Thursday, May 21, 2009

Episode 58: Conservative Obsolescence


I like controversy, so I titled this post to rile people up. It also has a catchy ring to it. But I’d like to say at the onset, the following commentary is referring specifically to elected officials. Unfortunately, some good conservative thinkers have become collateral damage in the GOP war on intellect. I have on many occasions alluded to the obsolescence of conservative ideology coming from many elected officials and some pundits. Today, I am going to expand on that idea.

For those who have neglected to look at a calendar, it is 2009. Many conservatives still think it is 1980. Several important things have happened in 29 years, namely: the internet has created instant access to every piece of information in the world – politicians no longer have the stranglehold on the message as they once did; gays and lesbians are sick and tired of hiding their orientation, and Americans under the age of 30 by and large aren’t scared of them anymore; the church has lost some of its influence on its faith based message as Atheists are the only population to increase in number this past decade; computers have evolved to the point of more accurately measuring just bad we’re destroying the earth; and the majority of Americans want more government.

To begin, let us analyze what made conservative opinion attractive for two and a half decades in the first place. When Reagan was elected, America had undergone two HUGE revolutions. First was civil rights. Many people forget that until the 1960’s, the prior 350 year history of Black Americans was in captivity that got increasingly worse (This in my opinion makes Obama’s election that much more special – Blacks have really enjoyed freedom under the law for only 40 years before one was able to get elected as President). Tensions were incredibly high, and Americans underwent a massive social reformation in light speed’s time.

Before we could recover from that, we were involved in Vietnam. What made Vietnam so horrific was being the very beginning of the information age. In WWII, America propagandized war to create the image of the American hero fighting for freedom. This is all good and true, but they left out the incredible amounts of bloodshed and loss of Americans in the trenches in the war footage. Vietnam was the first time the grittiness of war was brought home to the living room. And millions at home under the narration of Walter Cronkite, watched in horror, American soldiers slaughtering and getting slaughtered. Add to this, President Johnson tried to pretend that we weren’t in war (via lack of budgeting for the war, burning through our coffers), thus not mobilizing Americans and American industry around the war effort. This created a severe negative opinion of the war and the protests of the 70s. (sound familiar?) Couple this with breaking of the floodgates of sexual suppression and deterioration of the 1950s “Leave it to Beaver” ultra-Christian-conservative culture, and you have yet another massive social reformation. In 1980, America could not have withstood another progressive movement. Enter President Reagan, the republican Obama – relatively young and an actual Hollywood superstar.

In the 1990s, the democrats had regained control of the executive branch, but Clinton didn’t enjoy support from the legislative branch for much of his presidency. Also, and more importantly, Americans coming from the relative social stability of the 80s, were highly socially conservative. Republicans today like to say that the democrats played a part in the economic mess we’re in today. They are 90% correct. I always believed that Bill Clinton was ahead of his time. His policies didn’t match the desires of the American people, and politicians, being politicians, enact legislation that is popular to stay in office. This doesn’t make democrats saints, but actually quite the opposite. The progressive movement of the 90s was a disjointed hodgepodge of ideologies. There was no leader with the backbone to stand up against a very strong and united conservative movement and join the many progressive movements under one flag. Complacency is just as bad as inaction.

Fast-forward to today. Between 1998 and 2008, America has slowly awakened from the dream of milk and honey and the sweet nectar of ambrosia, and on September 15th 2008, the crashing of the stock market was like having a Gatorade cooler’s worth of ice water thrown on Americans to wake them up. As we rubbed our eyes and our vision cleared, we saw the world wasn’t as rose colored as we once thought they were. America was falling apart fast, and we elected Obama to fix it. We knew there was no way in the world one man could do it alone, so when he promised us an unprecedented level of bipartisanship, America was resoundingly onboard. However, on the first issue as president, republicans took a firm stand against the president. I have argued that Obama wasn’t as bipartisan as he could’ve been the first go around, but the GOP weren’t helpful.

Somewhere beginning in the end of January, republicans went from being the opposition party to the “No” party. They flew under the banner of small government, no taxes, anti-human rights, anti-earth, and pro war. I argue that the Republican Party is obsolete because their talking points do not match what the majority of Americans want. I believe my opinion is substantiated since most every poll shows the republican base constantly shrinking, almost excluding all but the most radical and irrelevant. This by no means suggests that republicans should buy into progressive thought lock-stock-and-barrel. To do this would be making the same mistake as democrats of the 90s. Instead they should reanalyze their platform and evolve it to meet 21st century standards, incorporating conservative ideology into their new ideas. What I thought I’d do is list some talking points and point out how it is inconsistent with the current thought, and leave it up to the conservative commenters to voice their opinion on how they can incorporate conservative ideology into today’s issues in a manner more in-line with current American opinion. I say if this is not possible, the GOP is doomed, and the 2012 election may actually be a 3 or 4 party race. I’m very serious about that statement.

**GOP on Propaganda**
Karl Rove politics no longer works. This is because the internet age has gems like Google and Wikipedia to dig up information on a topic, Youtube to chronicle every word that comes out of a politician’s mouth, and blogs like this one to turn people who were once angry bystanders into active amateur journalists and commentators. Scaring the crap out of people only works on the extremes of either party. The numbers on both sides of progressive and conservative extremism are VERY small.

**GOP on Human Rights**
Americans want gay marriage. Just about every poll shows Americans under 30 have no problems with gay marriage. Active readers of the blog probably already know my stance on the issue – label ALL marriages as civil unions, and leave the marriage ceremony to the church. Take government out of marriage all together (an insanely easy solution to the problem if you ask me).

**GOP on Green Tech**
One of the most disappointing debates revolves around green tech. Americans by-and-large do not want to use fossil fuels anymore because it keeps us tethered to the Middle East. Republicans believe that green tech is a hairy fairy idea that is several years from being realized. This is not true. It is within only a few years of being ready to go. California is a bad example for a lot of things, but they have the lead in green tech. Homeowners who install solar panels pay far less in energy costs, and if they generated enough power, they actually get a credit. We really can expand this idea to the whole country. I’m also very tuned into geothermal which seems like the next mass power source. For cars, we’re looking at bio-fuels for the short term, electric and hydrogen for the long term. Drilling for oil is going in the absolutely wrong direction. Conservatives argue that green tech is not employed in China and as a result their growth exploded. China is a developing nation and have to resort to cheap tried and tested fuel to power their growth. However, every technology report I read indicates China is heavily investing in green tech. Green tech is the next global economic entity. Whoever gets green tech will have substantial growth going forward, which is why we have to do it first. America is in the race, but we are not in the lead in this department.

**GOP on Family Planning**
The abstinence only program is only going to end in complete and utter failure. Americans are so sexually aggressive because we have been so sexually suppressed for so long. It makes far more sense to advocate safe sex than no sex. What the GOP did to Bristol Palin is a shame. That was a great opportunity to say “listen, she is an example what not using condoms can do.” Instead, they made the poor girl go back on TV and repudiate safe sex in favor or abstinence, which is an awful, awful idea.

**GOP on the Economy**
Most Americans strongly believe the GOP platform of less government and more tax breaks is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. If republicans even think the words “government is the problem” you will lose 1000 people. If government is the problem, and the republicans were in complete control of six of the last eight years, wouldn’t that imply they were the problem too? Americans want more government (not excessive government), more regulation, more oversight, and more transparency. Yes, that means a lot of people are probably going to go to jail. I think the economy argument is more protecting friends from going to the slammer. Trickledown economics is largely a regionalized practice that does not affect the majority of Americans.

**GOP on Healthcare**
Americans do not want to worry about being one medical catastrophe from being in financial ruin. The tax breaks the republicans want to give for healthcare has absolutely no oversight – more than likely tax money would be used to pay other things like debt. Also, the tax breaks do not amount to enough money to pay the average premium. If the GOP gives Americans the appropriate amount of money for health through taxes, it would be just as expensive as the democratic plan, but without the oversight. The democrat plan for healthcare is COVERAGE ONLY. This does not change anything about our choice in doctors or hospitals and clinics. All it does is allow Americans to buy into an affordable plan subsidized by the government, which offloads that heavy burden off of small business. The idea that we’d be on a long line waiting to get second rate service is absolutely false.

**GOP on the War**
I think we all are in agreement that we need to get out of the Middle East ASAP. The main issue revolves around torture. Most Americans think that we did indeed torture. Trying to deny torture or reconcile torture is a losing argument. We cannot compromise our integrity in wartime; otherwise we are no better than them. The law was rewritten and reconstructed to allow the abuse to go on. The main issue is to what extend was the law twisted to allow torture, and who should get punished for it.

Again, I want to stress that the source of conservative obsolescence comes from the elected “leadership.” Many conservative governors and congressmen come to the table with good ideas with are shot in flames by the “leadership.” The best ideas however are coming from the young people and bloggers. These are the people, like the readers of this blog that engage in aggressive debate about important issues. We rarely agree, but I think we have in many cases found middle ground. This is what bipartisan politics is, disagreeing and finding middle ground. We should take a cue from Meaghan McCain, she is probably the only 21st century republican on TV who really gets it. If we are having rational debates, we will have rational solutions to complex problems. And we have in President Obama, who loves to debate – this is the perfect president to find middle ground. So I say once again republican leadership, roll up your sleeves and get in the debate already!
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6 comments: on "Episode 58: Conservative Obsolescence"

conservative generation said...


There is so much here it'll take me forever to comment on. This is a debate that can go on for a long time.

First of all, you are right on with the leadership. However, there is an element of the Republican party you don't understand and so your outlook is a little off. Members of the Republican party do see George Bush as a problem from the big government issue. That is why the Republicans are polling so low right now. They've lost their creditbility in the eyes of their own party members.

I noticed you were also selective in the polling you wanted to pay attention to. Most Americans oppose Gay marriage. Also, Gallup showed that Americans overwhelmingly fear big government (yet you are saying everyone wants it?). One day the under 30 segment will matter, but at the moment they are pretty irrelevant. In fact, they didn't get out to vote in any higher percentage for Obama than they normally do. It turns out they are still a nonexistant segment at the polls. That's good though, I find very few in the under 30 crowd with the competence to calculate a viable solution to any problem (you may be the exception). We'll have to see what they think in another 10 years (you may or may not be valid point).

You also over estimate voters who voted because of belief in Obama's ideas and those who voted because they had faith in Obama himself. In my opinion, it is the second half that is keeping his numbers alive. Polling shows that most people do not agree with his policies. Global warming was last on a slate of issues people thought were important. It takes a long time for people to repeat from how they voted. They are just now starting to get a taste of how poor his policies are (Indiana State Teacher and Police Pension).

Irregardless of the issues the Dems are going to lose in 2010 simply because without Obama on the ticket you won't be able to get people out to support congressional democrats. Meanwhile, the conservatives will be out in mass to oppose.

I think you might be right on the 4 party 2010 elections. We'll have to see. I'm not sure the Republicans are down and out, but the party members need to regain control and do some house cleaning. That's going to take a while. Especially with all the jockeying going on right now. The Republican leaders left over are all looking to take the reigns. All the while we don't support any of them.

The Law said...

You are absolutely correct on the gay marriage issue - I mispoke. The majority of young Americans are for civil unions that grants gay couples the same marital rights as heterosexuals. I personally don't care what you call it lol, but I do respect the church's desire to uphold "the sanctity of marriage" or whatever that means these days, since the divorce rate is at 50%.

Let us also be clear: I said Americans want *more* government, not *big* government. There is a significant difference. The goal is to move away from alphabet soup beauracracy, and move more towards stronger regulation. I think we can all agree that *big* government does not serve the interests of the general public.

If Obama's policies show significant progress in 2010, which seems hopeful according to leading economists like Paul Krugman and investors like Warren Buffet, the dems stand a good chance to hold on to many of their seats. I'll defer to Nate Silver's blog (on the blog roll) since he is the master of poll analysis (his election numbers were literally 99.9% accurate, only missing one state and a few congressional districts!)

However, if the republicans stay on the same track, they will at best hold on to what they have, or at worst lose to independents (former moderate republicans) or libertarians (former staunch conservatives).

Also, don't underestimate Obama's campaign skils. Bet your bottom dollar his face will be plastered all over congressional dems posters and flyers.

conservative generation said...


Not going to argue Obama's endorcement, but I think the race to fill Gillibrand says everything. Obama has high approval, is within his 100 day grace period and the districts Democratic support went from 65% to 50%. I'm sorry, but that's the ball game. I'm not saying strong democratic areas will be in jeopardy, but I can tell you there are at least 2 or 3 districts in my area that have Dems in a highly Republican area. They're going to be pressed to hold them no matter how much you show Obama or how high his numbers are.

Look, economic turnaround is a combination of things. Sure we may see GDP increase a little and that would meet the definition of recovery. I'd say there are three things showing a strong recovery, Unemployment between 4-6%, GDP expanding between 4%+, and inflation under 3%. You will not see all three of those happen while Obama is in office. The FOMC is prediting unemployment won't rebound in 5+ years. That is not a recovery. Actually, I posted on how this is how the opposition can get their foot in the door.

conservative generation said...


I don't know why you guys think Krugman is so optomistic. I read on article about seminar he gave the other day. Sounded like he's concerned that the economy isn't going to bounce back. Also stated that China had made a poor investment in the US.

Doesn't smell like roses to me.

Grog said...

Unfortunately we probably won't stop using oil until is starts to run out, which is inevitable but several decades away.
And in some ways I don't blame people for not wanting to invest in green tech because current investment strategy is very short term oriented and the technology is just starting out.
Put broad green tech mutuals in your 401k but it's not going to make money anytime soon.
we can hope the tech will be good by the time peak oil drops.

either way the singularity is near so all bets are off at some point

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