Conservatism

The Common Wisdom


We all know that the country is center-right.  Perhaps it’s there as a result of a pendulum swing from the socially farther left pendulum of the 60’s and the politicians and pundits now like to tell us we’re center-right almost as throw-away line.  Or maybe people just keep saying that and have done so for such a long time that we’ve come to believe it, but repetition doesn’t make the claim accurate.  Take a look at just a few issues before us.

Jobs – About 306 million of we 307 million Americans want the government to take energetic action to ramp up the economy and create jobs.  The noise from the far right is the only thing that is making it seem like there is huge opposition to that.  As a nation, we are left of center now on jobs.

Voting rights – Americans believe overwhelmingly that all of us over the age of 18, with the possible exception of convicted felons, should vote.  That’s pretty much smack dab in the center, not center-right.  On the other hand, there are Republican strategists who have openly stated that the only people they want to vote are those who will vote Republican.

In the 2010 election many states voted far right legislators into office and they have enacted laws they have fraudulently proclaimed are to protect us from a blight of voting fraud.  The thing is that voting fraud almost never happens – not even in Chicago.  These laws serve solely as an obstacle to voting for young people, the elderly, the poor and those in minorities who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  Let’s see, righty R’s preventing D’s from voting.  Hmmm.

Immigration – Most of us believe that if people do something wrong that they should bear the consequences.  And most of us believe that children of illegal immigrants, born in this country and who have broken no laws should not bear those consequences.  Righties don’t want to pass the Dream Act and they are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.  The R’s continue to oppose it because they’re afraid they’ll get “primaried” in the next election by a fanatic on the lunatic right fringe.  That keeps them disconnected from everyone but the aforementioned lunatic right fringe.

This issue is complex, but as a nation we’re pretty much in the center.

Taxes on the wealthy – Depending on the week and the poll, anywhere between 62 – 80% of Americans favor increased taxes on the rich.  Only the righties who signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes, along with some already wealthy people are opposed to that.  That is to say, the country is center-left on this issue.

Contraception – Do you really need an explanation about this?  Even 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control and only some fundamentalist righties have a problem with it.  It’s just that a few of them have very loud voices.  We Americans are far left in favor of contraception.

Women’s choice – The majority of Americans continue to be pro-choice, although by a smaller margin now than in past decades.  In part that’s because of the loss of institutional memory of how things used to be before Roe v. Wade.  It wasn’t pretty.  We are center-left on this.

Global warming – It’s not just all the environmental scientists; most Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer and that mankind’s activities like burning fossil fuels is contributing to it.  The only question is why anyone denies that.  To find the answer, follow the money.  It’s way on the right.  (Ref: “And another thing” below)

Social Security & Medicare – These are the two most popular programs ever created by the federal government and America is far left on them.  Only the righties want to abolish or privatize them.

Note to budget hawk absolutist righties: We made a contract with the American people, who pre-paid for these services and we must keep our word.  I know you’ll understand that.

Education – The righties want to abolish the Department of Education at both the federal and state levels.  They are starving schools of funds, so teachers, administrators and janitors are being laid off.  School maintenance and improvement projects are being halted and the disparity between the education of our poor children and the rich kids who get to go to elite schools continues to widen.  Our children are suffering, their future becomes bleaker every day we fail them and we are putting the future of America in peril.

Americans don’t like this.  They want their children to be educated and think public education is a very good thing.  The righties are completely out of sync with America on this.  This country is way left on education.

Healthcare – Most Americans want the government to do more to fix it.  All that is standing in the way is the resistance borne of the hundreds of billions of dollars being collected every year by the medical insurance companies, big pharma, big hospitals and a few others.  We’ve tried letting the market fix this.  That has resulted in our having the most expensive healthcare in the world, while at the same time we’re getting just middling results.  Only the far righties with megaphones attached to their faces think that continuing to let the free market work is the solution.  We want affordable healthcare and are at least center-left on this issue.

The list can go on until sunrise.  Those saying that we are a center-right nation have either bought into the Big Lie or think they will benefit by making you believe it.

It turns out that the common wisdom isn’t so common, nor is it so very wise after all.

—————————————————————————–

And another thing .  .  .

Have you seen the TV commercials with the pleasant looking blonde lady in a black pants suit talking about American energy?  She tells us how plentiful it is and all we have to do is go get it.  As an example, she walks across a map of the lower 48 and tells us about, ”  .  .  . tapping Canadian oil sands for U.S. consumers.”  Sounds great.

Except the plan for the Canadian oil sands crude is to transport that heaviest, dirtiest crude oil with the greatest global warming footprint via the XL Pipeline to our gulf coast for exporting to other nations.  I need for them to explain once again how that stuff is for U.S. consumers because I’m not seeing how exporting it makes it for us.

One last comment: That ad and the others like it are sponsored by the American Petroleum Industry, the promotional organization of Big Oil.  Just so you know.

“We move through life like a man in a rowboat, looking back even as we move forward.” – William Landay


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

O’ See Can You Say?


Scratch any neo-con and you’ll instantly hear the vision: “We want small government, low taxes and the government out of our lives.”  Clear, crisp and compelling.

Scratch a progressive and you’ll hear paragraphs of theory and a rant that will make your eyes cross and will hurt your brain.  And the message will change with each progressive you listen to, leaving you confused and reaching for something solid on which to steady yourself.

The righties have been selling their message consistently at least since Richard Nixon.  He wanted to discredit the press – he called them the “eastern liberal press.”  They were the people he saw through his paranoia as always attacking him.  So, he had his felon vice-president Spiro T. Agnew call them “nattering nabobs of negativity” and Agnew used that moniker over and over.  It didn’t matter whether people knew what a nabob was, because the message that the press can’t be trusted got through.  And it is continuing to get through.

The attack on the press (now the “media”) has most recently and shrilly been blared through the snarling lips of Sarah Palin, who calls the press the “lamestream media,” which is odd, since she is a regular on Fox News, making her part of the “lamestream media.”

The press used to be called the Fourth Estate.  It was seen as a de facto check on government and was trusted to do that job.  Not so much any more, though, after 44 years of being slimed by the self-appointed Republican attack machine.

Ronald Reagan was up front in selling distrust of government.  He told us that the nine most feared words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”   He played into people’s stereotyped attitudes and frustrations and got himself elected as the head of the government, strangely doing this by denouncing government.

He told us he was for small government, low taxes and the government out of our lives.  Then he set about massively increasing government, raising taxes twelve times and building national debt that surpassed all other presidents combined.  Yet strangely, he’s still remembered as the president who was for small government and low taxes.  That disconnect can be traced to neo-cons selling the Reagan image (not the substance) consistently for twenty-four years, so that few Americans hear the lie and realize that the Republicans are largely responsible for the terrible economic situation in which Americans find themselves and their country today.

At the most recent Republican primary debate one of the candidates used the post office as an example of government failure and illustrative of how we don’t want government running our healthcare.  The South Carolina Republican audience loved it, even though the post office is a model of low cost mail delivery that consistently produces excellent results.  It was fiscally solvent until the Republicans required it to fully fund the pensions of workers not yet born.  Furthermore, the government runs Medicare and nobody on Medicare – not a single person – will say they don’t like it.  Still, the image of government bungling and inefficiency sells to an already jaded public.

The point is that the Republicans have had great success in keeping their hands on power by selling a clear, crisp and compelling vision in a clear, crisp and compelling way.  And they have done that while pursuing exactly the opposite of what they promise.  To be sure, that dichotomy is not solely the province of Republicans; however, what is most important to learn is the excellence of their messaging.  It sells.  It gets votes.  It wins elections.

People have chuckled for decades over Will Rogers’ declaration, “I’m not a member of an organized political party.  I’m a Democrat.”   Somehow, that isn’t quite as funny today, when America is desperate for organization around a clear, crisp and compelling vision that is worthy of us and doesn’t pander to extremists.

We’re struggling through the largely fact-free world of politics with little but lies and distortion to be seen.  It’s time the progressives got it together to produce a clear, crisp and compelling message to go along with a clear and vibrant strategy.  The best products don’t always win, but the best marketing does.


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Not Very Brave New World


During one of the Republican primary season debates Wolf Blitzer posed a question to the candidates about healthcare.  He imagined a young fellow who was significantly ailing and was in the emergency room of a hospital where they determined that he would die if not treated immediately.  Blitzer further said to imagine that his hypothetical subject was without financial means and did not have healthcare insurance.  His question was about what the hospital staff should do.

After a couple of beats someone in the audience shouted, “Let him die.”  There were cheers from others in the audience.  And every one of the Republicans running to be the party nominee for the office of President of the United States went silent.  Not a single one of them stood up to the hate, nor chastised the meanness of the shouted comment.  Not one had the spine to display compassion for a fellow human being.

They displayed that same kind of spinelessness at another debate when a gay serviceman was shown on video with a question about gays serving openly in the military.  Audience members booed him and once again these would-be leaders were silent.  Be clear that this soldier is a man who puts his life on the line every day to protect those very same candidates and audience members, yet the candidates displayed neither spine nor compassion for him or for others like him.

Those yelling the loudest today are the far right radicals and they are not conservative.  They are not even defenders of the Constitution.  They are short sighted and closed-minded bullies masquerading as bible thumping Christians.  America is suffering through an aggravated case of absolutist minds and it is killing our democracy.

In the early part of the last century one of the hateful signs hung on the doors of some companies read, “No Irish need apply.”  There were signs all over the Jim Crow south that read, “Whites only.”  And for decades and perhaps centuries there was and, in some places there still is, a “gentlemen’s agreement” to exclude Jews.  That’s rapidly metastasizing to include Muslims.  It’s more complicated than this, but at root it is a discrimination against anything that is not “us.”

We are seeing a willful brain numbing that says that anything that is not just like “us” is wrong, unpatriotic, godless and perhaps evil.  How odd that is in a country that draws its strength from its diversity.  We’ve always had that schizophrenic duality, but now the hateful side, the Mr. Hyde personality, is dominating the landscape in a razed earth war against everyone and everything that is not just like him.  Worse, those who would be leaders are spineless against Mr. Hyde’s voice of hate and exclusion.

This is America, so the haters have the right to their hate and the candidates have the right to their cowardice.  The key question is this:  How long will you tolerate the hate?


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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