By Daniel C. Maguire
"Conservative" can mean
a lot of things, even good things, but today
"conservative" has sunk to the moral basement. Dwight Eisenhower was
being a good conservative when he warned that "the military-industrial
complex" would milk our economy dry if not stopped, as indeed it has.
Nelson Rockefeller was being a good conservative when he said pregnant
women should be in charge of their pregnancies and not the government.
Teddy Roosevelt was being a good conservative when he pioneered
ecological sanity. Abraham Lincoln was a good conservative when he took
on slavery and when he supported state-sponsored banks to encourage
development, improve infrastructure and public education. These true
conservatives did not embrace the currently ensconced dogmatic naiveté
that government is the root of all evil.
That was then.
More recently "conservative"
is reduced to a bundle of mean-spirited,
ungrounded, and, ultimately self-destructive assumptions. And yet for
Republicans, it is the byword of their campaigning.
The conservative record is gory.
Theologian Obery Hendrick sums it up:
"Conservative politicians opposed at their inception Social Security,
Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment compensation, the right to form labor
unions, government guaranteed student loans, child labor laws, the
minimum wage, workplace safe regulation, guaranteed bank and savings
deposits, oversight to insure the purity of our food and drugs, the
environmental protection movement, the Equal Rights Amendment, civil
rights legislation, even anti-lynching legislation. Indeed, conservatives have
opposed virtually every policy that might narrow the gap between rich and poor,
particularly taxation of the wealthy."
Anybody see a trend there? And since
many of these folks claim Christian
credentials, anybody see any of Jesus' "good news for the poor," there?.
Theologian Hendrick: "Despite
the clear-cut anti-classist, egalitarian
disposition of both the Hebrew Bible and the gospel pronouncements of
Jesus, the social economic and tax policies promoted by political
conservatives have been routinely skewed toward the interests of
America's wealthier citizens, with only secondary consideration at best
given to the less privileged, particularly the poor."
Of course, conservatism gone awry
is nothing new. In 1884, the anarchic,
anti-government, elitist tilt of conservatism was noted. "Conservative
and Liberal, as we ordinarily use the terms, are distinctions having
reference to a particular practical struggle, the gradual substitution of
government by the whole body of the people(Liberal) for government by
privileged classes.(Conservative)." The Tea Party passions are the rancid
emissions of class-based greed disguised with flags and Christian
symbols. They are reminiscent of a description of the British
Conservative movement of 1845 as "Organized Hypocrisy."
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