Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Question For Conservatives

Come to think of it, that's a somewhat ironic title for this post.  If there's anything that truly distinctive about modern conservatives across the board, it's this:  they don't ask questions.  They simply believe whatever they feel they have to believe in order to hold onto power.  As a consequence, they have slowly but surely become disconnected from reality.  And subsequently forced by reality to admit that they were wrong.

Wrong about Iraq.  Wrong about the war on drugs (which drugs have won, hands down).  Wrong about mandatory sentencing.  And this week exposed two new areas in which they have been proven wrong.  First, the assumption that Benghazi would be a political liability for Hillary Clinton was utterly shredded by her performance before the House committee charged with witch-hunting this issue to death.  The committee's members through bucket after bucket of rhetorical water on the former Secretary of State and current Democratic Presidential front-runner, and she stubbornly refused to melt.  Eleven hours of grilling that was supposed to push Hillary out of the race, and she walked out smiling while even conservatives admitted that the whole hearing had been a fiasco.

And then, today, there was this.  President Obama effectively and finally conceded what teachers have been saying for years:  that the current over-emphasis on standardized teaching is systematically destroying eduction in this county.  Of course, that over-emphasis was the by-product of conservative "reform" of education, designed to produce more objective feedback to answer George W. Bush's question, "Is our children learning?"  (Sorry, just couldn't resist.)  But it also reflected a demented view of what education is supposed to accomplish.  Standardized testing only measures what children know.  It doesn't measure, or even suggest, how children have learned to think.

And it is telling that modern conservatives would not care about how children think.  Because modern conservatism isn't about thinking, and hasn't been for some time.  Thinking requires much more work than does believing.  Even more, thinking requires listening.  It requires a willingness to accept and process information from more than one source, even from sources that one might not like, or always agree with.  And it requires one other important element:  a willingness to reach conclusions that change the thinker's current thoughts.

That is why modern conservatism has led this country into fiasco after fiasco.  Indeed, that is why modern conservatism lost the White House in 2008--because its assumptions about the desirability of deregulated markets were all wrong, as deregulated markets nearly led the global economy off a financial cliff.  This led to the spectacle of a Republican President and Republicans in Congress demanding Federal aid for the deregulated players responsible for this near-disaster.  It should have been obvious to everyone that, at this point, the war between capitalism and socialism was over, and socialism won.  And, yet, to this day, Republicans and the conservative movement that supports them still define themselves as the party of small government.

Conservatism didn't used to be this way.  Before the advent of the modern conservatism movement in the 1950s, it used to be a philosophy that emphasized the need to study history and learn its lessons. That was the principle that gave it intellectual weight.  But modern conservatism, beginning with William F. Buckley, has been a radical attempt to somehow repeal history for the benefit of specific vested interests.  That's the problem with modern conservatism's ability to fit in with the rest of the modern world:  history refuses to be repealed.  It doesn't give a damn about vested interests.  It doesn't care about what conservatives want to believe.  It has its own agenda, which it pursues without regard to what anyone wants to believe.

So my question to conservatives is simply this:

When are you going to learn to think again, without feeling threatened about your political identity? This is what you have to do, if you are going to gain any real political relevance, without having to resort to dark money or gerrymandering or restricting the right to vote.  Those latter actions are the actions of conservatives.  They're the actions of Fascists, of people who have no faith in democratic processes or outcomes.  They're the actions of people who are utterly unworthy of the sacrifices of generations of Americans who gave everything they had--often their lives--for the sake of maintaining and building a free society.  Your actions, in contrast, are the actions of bullies and cowards.

And those actions will not save you.  They will not keep you in power forever.  And when the rest of America catches on and catches up to you, you're going to be spending a long time finding out what it's like to be without power.  So do yourselves and the rest of us a favor:  think.  Think now.  Think long.  And think hard, before America does catch up to you.

No comments: