Saturday, January 15, 2005

Conservative Republicans?

That just cracks me up, that conservative label that Republicans like to wear in the collar of their jackets like a hex sign on an old barn to ward off any hint of liberalism.


Phew!


What in the hell is conservative about


  • blowing their children’s financial futures with unparalleled debt (trillions under both Reagan and George W)   

  • pulling the teeth of the EPA and substantially devolving its responsibilities to the industries it was meant to oversee

  • giving to the rich by taking from the poor

  • keeping an ‘enemies list’ second not even to Richard Nixon

  • running (one can hardly call it fighting) an unfunded war
   

To conserve and to believe in conserving and to encourage conservation would all seem to be requirements for wearing the label ‘conservative.’ Or am I wrong? Has the word been so bastardized as to no longer bear that connective tissue? 


Well, of course conservative Republicans are no longer doing any of that and I used to be among them. I was, for more decades than I like to count, fiercely protective of the right to keep government the hell out of my business and an ardent admirer of those up-by-the-bootstraps Horatio Alger success stories.


Then, things governmental began to go in odd directions. Reagan confused me with his privatizing of public utilities and public transportation and both of them quickly went to hell in a hand basket, but he was so endearing in his humility and folksiness that I voted for him a second time. I watched in a fair degree of horror, a national debt that had taken the entire history of the country to reach a trillion dollars, multiply to three and a half trillion. I was told that Reagan was one of the great conservatives. All of the liberals the nation has ever known, laid end-to-end and stacked on top of one another three times over couldn’t come close to the fiscal wreckage of the Reagan administration.


But, I voted for Bush, Sr. because I didn’t much think Mike Dukakis could do the job and I was reluctant to kiss off a lifetime of being a Republican. Little old small-businessman me still believed in conserving things and, like someone in the throes of mid-life crisis, I fell in love with Bill Clinton the moment he went down to the edge of the stage in that debate and knelt down and actually talked to a questioning member of the audience. Bill did a lot of personal things unwisely, but so had I by that time in my life. Yet he balanced the budget for the first time in my memory and paid down a big hunk of the national debt and had a workable plan for paying the rest. And I thought, what the hell, this man is supposed to be a liberal! Bill was conserving education, conserving the economy, conserving the environment and, perhaps most importantly, conserving the nation’s reputation in the world for being an innovator and partner.


It was a test of confidence in the things I had spent a lifetime believing.


And now we have a president who wants to privatize Social Security and is just plain outright lying about the facts in order to stampede an already jittery congress. And I can see Social Security going the way of United Airlines and Commonwealth Edison while conservative Republicans congratulate themselves at finally having reversed Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


That kind of conservation will unstring the bow of American reliance on its conservative values. The word itself will carry the message of its own destruction. Hard work, faith in ourselves, charity toward the less fortunate, a willingness to sacrifice, belief in a better future for our children and a basic trust in fairness will all lay in tatters. The mindless greed of these times and these leaders, subverting the language to undercut the legacy of their own party is a disgrace to witness. And I’m witnessing. I’m not liking it, but damned if I’m not witnessing!


If down this shabby and self-serving road lies conservatism, I guess I must take up the cause of the liberal.