: liberalism as a political philosophy is fundamentally immoral. The best way to do that was to employ religious propaganda.
It would seem that this is a tough case to make, especially to fundamentalist Christians. The liberal ideas of a right to health care and of a collectively funded welfare state share obvious commonalities with the teachings of Jesus. But for many Christians, the supposed evils of homosexuality have proven to be a more serious problem than poverty and sickness. Because of this, the 1% has been able to win elections with economic policies that hurt almost everyone.
But the story doesn’t end there. The Republicans have now lost four of the last five popular votes, including the recent loss against a very vulnerable Barack Obama. Republicans lost the youth vote, the female vote and they overwhelming lost the minority vote.
The decades old “dark vein of intolerance” in the Republican Party that former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell has complained of, the same that underlies many anti-immigrant and anti-welfare sentiments, has likely turned minority voters away for a generation.
The Republicans are now entering a phase of rebranding. It is clear that if a Republican is ever to take the White House again, something needs to change. Call Obama naïve, idealistic, or a better speaker than he is a doer. But hope and change are 2-0 against the field.
– Calvin Warner is a philosophy and Spanish major at Oklahoma State University and a columnist for the school newspaper, the O’Collegian