By Graham Glover –
Do you remember the girl you thought was perfect for you, but for reasons that seemed to defy logic, you never asked out on a date? Everyone told you that the two of you would be great together, but every time you talked to her something seemed a little off. Or what about the guy that came from the ideal family, the one that was devoted to his faith, his family, and his friends; but when you two were alone, things just got weird. Not perverse. Not immoral. But definitely strange.
This is how I feel about the conservative movement in 2015. By all accounts I should be a full-fledged conservative. As I’ve written countless times before, everything about my life screams conservative. I am a 41-year old, white, middle-class American male that is more than slightly balding. I am a Christian clergyman in one of the most theologically conservative Lutheran denominations in the world. I am an officer in the United States Army. I am happily married (first and only) with 2 children. All I need now is a white-picket fence to go around my yard. It wouldn’t take more than 2 seconds for any political pollster to look at my profile a label me a conservative. (And when I told them I proudly own every book Pat Buchanan has written, I’d be a labeled a strong conservative!)
But I most definitely am not a conservative, certainly not by 2015 standards. I want to be a conservative – at least, I think I should be – but I just can’t see myself dating the conservative movement any longer. People tell me we’re a great match, that we could do so much together. I don’t see it. We may appear to make a cute couple, but the conservative movement of 2015 is just weird. Actually, they’re more than that. They’re downright strange.
In all seriousness, I have no idea what the conservative movement stands for anymore. What exactly are conservatives trying to conserve? I hear mantras like limited government, lower taxes, less regulation and spending, a strong military, and a need for traditional values. These campaign mantras have been used for decades, but I have no idea what they mean anymore. I don’t think many conservatives do either.
Is it limited government for all things or only those that are cliché for conservatives to rail against like education, the environment, and health care? I know conservatives loathe Obamacare, but why stop there? Why not get rid of Medicare and Medicaid too? Is there no end to the conservatives’ desire to limit, or more specifically, to get rid of the size and scope of the federal government? Moreover, if the federal government is so inherently bad why are there so many conservatives who make a career working for it? I’m not suggesting that the government is the answer to all our ills, but conservatives talk about it like it is a cancer on everything. How ironic that the movement vilifies the very institution it seeks to lead.
For as long as I can remember conservatives have demanded that taxes be lowered. But can someone tell me at what point the conservative movement will be happy with tax rates? Is it ultimately about getting rid of all taxes? Are there any taxes that they think are good? Presidents Bush 43, Bush 41, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, and Eisenhower all found goodness in taxes. None of them would be welcome by today’s conservatives because their ideas on taxes would be called too moderate, or even too liberal. It’s unbelievable how far right conservatives have moved on the issue of tax rates.
As for regulation and spending, the hypocrisy of conservatives is astounding. Regulation is a dirty word, conservatives say. We shouldn’t hinder private business – ever. No matter what businesses do, the less regulation, the better. Remember, government is bad. Private industry is good. At least according to conservatives.
I’m all for a strong military. I’ve seen firsthand why America needs to be the most robust military in the world. But to what end? Is there ever a time to cut back? Is there ever a war we shouldn’t fight or an entanglement we shouldn’t engage? We are the world’s lone superpower and by default, the world’s policeman. But conservatives will spend, spend, and spend some more on any and every military program they are presented. Once cannot be a conservative and at the same time advocate unlimited military spending.
Traditional values. I’m not even going to go there. The culture war is over. Period.
During last night’s Republican debate in Milwaukee, a few candidates said it was time to take America back. I’m curious, take her back from what? Or more specifically, to what time would these conservatives like to return? I’m truly at a loss what it is about America that conservatives want to conserve. Old campaign mantras, written for a time long past, don’t work in 2015. They aren’t appealing. They’re pick-up lines that people see right through.
So, does my dissatisfaction with conservatism mean I should date liberalism? I may not like conservatism, but liberalism seems entirely incompatible with everything I am and represent. Could that oddity actually work? I shudder at the thought.
More on that potential relationship next week…