Ideally, conservative movements can be the action that applies the brakes to social change, ensuring that it doesn’t happen to quickly or in too chaotic a fashion for a particular society to handle. When they are operating in this mode it can be a healthy thing. The problems occur when instead of just applying the brakes, the conservatives wish to reverse the direction. Or to maintain outdated and dangerous dogmas, to hinder real progress, to maintain racists attitudes and unequal wealth structure, and more.
Historically, who is responsible for the all the positive social change that has occurred? Certainly not conservatives. And the modern movement is the most dangerous incarnation of conservative ideology in decades, most notably in America.
Take a walk through history with me. Who fought to keep slavery? Conservatives. Who didn’t want women to vote? To serve in public office? Who, at the founding of America, didn’t even want to rebel against British rule? Conservatives, of course. Who fought tooth and nail against the civil rights movement? Who today favors discriminating against gays? Again, conservatives.
In an absurd example of the conservative mindset, many of them are upset because the third richest man in the world, Warren Buffet, doesn’t think he pays enough taxes. He thinks it ridiculous that he was taxed at 17.7 percent on 46 million dollars, while his secretary was taxed at 30 percent on 60,000. Liberals agree with him.
Now, a look at liberalism in history. The entire process that brought America into existence was very liberal. Read the words of the first American president, George Washington. “As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.”
It was liberal thought that drove Copernicus and Galileo, Pasteur and Newton, Da Vinci and Curie. Virtually every scientific advance has come through liberal thinking challenging the Stout quo. Sure, conservatives are good at business. But they might still be selling clay pots out of the back of mule carts if not for science and liberal thought.
It was liberal thought that gave a majority of the countries emerging from WWII universal health care for all their citizens. Interestingly enough, it was an American president – Truman – who insisted that health care for all citizens be part of the Marshall Plan.
Conservative thought tends to want to keep people mired in the dogmas of religion. Of course, most liberals are religious too. The difference comes in the interpretation. To be spiritual is far different from the fundamentalist, sexist, homophobic, fear-mongering hate-fueling exceptionalism and self-righteous self-importance found in evangelical movements today.
On every important front, conservatives are on the wrong side. They still want to deny that global warming is real, despite overwhelming evidence. They don’t want evolution to be taught to children, in spite of the fact that there is more scientific proof explaining evolution than there is for gravity. Conservatives want to drill for oil in every pristine area that might have it, rather than make big investments in alternatives. If the energy initiatives began by Jimmy Carter were continued by Ronald Reagan, America would not be importing oil today.
Conservative thought serves society best when it is in the minority, applying brakes when needed. When it becomes a majority, it tends to degenerate into something dark. It’s good to be proud of your country, it is dangerous to think it can do no wrong and can act unilaterally around the world, essentially giving the finger to anyone who doesn’t fall in line.
In closing, I ask again…..does the conservative movement as it exists today have anything of value to offer?