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                                       politics + culture

Monday, September 12, 2005

conservatism in action

The response of our federal government to hurricane Katrina is the referendum on conservatism. It is the 'test case' for our nation to understand the real meaning of that term, not in the comfortable armchair realm of theory, but tested in action in a time of crisis.

In my view, the most pernicious roadblock to progress in America today is the gulf between American voters who think of themselves as culturally or fiscally 'conservative' and the actions of the ostensibly 'conservative' officials they send to Washington. This has been, simply put, the biggest free pass in American politics.

Conservatism in practice has never been a policy of governance; it was, is, and has always been, simply a meal ticket for the GOP. Conservatism, for the most part, means whatever the GOP wants it to mean. And, ironically enough, given the importance its adherents assign to moral qualities of forthrightness and personal accountability, conservatism, more than anything else in American politics has equaled a kind of 'responsibility free zone.'

How many voters would say they vote GOP because they identify, on some level, as 'fiscally conservative'? Has the GOP in the 'conservative era' of Reagan and Bush ever delivered on this? Whether they have raised taxes or cut them, and they've done plenty of both...whether they've grown government or shrunk it...and they've done much more growing than shrinking...the GOP has never accounted for a simple reality that any responsible citizen will admit is true: if you run huge deficits and pile on the national debt you are simply taxing our children.

Further, if the national consensus is that Social Security and Medicare, by far the largest outlays of our Federal Government, are actually good programs that benefit everyone...and they do...it is precisely the philosophy of "tax cuts now, pay the bills later, run up the deficit for war and disasters, and mismanage government through neglect and cronyism" that threatens the sustainability of these programs. If anything, Democrats are more invested in real fiscal responsibility and holding government accountable because the long-term solvency and effectiveness of the government is essential to our concept of governance.

In the face of Enron, Katrina, 9/11 and Iraq the 'conservative' label has ceased to have any meaning. It is an empty shell...a kind of prop....that allows millions of Americans the fig leaf that allows them to ostensibly vote their 'values' without having to be accountable for what the GOP actually does while in office. Has 'pork' gone down with the GOP in control of our government? Has the 'fiscally conservative' Bush administration ever stated how our nation will pay for the war in Iraq and cut taxes at the same time? What have American taxpayers got in return for their money under the GOP? Michael Brown? FEMA? The War in Iraq? The unfunded and ineffective mandate of NCLB?

As the grim reality that we have spent almost $100 Billion on Homeland Security after 9/11 and yet we could not effectively avoid the preventable loss of one of our major American cities....a loss of life and infrastructure that could have been avoided or lessened with prudent investment in planning and infrastructure...the cost of what 'conservatism' really means is quite clear.

The 'comfortable' image of conservatism, the fiction that GOP voters have imagined as they've pressed the lever in the ballot box for decades is not what that term has meant in practice. Reality has been neither prudent, nor particularly moral. The response of our federal government to Katrina has been nothing more than conservatism in action, and we need to point that out to our fellow citizens, even as we come together to rebuild with hope and strength and justice.

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6 Comments:

  • "Conservatism in practice has never been a policy of governance; it was, is, and has always been, simply a meal ticket for the GOP. Conservatism means whatever the GOP wants it to mean."

    And these days, it means even less. It means Cronyism.

    By Blogger NYBri, at 11:08 AM  

  • Great link, nybri.

    Reading that piece makes you think to yourself, where have our journalists been?

    Is it now the job of op-ed writers and bloggers to hold government accountable...

    while the front pages are filled with propoganda pushers?

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 11:32 AM  

  • I've been having a field day with the conservatives I work with by pointing this very thing out to them.
    You want small government? You got it. You want the Dept of HS? You got it. Four years after 9-11 with Billions of dollars spent, you are no safer, have larger more wasteful government that accomplishes less and kills more people.
    What if it had been Democrats in power? A National Tragedy - they would have been protecting the wetlands and building infrastructure and the Conservatives would have been whining while they forced the Dems to balance the budget.
    Wow, wouldn't that have been really awful. So far my negativity and gloating has them quiet, but I fear not for long. Idiots.

    By Blogger SKelly, at 6:00 PM  

  • "`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.' -- Lewis Carroll

    "Let's toss that fucken Egg off the wall and see what happens." -- Grover Norquist

    By Blogger awol, at 9:38 PM  

  • A link that may interest you, Kid:

    What Is Conservatism?
    --John Dean

    His most recent column,
    here, also talks a little about "conservatism" (and is my source for the first link).

    By Blogger &y, at 6:32 AM  

  • New Orleans is not Norquist's Bathtub... attempted murder witnessed by a nation.

    -pyrrho

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:47 PM  

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