Conservatism Is Regressivism: An Exhausted Political Philosophy
Conservatism has reached a new level of ideological absurdity with the colonial-era aesthetics of the Tea Party. The Republican Party’s leaders in recent elections have adopted a libertarian ideology so colonially regressive that it is as irresponsible as it is historically and logically inconsistent.
They clamor for having no governmental oversight over the economy at all while paradoxically promoting a theocracy of sorts that would police Americans’ sexuality, gender identity and sense of nationalism. And despite their ideological patriotism, radical Republicans openly call for secession with contradictory whimsy. Are Republican federal politics stuck in the 1790s, and their unionist politics stuck in the 1860s?
But rhetorical questions aside, why are Republicans so enthusiastic with America’s antiquated political eras? This rustic simplicity does not equate with competent governance. If 239 years of national progress is not a long enough duration to significantly progress one’s views on government, there is a problem. Since the Constitution’s ratification, America is a vastly different place.
In the 1790s the US government barely paid for a military and didn’t provide any services. Also, Americans didn’t really do anything but farm back then, and a few, proportionally, sat in their houses and made clothes. Fast forward to today and there are striking economic differences.
The United States simply needs more governmental regulation than at the time of our nation’s birth. For instance, there were no factories protecting their bottom lines by dumping industrial and chemical waste into rivers back then, or turning our drinking water flammable as a side effect of healthy profits. There was no existential threat to our species in climate change due to alarming carbon pollution. Etc.
The Tea Party believes that modern government is too bloated because it is bigger than George Washington’s first administration, but the US economy is also much more mammoth than in our nation’s up-starter days. Our current $17 trillion American GDP is considerably larger than the United States’ GDP circa 1797 that George Washington presided over. Since Washington our government has gotten in the business of protecting people and doing things for them. Both cost governmental administration and necessitates regulation, so of course our government is going to be bigger than it was when the Constitution was first signed into law.
Republicans often talk about eliminating entire cabinet positions or governmental agencies, but they forget that creating those cabinet positions and agencies took a lot of political capital. They were only created because public problems were so big and privately unsolvable that government action was urgently necessary. Sure we can axe the Department of Education, but do we want to revert back to national illiteracy? We could end the Environmental Protection Agency, yes, but do we want to choke our cities with China-esque smog so that companies can save money by not worrying about their carbon outputs? Neo-colonial domestic politics may sound good as campaign soundbites, but we have to think ahead about the effects of governmental regression. And the effects will not be kind to American society.
Unfortunately, neo-colonial conservatism is not a fringe movement. It is dominating state legislatures across the country, and has certainly conquered the 2016 Republican presidential primary debate. But even though it may sound like colonial-era simplicity to have a 3-page tax code like Carly Fiorina calls for, or even a postcard tax form like Ted Cruz imagines while on the stump, neither could realistically function for a population of 300 million-plus people participating in the world’s most hegemonic economy.
The fact is that Republicans idolize an America that never was with their calls for “taking America back.” They have a caricature of an idea of history, and conservatives go so far as wanting to strike from history books anything that makes their beloved, invented Americana look bad. One Texas school board-approved textbook described the millions of slaves brought over from Africa as “workers.” Conservatism today is a blend of politics and history with fiction.
This makes our Republican representatives willfully, and blissfully ignorant of sound political philosophy. Republicans do not have philosophy, they just have ideology. There is a big difference between the two because philosophy must interact with fact, where as ideology can ignore facts. And this is evident in Republican politics. For instance, global warming is real, and the rest of the world is debating in Paris right now on how to react to it’s calamitous effects on human life, but Republicans continue to call it a liberal hoax in exchange for coal and oil company campaign bribes. Another example is how 43% of Republicans believe that President Obama is a Muslim, even though he is not. In reality, Obama has done nothing to turn America into an Islamic state, but Republican ideology argues otherwise. Republicans have exhausted conservatives philosophy, and partisan ideology is all they have left.
As such, Republicans simply do not deserve authority or relevance by calling for such governmental regression. If American society reverted to 1790, and all Americans took to subsistence farming, contemporary conservatism could work. But this is as unlikely as it is that modern conservatism would work for America if a Republican candidate wins Election 2016.
Republicans really hate progressives because they are the opposite: regressives. Conservative philosophy has been exhausted, and all the GOP has left is partisan ideology. This lack of fact-based politics is moving the Republican Party further and further away from reality: case in point, openly xenophobic Donald Trump is the GOP frontrunner.
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