Thursday, September 18, 2008

The enigma of modern Conservatism(tm)

Conservatism (tm) the brand is fascinating to me. It puts candidates in office, publishes millions of dollars in books and fills our media with thousands of hours of intensely spirited blather - but Conservatism (tm) still has no consistent underlying philosophy that I've been able to identify.

I don't even know if self-called conservatives know what Conservatism (tm) is. There's a general list of things they like - "State's rights, small government, keep government out of private affairs, no abortions, fiscal responsibility, interpret the Constitution as it was originally intended, support the troops." All fine in theory, but it seems like a bunch of stuff that's just baked together. With God, Guns, and no Gay marriage sprinkled on top.

And not only that, when the rubber meets the road:

- They're for "state's rights" unless a Federal court can overturn a state and put their President in power;
- They're for the Constitution as originally interpreted unless it can shut off speech they don't like;
- They're against earmarks unless they benefit a GOPerated state;
- They're against big government unless they're running it;
- They're against government intrusion in people's private lives, unless those people are having sex,
- They're against Hollywood celebrities but love Arnold Schwarzenegger, Drew Carey, Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Fred Thompson...
- They're against abortion because "it's murder", but don't want to fund programs that would help women actually support and raise their children - which would also result in less abortions
- They're "for the troops" but vote against benefits for veterans,
- They're against big-city fancy-talking latte-drinking wine-snob elitists, except for cross-dressing NY multimillionaires like Rudy Guiliani
- They're against "Washington insiders" and "lying politicians", except for every candidate they've nominated for President since Eisenhower, with the possible exception of Gerald Ford;
-They're "for fiscal responsibility" but somehow have - **every time** they have a President in office - unbalanced the budget and increased the national debt. More than any Democratic presidents have done.

Quite a long list of contradictions in action. And there is nothing I've been able to figure out, that ties all this together.

Now, part of what eases these contradictions is whether or not Conservatism (tm)'s customer base - white males from the Midwest and the South - wants 'em. And their familes and parents, to a lesser degree.

But there must be some sort of metaphysical component to it - because a lot of people sincerely believe in Conservatism (tm). Even though - and this is the part that really baffles me - ***there doesn't seem to be anything to believe in***.
(They're cognitive dissidents?)

Perhaps it's like "believing" in a rock band, or an actor? It's much more of an emotional connection, or a personal identification? But rock bands and actors don't spontaneously inspire commitees and laws to do their bidding.

I thought I had figured out a basic unspoken belief system for "Conservatism (tm)" that tied all the tenets together **and** explained how easily conservatives can wander away from them. It's simply: “Fuck everyone else”. But that Unified Freak Theory was trashed this year, when I saw some of the Republican National Convention. The crowd itself responded in spontaneous droves to the brutal increase in oil prices, with "Drill! We need to drill for oil! That will solve our dependence on oil! Drill! Drill! DRILLLL!!!!!!!!"

Even though:
- our energy companies aren't asking to drill offshore, and have no plans to
- these companies aren't even pursuing drilling on all the property they **already are able to drill** at;
- and even tho every study tirelessly released to the media shows:

a) the US would again much more gas by increasing fuel standards
b) the most oil this new drilling could generate would only be a sliver of what we import, and thus would barely affect the price at all
c) the oil would take years or more to even reach the market.

From the above, our OBVIOUS best choice is to start the transition off of oil. Come on! We burn it, and the Earth doesn't make more of it! The longer we burn it, the harder the transition will get! How hard is that to understand?

But as this factless "DRILL YEEAARRGHH!!" outlook on reality shows, the followers of Conservatism (tm) are heartily resisting any transition off of oil that they can possibly imagine.

And why?? What does drilling for oil even have to do with the mess of things they *say* they care about? It has screw-all to do with big government, abortion, God guns or gays. Replacing oil would make us *less* dependent on furriners, not more. In a logical world you’d think they’d love that.

This *is* a logical world, of course. It’s just the logic gets hidden when it’s unconscious. Oil usage is now part of the Big America they love; part of that ideology that they’ve been sold on that’s all boiled together into one greasy sugary mess.

So the way I think of it now is, Conservatism (tm) is one part "Fuck everyone else", one part “Don't make me think, I want what I feel!”, and one part “blarg goofle vshitiltfixaxen huff huff AYEEEEH USA USA USA!”

I could make a flow chart from this that would blow your mind.


metasailor said...

Citations for the Republican-Democratic presidential comparisons, if anyone needs to see it:

"Since 1933, Republican administrations have averaged 1.25% annual job growth, while Democrat administrations have averaged 3.25%. Even after removing FDR's terms the Democrats still average 2.9% annual growth."

metasailor said...

I had considered that conservativism really could be a movement towards nowehere - i.e. maybe more about moving away from things than towards them. William F. Buckley, considered one of the fathers of what passes for intellectual conservatism, wrote similarly way back in 1955 - "Standing athwart history, yelling Stop!"

But Conservatives do seem quite fine with yelling "Go!" to very radical new things. Such as, say, invading Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern countries which haven't even threatened us. So it does seem like more than just being a brake is going on here.

metasailor said...

Of course, one could say that the "DRILL!!! (heavy breathing)" initiative is pushed by oil company interests. And there's certainly some component of that. Oil companies don't need to drill, but like getting the leases because they can borrow against the leases and increase their capital.

But even so, this initiative still finds a far more fertile soil within Conservatism (tm) that can be explained by Conservatism (tm)'s tenets.