Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I am Still A Conservative

I have recently discovered that I am still a conservative. When I was younger I described myself as a conservative, I had short hair during the hippie era, and I have voted conservative, too. But about the time that George W. Bush took office I had already started thinking of myself as Liberal.

There were only a few central issues that got me to dissociate myself from conservative values. The first was the adoption of increasingly anti-environmental policies. Back in the eighties, both Canada and the USA had conservative governments, and both worked together to put an end to acid rain. Today, it seems to me that conservatives have abandoned any attempt to clean up the environment.

The second cause that pushed me away was the increasingly racist tone of conservatives. If you go back to the civil war, the Republicans under Lincoln were the party whose agenda was to end slavery. After the Civil Rights bill was passed by the Democrats, the Republicans adopted a policy of courting the opponents of Civil Rights, and today they are the party that attracts southern white racists. It seems to me the conservative appeal to racism is also creeping into Canada, and I do not want to be associated with it.

A third issue that got me to move away from conservatism was the influence of the Fundamentalist Christians. I do not believe in their version of a Jesus who promotes "prosperity" and "superior firepower", which is contrary to my own Christian upbringing. Not to mention teaching that, contrary to scientific knowledge, God created the world in 2000 BC, and started with Adam and Eve.

Those issues alone would push me away from any political movement, but there is another big one. I don't like the propaganda war being waged right now by conservative right wing groups. They have convinced some thoughtful people who I have known for years, to simply regurgitate their right wing talking points. It seems to me pretty close to total brainwashing of the type the Soviet Union employed in the sixties.  This issue of propaganda is important because once you control peoples minds, and they stop thinking for themselves, you have basically destroyed freedom and democracy. 

So what are these values that conservatives believe in, and how can I still I call myself a conservative (except for the points mentioned above)?

Conservapedia mentions that

"Conservative values are useful and powerful in combating common human weaknesses: Lust Laziness Jealousy Gluttony Pride Conflict Corruption Credulity, and Liberalism."

OK, now come on. Just how brainwashed do you need to be to actually think that liberal values are "A common human weakness"? And just how much contempt for freedom of thought do some conservative leaders have? Because of the pervasiveness of this kind of nonsense, I actually found it quite difficult to Google a reasonable set of conservative values. But I did find one here, that at first sight anyway, is neutral.

According to this website, conservative values include

-Traditional Family Values and the Sanctity of Marriage
-A Limited Role for the Government
-Strong National Defense
-Commitment to Faith and Religion
-Right to Life

(I know there are many more on other websites, but I need to stop somewhere, so I will just do the five from )

-On the sanctity of marriage, I used to believe that gay marriage was a joke. In fact I feel like plenty of straight marriages are not too serious either. However, in the interest of protecting children, and giving them financial security, I see the need for a set of rules around the institution of marriage. The only reason I see any need for marriage, is about having and raising children. If it does not involve procreation, people can do what they want as long as it is consensual and private. I would say I am conservative on this topic, however I am not anti-gay. And unlike some conservatives, I do not deny that some people are born with mixed male-female genes.

-I strongly support a limited role for government. The government should not be telling me what God to believe in, or that I should believe in God. A Government should not be telling me I need to wear a helmet to engage in a particular activity. The government should stay out of my house unless there is a fire or a robbery. But I want the government to maintain peace and order, too. And part of government's role in maintaining order, is to prevent my neighbours from dumping toxic waste on my property, or in the air. And, unlike some extremists on the right, I believe that unregulated free enterprise is now a proven failure.

-I also believe a strong national defence is necessary to prevent our country from being overrun, but so does everyone with an ounce of sense, including liberals. I think that this so-called "conservative value" is nothing more than anti-liberal propaganda. If there is an issue that separates conservatives from liberals today, it is not about national DEFENCE, it is about national OFFENSE. If we are taking the war to the other country before they bring it to us, that is "offence". When we occupy that country, it is offense. In defensive war, I will shut my mouth and support the troops.  In an offensive war, it is my duty as a citizen in a free, democratic country, to question our policy. When we go on the offensive, everyone should be concerned about what countries we choose to attack, and which to leave alone, and why. And if we attack some country, it better not be about an intelligence mistake. Going back to WW2, it was the conservatives in the USA who opposed the USA going to war, the liberals were for it. In Canada, during WW2 I don't think there was any such conservative/liberal split. For Canadians, WW2 was actually considered a defensive war because of our connection to Britain.

-Commitment to faith and religion. OK I'll admit I used to go to church every Sunday, and now I don't. But that is because good religions are hard to find. I think the Catholic Church is losing it's way and getting too involved in politics. The Fundamentalist Evangelicals are making a mockery of Christianity and Jesus' teachings, and they are also meddling in politics. I happen to believe in "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and that is what makes me a true Christian. Going to a church every Sunday does not, especially when that so-called Christian church teaches you how to pray for wealth, and calls for assassination of foreign leaders, and tells me I'm going to hell if I vote Liberal.

-Right to Life. I don't believe that life begins at the union of sperm and egg. I believe it begins before that. I used to support Right to Life with donations, and my wife did volunteer work for them, but today the Right to Life movement has gone crazy, killing abortion doctors and insisting that even young girls who have been raped by their fathers must carry their babies full term. That is too extreme for me, and they will get no more of my support.  But another reason I now reject the Right to Life movement is because they support the death penalty, and they support war, and they don't have a problem with murder of abortionists. It seems to me they have become more about support for conservative politicians, and punishment of the poor women (who cannot afford European abortions), than they are about actual life.

So, although there are many more issues, I am obviously comfortable with traditional old conservative values. But I am a conservative who thinks for myself, not a knee jerk conservative who listens to Rush Limbaugh. Now if I am more comfortable with moderate liberal views, than with conservative views, whose fault is it? It is not me who changed, it is the conservative agenda.

Picture: I did the photoshopping from pictures from the Internet (I added the words and the Liberal mug)


  1. You don't really mention one other central tenet to the new conservatism-that being you have to be strongly anti-tax

    I think of myself a social policy liberal but a fiscal conservative

    But it would not seem that esp in the USA there are any fiscal conservatives left--any belief that you actually have to raise enough revenue to actually pay your bills seems to have gone out the window...and the conservatives love to spend money just as much as anyone else--perhaps on different things (wars, prisons, pork for their buddies) but don't want to actually tax enough to pay the bills

    even up here--the "anti-tax" sentiment runs pretty deep..

  2. I used to be opposed to paying my own taxes. But I always believed the government had the right to collect tax, especially on the income of anyone who made a lot more money than I did.

  3. G.B.Shaw once contended that, 'If one is under 25 and is not a socialist, he has no heart; if one is over 25 and still a socialist he has no head'.

    On the other hand, recent evidence suggests that the received wisdom about people becoming more conservative in their views as they age is, in fact, false.

    Fiscal conservatism is, in practice, a chimera - experience over the past three decades would indicate that is has been the 'liberal' governments which have been scrambling to clean up the fiscal messes left by their 'conservative' predecessors.

    Conservatism in practice (in both Canada and the U.S.) has, as you point out, become largely the practice of prejudice, bigotry and intolerance.

    By permitting ascendancy of (and even catering to) the more extreme right-wing views (especially those on taxation, regulation of business, social services, church and the state, the military and the definition and role of 'family') 'conservative' parties now play to the fears of the uninformed electorate (an all too large sector) even if this means taking philosophically and morally self-contradictory positions (e.g. capital punishment, good; abortion, bad).

    One particularly frightening aspect of the 'new' conservatism is the 'backlash' against the so-called 'intellectual elites.' This anti-intellectual attitude is cultivated by right-wing 'talk shows,' blogs, news networks, and even from the pulpit.

    Discouraged by the fact that those best equipped to evaluate policy on an evidential and scientific base lean predominantly to the left, the conservative rabble-rousers have taken the low road of attempting to dismiss and belittle that entire body of opinion as 'elitist.' The glorification, in other words, of ignorance.

    I expect you're not alone in your attitude and that many Canadians regret the decline and fall of the 'Red Tory' tradition in our politics in this age of 'new' conservatism.

  4. General political labels like liberal, conservative, left, right, progressive etc. have been co-opted and misapplied by the political/corporate/military combine and its echo-chamber media as to be meaningless.

    The core question to be asked what group does a particular policy, tax, war, whatever take advantage of, and for which group's benefit?

    This strips the rhetoric away, encourages us to "follow the money and power" rather than being deterred by the patriotic, financial and ideological canards so commonly trotted out as "values" by politicos, CEO's, ideologues and war-mongers across the political spectrum.

    Unfortunately people living in modern "democracies" prefer to vote for our "Favorite (insert reality show here)" rather than in elections. If online polling counted for something, Stockwell would now be Doris.

    Politics and financial matters are by design presented to the public in as convoluted and opaque a manner as possible for good reason. It provides cover in plain sight for activities the general public would never support under any spectrum label. Those of us who do try to strip back the seemingly endless layers of cronyism, bigotry and greed are cast as isolated malcontents crying in the wilderness.

    Give 'em the old razzle-dazzle... Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain... Please sir, may I have some more? It's not as if we haven't been warned.

    Elect whatever political leader you want these days, public taxes WILL go up, corporate taxes WILL go down, public services WILL be reduced, war budgets WILL increase.

    So conservative, liberal, whatever makes no functional difference. They will pick your pockets and fill their own.

    A pox on all their houses.

  5. Iconoclast: Of course, 'liberal' and 'conservative' are generalizations, and as with any generalization, not predictive in the particular. 'Conservatives' generally take a particular position on a particular issue, but many 'conservatives' will not necessarily concur with that position, &c.

    In fact, I see that as the thrust of this blog entry: the dilemma of the individual who finds himself in disagreement with a number of 'central' tenets of their 'general' political leaning.

    'A pox on all their houses,' you write, which is tantamount to despairing of democracy (flawed as it may be). And you propose to replace it with what? Enlightened despotism?

    'Politics and financial matters are by design presented to the public in as convoluted and opaque a manner as possible for good reason ...' Perhaps it's because politics and financial matters are, in fact, convoluted and opaque - at least to those who do not make an adequate effort to inform themselves.

    And the greatest threat to our democracy today is that portion of the population who do not make that effort, but simply rely on cynical politicians who feed them propaganda, setting up straw men and hammering away at wedge issues, while obfuscating their real agendas.

  6. Madeye,

    For certain I am disillusioned with what passes for "democracy" these days. Real, messy, time consuming and often inefficient democracy? Bring it on!

    I disagree that political and financial matters need to be as convoluted and opaque as they are presented. The ENRON cabal claimed to be the "smartest guys in the room", but in the end, that was just another shell-game fraud. Billy Sol Estes and the Savings and Loan debacles showed how vulnerable to gaming the US political/financial system was, but no problem letting the foxes mind the hen house... again and again.

    The simple and clear cause of the latest "mortgage crisis" and ensuing bank collapses was the unregulated creation of financial instruments, which fraudulently bundled known bad debts with legitimate ones. These were knowingly distributed throughout the banking/investment system as AAA rated risk with predictably dire results. I say predictably, as I was reading about the inevitability of these results a full 4 years before "the collapse". If I could figure it out, it was no secret in the corridors of power.

    Politicos at all points on of the spectrum sat back and let (or worse, helped) it happen... after all someone has to win the election, so brand recognition trumps actual insight, competence or intention to serve the public good.

    If anyone has an alternative to the elect-a-puppet contests that pass as political discourse these days, let me know. Money talks WAY too loudly on the campaign trail these days.

  7. Iconoclast: Yes, there certainly are serious flaws in the system.

    But the examples you mention (Enron meltdown, S&L scandals, derivatives insanity) have arisen as a result of ill-advised (and 'conservative' free market ideology-driven) deregulation of the financial and energy markets, notably repeal of Glass–Steagall (again, by the 'conservative' majority at the time).

    But you've hit the nail on the head with your comment about campaign financing. This is a (if not the) fundamental problem; the current rules allowing entities with cash to exercise disproportionate influence.

    Of course, egregious problems also exist with the level of lobbying, with 'soft money' and with the progressive deregulation of the media, resulting in a dangerous concentration of ownership (and influence) and with the increasing distortions in 'news' reporting.

    In an ideal world, for-profit corporate entities (despite the legal fiction of their being 'persons' for the purposes of forming contracts) would, as 'unnatural' persons, be barred from any political activity, especially financial contributions (directly or indirectly through PACs, 'front' groups or astroturfing).

    So I find it very discouraging to see recent court rulings such as the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

    Unless those kinds of abuses can be addressed, our system is not so much one of 'democracy' as of plutarchy :-(

  8. Madeye,

    Many of the post-Depression US regulations were incrementally repealed under Democrat administrations as well as Republican. Similar, but less egregious "adjustments" to Canadian banking regs were made under both Liberal and Conservative leaderships. And don't forget Rae Days!

    My point being the political or ideological label being applied or has little to do with the actual policies that result. The only sure thing is that the wealthy and powerful will do all they can to fleece the rest of us, using their captive media and our own taxes to convince us "it's for our own good".