"Real" Conservatives

To be honest, I knew nothing of J&C’s notes on “term warfare” when I wrote this, but in politcs we now deal with abused words daily. Want a case in point? What is “conservatism?” Since common usage of some terms is often intended to hide as much at it is intended to reveal this is really an interesting question. Take a look at the dictionary definition of conservative and the first entry says a lot.

The dictionary.com definition states this of the word conservative- "1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change." When so-called liberals decry "conservatism" this is the sense in which they usually do so. It is, they say, resistance to positive change. But really, in the current political climate which party's base appears more amenable to "change"? Judging by a Houston Chronicle article it may be the people we label as "conservative". According to the article when Democrats from conservative Texas support Democrats they support incumbents from other states. By doing so they not only support the status quo in Texas, solid REPUBLICAN majorities, they also support the Democratic Party status quo in the rest of the country. That includes solid support for leaders like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi whose strident leftist leanings, once empowered by a majority, are alarming to the American people at large.

What of Republicans, though. Are they not really status-quo voters? Going back to the Chronicle article we see this-

Eight of the top 10 Texas Republican favorites are non-incumbents, including Rand Paul, the political newcomer challenging the hand-picked choice of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky's wide-open GOP Senate primary.
Democrats and liberals generally will scoff at the logic of an assertion such as mine, saying that conservatives are out to preserve a power sructure that favors the "rich and powerful", but do Democrats really favor dynamism or do they just pay lip service to "change" while actually favoring the truly entrenched elite?

Just look at an article about one of the weathiest people in the world, Warren Buffet. The final sentance says all that needs to be said in an article filled with examples of great wealth benefitting from violence inflicted upon the economy.

"It's been an ideal period for investors: a climate of fear is their best friend," Buffett wrote.
The fact of the matter is that big government and big business have far more in common, and benefit far more by mutual cooperation with each other, than either has or does with small business. Small business is inherently dynamic, capable of finding small cracks in the foundations of stifling corporate behemoths and, by growing in those niches, undermining the very status quo on which monster business sustains itself. This does not merely create uncertainty and opportunity in markets. It also decentralizes the economic hegemonies big government strives to sustain for the sake of its own grip on power. Do you imagine both Democrats and establishment Republicans favored saving Goldman Sachs at ALL costs because they wanted to fly in the face of the status quo? No.
Big business LOVES big government. As Jonah Goldman, in a Redstatetime blog post, states-
...big companies will understand the surest way to attain immortality is to become too big to fail. Once they’ve achieved that privileged status, these companies will become de facto wards of the state, insured for life at taxpayer expense like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and in exchange they will do whatever Uncle Sam asks.
So, really, what IS a keep-things-the-same "conservative" in the present day?
If the definition of "conservative" means anything that stick-in-the-mud conservative is a Democrat.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at February 27, 2010 11:14 PM
Comment #296385


Houston is a Democratic Island in a Republican sea. I find the extrapolations more than a bit stretched here. Some might say you are painting a picture a bit like a Dali. Harris County is more Republican than Houston(The suburbs, ex-burbs). I know, it’s shocking.

Posted by: gergle at February 27, 2010 7:49 PM
Comment #296388

Talk about self preservation and entrenchment:

The first order of business for any elected person (incumbent or newcomer) is how to get reelected.

This is the universal rule. And it’s one of the subtle, yet underlying problems with our body politic.

I don’t believe, however, that ‘conservatism’ means keeping the status quo. In fact, any Party that is not dynamic enough with shortly become anachronistic.

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at February 27, 2010 8:22 PM
Comment #296395

Scoff,Scoff,Scoff. Where to start. Pelosi and Reid are far from a leftist. Has either one ever once called for the nationalization of oil companies for example? They have not even called for the recognition of Cuba. They are centrist.Pelosi is an Italian Catholic grandmother. Ried is pro-life from a right leanning state.. Name calling is not helpful. Please stop.
The HC plan they put together is far more “conservative”than any HC delivery system in place in any other G7 industrial democracy. It even keeps private insurers involved. It is very similar to the plan that arch leftist,Mitt Rohmney put together. Its not too different from the plan that other leftist,Richard Nixon, proposed. Your poll numbers only prove that fear mongering works.
It was “conservatives” that supported the previous administration that presided over the biggest expansion of government since WW2.

From the same source,shall we look at “liberal”:
4.favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
5.favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
6.of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
7.free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.

Its really too bad that we have become such a devided country. There is certainly a place for “conservative” caution regarding change in general but there is also a crying need for some fundemental changes involving such clearly evident social problems as HC delivery. I wish you guys would listen more the Powell wing and strive for solutions that work even if they do disrupt the status quo and rely on evidence instead of amounts of contribution from corporations and lobbiest of that status quo with a vested interest in its continued control.That is a betrayal of conservative principles IMO. Can’t you guys do better?

Posted by: bills at February 27, 2010 10:56 PM
Comment #296397

Lee, you have come very close to the truth, at least in regards to the Democrats.

I completely disagree with your characterization of Pelosi and Reed as strident leftists. It isn’t true and it is contrary to your characterization of the Democrats which IMO, is true.

Reed and Pelosi pretend to be progressive rhetorically but, they have been and remain Corpocrats.

If you asked a progressive what kind of health care they prefer, I think they would say that to get the costs under control and provide health care for all, we should have National Health Care.
Short of that, Progressives would accept a government run single payer plan. It wouldn’t be as cost effective but, it would be far more cost effective than what the market is giving us.

Reed, Pelosi and Obama have forced the progressives in the House to accept a corpocracy health care plan. The insurers would rather have no plan at all but, they will have no trouble adjusting to and getting around this bill.

I believe this bill will lead to less competition rather than more. IMO, once the larger insurers are free to operate in every state, they will under price the smaller companies and consolidate the industry, leading to less competition.

Lee, you may disagree, as I do, about the Democrats turning this country into a welfare state for corporations but, let’s not forget that they are carrying on where the Republican Party left off. I don’t believe for a minute that the Republican Party has reformed itself.

Posted by: jlw at February 27, 2010 11:31 PM
Comment #296399


I think that Lee’s point is that these definitions do not fit the current reality.

Talking about this “tolerant” part of the liberal definition, no conservative who has been around a college campus for more than a little while believes that liberals are really tolerant.

Re new ideas - the politician with the most innovative ideas is Newt Gingrich. He was a man with ideas when he was speaker. Poor Nancy Pelosi. She really is just an Italian grandmother as you say, with as many new ideas as you might expect from a typical grandmother.

Posted by: Christine at February 27, 2010 11:42 PM
Comment #296400

Big business does not love big government. The size of government does not matter to big business, because what big business wants is weak government and corruptible government; big business wants government that supports privitization and deregulation.

A strong and robust government that reflects the will of the people threatens big business, regardless of the size of that government. For example, Teddy Roosevelt engaged in trust busting and established the Food and Drug Administration. The size of the federal government in the early 1900’s was relatively small, yet it managed to break up Standard Oil.

Today, most conservatives and even many ‘moderates’ and merely mouthpieces for big business. Social conservatives have bought into the corporatist conservative agenda in hopes of having their religious agenda passed, only to see it given mere lip service by the corporatists. Pefect examples of this form of corporatism are Supreme Court Justices Alito and Roberts.

Remember the recent Supreme Court decision by the ‘conservative’ justices? Corporations are defined as persons and therefore entitled to free speech rights, with free speech being the same as spending as much money as desired at any time on political campaigns.

Political conservatives cheered this decision.

Poiltical liberals and the liberal justices on the Court opposed this decision.

Choose sides, Lee. It’s possible to be a social conservative and still join the liberals in the fight against corporatist ownership of the country. Think about it.

Posted by: phx8 at February 28, 2010 12:10 AM
Comment #296402


Big business loves big government that is big enough to set rules to make new entries into the market difficult. Big business can afford the legal and lobbying staffs needed to live in the regulated world. A new guy starting out probably cannot.

Big centralizing power in government gets along well with big centralizing power in business. They are heresies of the same centralizing religion so they speak in different ways, but the centralizing bigness is what they both want.

Posted by: Christine at February 28, 2010 12:22 AM
Comment #296407

Forget about talking points for a moment. Through sheer size and economic muscle, big business can dominate and overwhelm a small government. Almost by definition, small is weaker than large, small commands less resources than large, small has less money large, and all in all, less power. By definition.

However, size is not the ultimate determining factor for the success of government in opposing big business; the determining factor is the philosophical orientation of the government. The relatively small federal government of Teddy Roosevelt and later FDR successfully opposed big business interests with ‘liberal agendas.’ The relatively small federal government administrations of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover pursued ‘conservative’ agendas and advanced big business interests of deregulation and privatization at every opportunity, resulting in the Teapot Dome scandal, the government-led slaughter by the military of WWI veterans from the Bonus Army, and, ultimately, the Great Depression.

Today, the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve are using ‘big’ government as an effective tool. They are trying to avoid a repeat of the conservative mistakes that resulted in and prolonged the Great Depression. This takes the form of deficit spending for economic stimulus (tax cuts, infrastructure investments in 2011, and so on. It also takes the form of preventing entire sectors of the economy from collapsing, such as the auto manufacturing sector, which was at least temporarily saved through the bailout of GM and Chrysler, and the bankiing sector, with the absorption of Merrill Lynch into a commercial bank, and opening the Fed Window to Goldman Sachs, essentially makiing it into a commercial bank.

Small government would have been unable to prevent the economy from collapsing into another Great Depression, and no matter how one feels about big businesses, a Great Depression would certaily be bad for small businesses.

So, the ultimate determining factor is governmental philosophy: liberals and progressive act to protect the interests of the people by using government as a tool, with the protection often taking the form of regulation of big business; conseratives favor deregulation, privitization, and small government, which wittingly or unwittingly plays into the hands of big business, at the direct expense of small business.

Posted by: phx8 at February 28, 2010 12:49 AM
Comment #296409


I want government to be in a leadership, not a management role. It should be lean and efficient. It is bigger now than any other time besides WWII. It was big under Bush too. I think you are right that size alone is less important than effectiveness.

I am not sure it is a good idea for the government to own (defacto) GM and Chrysler. The governments intervention in banks and Wall Street firms has meant that we gave the taxpayers the losses and the fat-cats the bonuses. President Obama makes a lot of noise about that, the the money still goes out.

An old German once told me that the best thing to do is to talk left but live right. We hear a lot of talk, but the status quo remains the same, while government grows and the firms that are “too big to fail” are preserved in their bloated glory.

Posted by: Christine at February 28, 2010 12:58 AM
Comment #296410

The fundamental fallacy behind conservatism is the idea that smaller government means more freedom, and the spontaneous, unplanned, random acts of the citizenry in a capitalist system will result in enlightened policy through the magic of the marketplace. Less government = More freedom! Sounds great, doesn’t it? The fallacy is that smaller government results in more freedom for citizens. It is a fallacy because large government is not the only threat to freedom. Big businesses can threaten freedom too; they can control and essentially economically enslave citizens, destroy the public commons at will, and so on. Take a look at the history of Nicauragua, the Somozas, and the United Fruit corporation.

By the way, it is no coincidence that conservatives routinely oppose labor unions.

Posted by: phx8 at February 28, 2010 1:07 AM
Comment #296411

The bailouts were extremely ugly but necessary. I don’t think anyone liked those bailouts except for the greedheads in the financial sector. Spending all that money saving the bacon of the incompetents at GM and the knuckleheads from the financial sector doesn’t fit any liberal agenda I’ve ever seen. Universal health care? Sounds good. That’s a part of the liberal agenda. Developoing green industries? Promoting infrastructure investments? Sure, those are great liberal ideas. Bailing out GM and Goldman Sachs with taxpayer money? Ugh. That’s just ugly, but it had to be done, not because it was good for them, but because it was good for us, the public at large.

Having done it, I’d like to see the big commercial and investment banks nationalized, with S&L’s and local credit unions serving the public in a competitive, private, and traditionally capitalist economic setting… Backed, of course, by the FDIC, and strictly regulated in order to prevent a reply of the S&L crisis…

Posted by: phx8 at February 28, 2010 1:27 AM
Comment #296413


Scoff,Scoff,Scoff. Where to start. Pelosi and Reid are far from a leftist. Has either one ever once called for the nationalization of oil companies for example? They have not even called for the recognition of Cuba. They are centrist.Pelosi is an Italian Catholic grandmother. Ried is pro-life from a right leanning state.. Name calling is not helpful. Please stop.
Far from leftist!?! They are avidly working to nationalize the healthcare industry in this country and wouldn’t even give lip service to maintaining a pretense of private ownership in the field if they had a ghost of a chance of achieving the “public option”! The whole compromise with reality they have sought, furthermore, has been designed, like most government interferance in medical care since W.W.II to hobble the industry to the point so-called “liberals” will claim “Markets have Failed!” and complete the seizure.

Furthermore Pelosi is a “staunch Catholic” right up until she has to deal with a smidgen of Catholic theology on something like the sacredness of an unborn human life. Her excuses for violations of that conception, based as they have been in blatant misrepresentations of Catholic teaching, have been publicly denounced by the Church. She appears to call herself a Catholic because it serves her well, not because she is in any way constrained by Church teaching.

Reid, now that Nevadans actually see what he will fight for when he has the power to fight, currently trails ANY prospective Republican challenger for re-election, does he not? Business interests IN NEVADA are openly calling his leadership ‘ANTI-BUSINESS”.

This is not name-calling, anyway. I am discussing the use of a term, “conservative”, and how it is erroneously applied to a people, the base of the Republican Party, who consistently vote for a more dynamic, enterprising economic system. The real “conservatives” are people like most Democrats and corporate Republicans like GWB who will throw up impenetrable bulwarks of protection and regulation around supercorporations. Buffett doesn’t make his comment quoted in the article in a vacuum. This is a good time to be too big to fail. Power centralizers like Pelosi, Reid, Bush,and Obama would create a system where politicians know where the business power is all the time, and don’t have to worry about it fractionalizing in a sand-like plethora of small-business development they can’t hold in the palms of their hands.

The Democrat base, in contrast, is voting for the Demcratic Party status quo.

I’ve made exactly your points about Teddy Roosevelt, but he was not a big-government Republican. To my knowledge he never even advocated for an income tax. But that’s not the point. Big government serves big business well by making it far more difficult for those pesky enterprises to scurry about their feet making change and revolutionizing the economy,(and producing those objectionalble nuveau-riche).

Roosevelt did what he did because he was against the concentration of power. Thus he favored dynamism and individual freedom. Read his writing sometime. He’s an interesting guy.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 28, 2010 8:28 AM
Comment #296415

I am not sure I get it. Are you saying that the premier investment capitalist in the world is “leftist”?Scratch that. We could pick a verbal fight of little import.
Are you one of those that seriously believe as Norquist said that you want government small enough to drown in a bathtub? That would/has left a great deal of power in the hands of corporations. This is not new . Our forign policy has been controlled by corporate interest for long time. IMO they are recklessly powerful at this point and the results show in economic wreckage. They do know how,nor is it in their prime directive, to consider what is the best for people. Government,barring devine intervention, is the only possible intervening force at this point and it,indeed, has its short commings. Among these is vulnerability to corruption by the same powers that it must regulate. This was not helped by the SC recently. Government also can become a danger unto itself. Government is also clumsy,slow and expensive and can inhibit human initiative. What else do we have with even a faint hope of curbing corporate excesses? Seriously.

Please spare us the poor,poor,conservative being picked on for their ideas. Try facts. There has been a very unfortunate developement in public discourse. Platitudes have taken the place of knowlege and when thoses platitudes are confronted by facts its taken as a personal assault instead of reasoned debate.

Posted by: bills at February 28, 2010 8:44 AM
Comment #296416

Oh, phx8, UNIONS lobbied hard for the corporate free speech decision, too. If you don’t like the Constitution the way it is get it changed legitimately. Don’t seek a group of black-robed lackeys who will ignore the plain wording of the document. THIS article was precipitated by Democrats using money as political speech. The First Amendment uses the words “shall not be abridged”, as I recall. That’s broad language, and is meant to be. If you and everyone else don’t like it, AMEND IT.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 28, 2010 8:50 AM
Comment #296426

Conservatives would fare so very much better in American politics if they would ascribe to the following: “Conserve what works, change what doesn’t”.

Regrettably, that is not what Republican “so called” conservatives in Congress ascribe to, at all. Which is why Republicans would not touch health care reform despite mountainous evidence that the system was broken and getting worse with each passing year.

And despite that evidence that Medicare costs would cripple our economy with national debt, Republicans actually voted to make the situation worse, by expanding Medicare with a Rx drug plan and adding the cost to and even bigger national debt going forward.

If you want real conservative values, you will have to look somewhere else than the Republican Party. The GOP is about elections and power. Conservative values is just a prop for getting votes.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 28, 2010 12:56 PM
Comment #296431


While that’s a reasonably good definition of “conservative” I don’t see anyone being conservative in that sense. Democrats aren’t. They appear to just seek to destroy things they can’t control so they can blame the things that won’t fly after they’ve jiggered them to death on the evil intentions of those who tried to make them work.

On the other hand I’ll admit that some so-called liberals are just stupid and can’t imagine how a system works in which they can’t identify the strings of good intent coming down from the hallowed classes. That’s the result of magical thinking and can’t be helped as long as either party benefits from ignorance in their base. But that liberalism that looks at the system that made obsolete all other systems in the history of human life, while appending every benefit all those other systems could muster to itself, and say of it that it is a failure is powerful, yet wierdly Luddite enemy of all mankind.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 28, 2010 2:40 PM
Comment #296438

You seem to think that corporations deserve “free speech” because corporations are “persons” under the 14th amendment, and therefore corporations should be able to give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, as an exercise in free speech rights.

Sorry, Lee. You lose the debate on this one. Game, set, match. The truth comes out. Conservatives love them some big corporations. There’s just no room to hide on this one, and you’ve made your stand clear. The rest is just a tortured rationalization.

Posted by: phx8 at February 28, 2010 4:24 PM
Comment #296455

“The dictionary.com definition states this of the word conservative- “1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.” When so-called liberals decry “conservatism” this is the sense in which they usually do so.”

Lee this may be the dictionary definition and maybe some liberals decry conservatism based solely upon this definition but I doubt it. It is the failed application of conservative ideology prior to 1932 and then again the past 30 years that I based my distrust of conservatives, the conservative movement and conservative ideology.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 28, 2010 8:13 PM
Comment #296457


No I believe corporations deserve a voice as the property of persons who have chosen to be represented in some wise by grouping their resources, in part, for that purpose. That is why I support the application of this ruling for unions (though I shiver at the fact that unions can coerce cooperation and membership, which is inherently non-representative and undemocratic behavior) .

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 28, 2010 8:35 PM
Comment #296466

Each and every person participating in a corporation already has a voice as an individual, flesh and blood citizen. There is no such thing as a flesh and blood corporation.

Look into the hisoty of the reinterpreation of the 14th amendment. Originally intended to ensure rights for freed slaves, a handwritten note by a clerk who represented railroads was interpreted as the ruling of the Supreme Court Justices:

“Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad is sometimes cited for this finding, because the court reporter’s comments included a statement the Chief Justice made before oral arguments began, telling the attorneys during pre-trial that “the court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.” Later opinions misinterpreted these pre-argument comments as part of the legal decision.[9] As a result, because of the First Amendment, Congress can’t make a law restricting the free speech of a corporation…”
wikipedia, “Legal person”

Nowhere in the Constitution is there anything that even remotely suggests corporations have the right of free speech. It’s not even close. Clowns like Alito and Roberts cite precedent rather than looking back at language and intent.

These are ‘conservative’ judges. Do you think they represent your best interests? What do you think will happen to government, whether large or small, if corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns and issues? Liberal justices opposed this decision. Liberals opposed this decision. Obama opposed this decision.

Conservatives supported it.

Posted by: phx8 at February 28, 2010 11:12 PM
Comment #296467

Just to provide some perspective: the net profits of just one company, Exxon, exceeded all of the funds available to all of the labor unions in the US combined. And remember, that’s just one corporation.

Posted by: phx8 at February 28, 2010 11:14 PM
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