According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center – “Conservative” was the second most positively viewed political term in America – right behind “Progressive.” Heck – Republicans love the label so much – their biggest political conference of the year is CPAC – The CONSERVATIVE Political Action Conference. But – I’m trying to figure out why exactly that is. I’m trying to figure out why anyone – given our nation’s history – would want to call themselves a Conservative today in America. They say that “Conservative” means someone who embraces traditional values, limited government, moderate change, and fiscal restraint. But those are just weasel words, the velvet glove over the brutal fist of an autocratic, authoritarian, and oligarchic form of governance. Here’s the reality of what Conservatives have ACTUALLY done to this nation in it’s 230-year plus history.
First off, it was Conservatives who opposed the American Revolution, and many of them joined the British in fighting against George Washington’s army. Then, conservatives, at the birth of our nation, pushed to restrict voting rights at the federal level to only white men who owned property – although progressives like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison blocked those efforts – so conservatives at the state level picked up that cause.
It was Conservatives who wanted to keep the “traditional American value” of slavery and fought progressive Abraham Lincoln so fiercely it led to an incredibly bloody and horrific Civil War. In the aftermath of the Civil War – Conservatives supported Jim Crow laws to keep freed slaves as second-class citizens.
Conservatives opposed women’s suffrage all the way up until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 – and some still to this day – oppose it.
Wealthy Conservative elites opposed every advancement made by average working people – from the forty-hour work week – to child labor laws – to workplace safety laws.
The Conservative principles of limited government and more freedom might sound good – but in practice it means less government to protect Americans from corporate abuses – and more freedom for people like the Koch brothers to pollute. It means less government to provide social services – and more freedom to die like a dog in the gutter without health insurance. That’s been the message of the Conservative movement since the onset of the nation – always taking us backward when we should be moving forward.
So I’ll ask the question again — why the hell would anyone proudly call themselves a Conservative?