What happened to real conservatism in the U.S? It certainly cannot be found in the current Republican Party, and it is either defunct, or hiding in shame and frustration somewhere in the hinterland of public life.
The Republican Party was created to assume the mantle of conservatism as a foil to liberalism, and the Democratic Party was created to assume the mantle of liberalism as a foil to conservatism. This was the balance deliberately created by the Founding Fathers and encapsulated in the document they wrote, the U.S. Constitution.
I have to say that neither political party has done a particularly good job in following its origins or developing the concepts on which they were founded.
For example, why doesn’t the Democratic Party win every election by a huge majority? They claim to represent the poor, the under-trodden and, somewhat reluctantly, the middle class. They leave the rich and privileged to the arms of the Republican Party. Since there are far more poor, under-trodden and middle class people in the country than there are rich and privileged people – perhaps 90% or more of the electorate, if it is one man, one vote – if they actually followed their own claims, they must win easily every time. They don’t, and they don’t. The only aspect of their origins they do represent is the liberal side of the Founding Fathers’ balance, albeit erratically and mostly hypocritically.
On the other side of the Founding Fathers’ balance, the Republican Party seems to have totally lost its way in what it represents, in what it does, and in what it believes. Its history for the last half century is a litany of being high-jacked by special interests: They’ve fallen foul of religious fundamentalists, anti-abortion activists, the Ku Klux Clan, the Tea Party, QAnon conspiracy idiots, far-right and dangerous hard-line individualists, the religion of the NRA, and, by and large, almost every “kook” theory out there. What happened to conservative integrity? Indeed, what happened to basic conservatism in the U.S., as envisioned by the Founding Fathers?
A democracy needs a balance and the U.S. Constitution embodies that concept. Today we have lost that balance, because one side of the balance, true conservatism, doesn’t appear to exist, and the other, liberalism, is in a conceptual wilderness. The Democratic Party is slightly closer to its basic tenets than the Republican Party, but not by much. Both are betraying the people’s trust, if the people have any trust left for politicians or political parties.
In terms of the balance, I love to quote Winston Churchill in discussions like this. He stated, quite emphatically, “If you are not a liberal when you are 21, you have no soul, and, if you are not a conservative when you are 50, you have no brains.”
Right now, the United States appears to have no soul and no brains.
What happened, and what can we do about it?
Let’s look at the worst case in this analysis, real conservatism in the U.S. and the Republican Party.
Why has the conservative element of the country allowed fringe fanatics to take over the party and its policies? In reality, there must be far more of the traditional conservatives out there than there are fringe idiots. Why have these traditional conservatives relinquished their thoughts, their beliefs, their ethics and their very existence to the fringes? They should be shouting far louder than anyone against these fringes. They are the ones who have been betrayed and sidelined.
I wish I knew the answer to this conundrum. If any of my readers have any thoughts or explanations, I would love to hear from them, and to share their wisdom.