BY VERN TURNER
In Part I we introduced the operating philosophy comparisons between conservatives and progressives. It should be noted that most, but not all, people with conservative attributes are Republicans, with the same being true that all progressive people are not Democrats. That said, let’s look at what has become of the Republican Party and how the terms “conservative” has been stood on its head.
Most dictionaries include these definitions of the word conservative.  “ … favoring the preservation of established customs, values, … and opposing innovation.  “ … tending to be moderate or cautious.  “ … a person who is reluctant to change or consider new ideas; a conformist.” On the other hand, the word progressive has many more definitions, but can be addressed in context here by the following:  “ … favoring or promoting political or social reform through government action… to improve the lot of the majority.  “ … a person who advocates progress through education and politics.”
These definitions show that overlap is possible and that people in a democracy can have – and do – have aspects of both entities. Indeed, without that lack of absolutism, we wouldn’t have been able to do the things that we have done, created the great leaps in eliminating human suffering, inequality and despotism.
These days, however, we see an entrenchment by so-called conservatives [I use the predicate “so-called” as it applies to the radicalization of the Republican Party that claims to be the home of conservatism] in certain values that are actually backward and work against those things that have made the United States a leader in advancing the human condition on Earth. Why would they do that?
After digesting these “definitions,” one is left to ponder how embracing the strict conservative definitions makes any sense in view of the innovations and values that are the basis for an individual or a company or a corporation doing well. It’s the hard work and discipline of the strong father model that drives the innovation, values and customs of our socio-capitalistic economy and society, after all. It is progressandreformof things not working as well that is the engine of our economic and industrial greatness. Without these things, corruption, poverty, backwardness, the reversion to religion as the answer to all things and, ultimately, revolution are the inevitable results.
In an April 7 CNN story by Grace Parks, the majority of Americans agree with Democrats on the top issues of the day. A recent Gallup poll shows that two-thirds of Americans agree that protecting the environment is a high-priority issue. The other third think that economics is more important irrespective of the environmental impact. Eighty percent of Democrats and 71% of independents favor environmental protection, while only 35% of Republicans said so.
Does that mean Republicans believe that raping the Earth until it is unable to support human life is OK as long as the 1% get richer?
Sixty-two percent of all Americans feel that corporations don’t pay their fair share of of taxes, while 60% feel the same way about the wealthiest among us. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats feel this way, while 62% of independents agree. Among Republicans, only 42% agree with this statement.
These poll numbers apply similarly to all other major issues being discussed in politics these days. Quinnipiac University polls show that over 60% of registered voters believe in stricter gun laws. Quinnipiac is one of the more conservative polls in the country. Here are some other numbers for your evening dinner conversations:
– 89% of Democrats oppose the border wall; 56% oppose overall.
– 78% of Democrats favor some sort of Medicare for all; 56% favor it overall.
– 73% of Democrats want Roe v. Wade to stand; 57% favor overall.
– 83% of Democrats favor same-sex marriage; 67% favor overall.
– 83% of all Americans favor the continuation of DACA; 94% Democrats, 83% independents, 67% Republicans.
– 75% of registered voters think immigration is goodfor the country; 90% Democrats, 79% independents, 60% Republicans.
So, how does this jibe with the elected Republicans’ resistance to these mostly overwhelming majorities across the board? Why are they fighting their own constituents’ desires? It’s not even a close call, so why do they favor dissing their own voters? Maybe it has to do with what the Republican/conservative donors want. Or maybe it’s because the factions of the GOP seem to be at cross-purposes and so the RNC framing runs home to “momma.”
George Lakoff looks at these issues in some depth. “Strict father morality applied to the domains of religion, business and everyday social life characterizes religious, financial and social conservatives.” There is a constant focus on unimpeded pursuits of self-interest, with limited power by the state over the individual. This defines the Libertarian scheme of right-wing “thinking.”
Neocons, on the other hand, believe in unbridled use of power, including state power, to extend the reign of the strict father values in every domain around the world. Remember Dick Cheney’s speech about extending U.S. hegemony in the Middle East forever?
Then there are what Lakoff calls the “warrior conservatives.” They see themselves as the warriors at the head of the battles in the culture wars pitting progressives against conservatives. From the polling data above, it looks like the internecine struggles within the Republican Party have missed the point of what a democracy is, let alone a democratic republic with a real Constitution.
It’s time for some free thought from the author regarding a summary of what the rightwing, strong-father model of society has wrought:
We’ve suppressed our humor, our sex drives, our individual spirit of adventure for fear of not being able to “make it” in society, not having enough money to send our kids to college, not having enough of anything that will make us feel like we are somebody. We are serfs in our own minds. The promise of capitalism passing us by is what we fear. The dragons of capitalism have tried mightily to extinguish the flame of self-improvement among the working classes, because they don’t want to pay for educated or aware people who actually think and understand inequities and the reject the trappings of serfdom.
There are also many, many things to do, see and enjoy in the 21stcentury that is the United States of America. We are covered up by choices and variations of choices upon still more variations of choices that advertising agencies keep pouring out of Madison Avenue like so much fetid cheese.
How could a populace with so much stuff, so much opportunity, so many choices, so many options and just so many of us be so pissed off or bored all the time? How can chronic obesity be holding hands with depression? “Well,” say the experts, “people eat when they’re depressed. They have to have oral gratification to assuage their depression.” Why, with all this stuff and junk food around them can our fellow citizens possibly be depressed? So what if their education was marginal and they don’t know enough words to understand daytime TV? So what if they’ve been brought up to eat, eat, eat without regard for nutrition? Hey, those morning cartoon shows selling sugar to the little kiddies every eight minutes has to be partly to blame … or not. Don’t forget that the sugar lobby is huge and pumps a fortune into suppressing legislation that regulates advertising to children.
It’s capitalism, dude! It’s free enterprise run amok … or just to see how close it can come to its ultimate conclusion. It’s like a runaway fire engine that is on fire.
Get a clue! You simply don’t mess with pure, unfettered, unregulated free enterprise. Because if you do, the evil socialist police will creep in and actually try to force you back into the Herbert Hooverville of just letting it work itself out.
That’s what the gods of business want you to do. Never forget this. This is the mantra of 21stcentury America. Anything that actually smacks of community activism or a publicly funded anything that helps a lot of people is, well, socialist and must be stamped out.
Free Market Enterprise has shucked itself of morality and social conscience in order to be just what is intended by those who want to totally control everything about those enterprises. Is this the ultimate in strong-father modeling?
Anything that isn’t allowed to take advantage of the weak, the ignorant, the foolish, the naïve or the morbidly idiotic is socialist. Socialism is truly evil, of course. Why, some aspects of it actually allow a national military to exist. In fact, as Mike Lofgren illustrates in his chilling book The Party’s Over, the overall military environment is absolutely government sponsored and is, therefore, the most socialist entity in our country.
Other aspects of socialism allow homes to be protected by a community fire and police department. The children of the community are allowed to go to school to learn the wonders of what our forefathers have wrought … for free. No way! We can’t have free schools. Who was Thomas Jefferson again? Everything must be for profit in America. That’s the American way. At least that’s what the true believers try to sell to everyone.
Do you want your doctor to be shoulder-to-shoulder with his accountants and your insurance agents during the time of your diagnosis for terminal hangnails so they can decide how much you will pay and how much they don’t want to pay? Does your doctor love these guys because he/she has to hire a platoon of clerks just to keep up with the paperwork? Do the doctors love being on this power trip with employees underfoot all the time? But damn! We can’t have socialized medicine. No. No. That would dilute the competition between doctors and hospitals. See, we have to have competition in these social services to keep the quality up.
Except that that is a lie. It is one of the many lies that have come down the road since the industrial revolution began exploiting working people for profit at the expense of their very humanity and social fiber. This lie about competitive health care is the blind side of capitalism as it is represented by the United States barons of economics now in charge of our government.
The thesis here is that if you take your sick self to doctor “A” you might get well, but if you might be 1,000 miles away from doctor “A” you have to settle for the local guy, doctor “B.” Well, doctor “B” really doesn’t give a shit for you or your out-of-town ways. You might die in the hands of doctor “B” because he isn’t “competitive” with doctor “A.” The same scenario pertains to hospital “A” vs. hospital “B.” What if you got stuck in hospital “B” and came home with a drooling staph infection that nobody has ever seen before? Competition.
On the other hand, if there is a universal, single-payer, constant standard medical/health entity in your society, you are likely to receive consistently good care everywhere because everyone will be playing by the same rules with the same kinds of equipment, the same training, the same skills and the same interest in making you well. Why is this so? Well, because if a health care entity did not meet these standards they would be closed – not for lack of profitability, but because they didn’t do their jobs. They weren’t competing with anyone but themselves. The degree of excellence was already established and guaranteed. The extra added benefit to capitalism should be limited to the demand for more and better equipment, drugs and devices would create jobs … and profits for the makers of these things, not whether or not your health care providers will make you well or allow you to live.
Why, that sounds like a socialized effort for a pro-human service would actually generate capitalistic prowess. Now there is some competition we can get behind.
I hope by now you are beginning to see why Republicans do and will fail as a political force at some time in our near [I hope] future. Why? Because there is no future for the ideals of American citizens with the adherence to a model that simply does not serve its constituents. It seems to me that the rightwing has wrung out all the tricks and fears and lies that bad advertising can muster. The pendulum must swing back to the righteous who actually believe in community, equality, opportunities and true justice.
There will have to be a Part III to this topic.
– Denver resident Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Why Angels Weep: America and Donald Trump, is available through Amazon.