The other day, a dear colleague of mine noted that I was a conservative. I was dumbfounded. I don’t consider myself one. Why? Because the term doesn’t mean to me what it means to the public at large. The term carries the stigma of Christian principled, stuffy rich white guy. That isn’t me. I guess I’m white. But none of the rest. If you wish to label me, go with Classical Liberal, or Libertarian. And I insist on a Capital L. But it got me thinking.
Those of us fixed with a political philosophy grounded on a Constitutional Republic have the same public image: Christian principled, stuffy rich white guys. We even get charged with racism or uncaring for the needy and poor. Granted, we all have stereotypes for political philosophies but I don’t care for the one labeled on mine. And what I care less for are the politicians who feel the need to mold into it. I am certain there are more atheists or non-Christians in government but are afraid to say so. I don’t believe for a minute every conservative is against homosexual marriage. I don’t buy that every Republican pines for the days of Ronald Reagan or feels the only sex education young adults should get is abstinence. But it’s so expected to come out of their mouths that when I hear it, I cringe. I think, Damn, someone will think that of me. Damn, someone does think that of me!
The Republican Party is showing signs of crumbling under the weight of its own unintelligible platform. For years they’ve compromised and catered to the above noted stereotype and now we are at great risk of losing any hope of returning to a Constitutional Republic. I remain a member of the Libertarian Party because it’s the only party that never compromises on the issue of small government. And the stuffy white guy stereotype isn’t with that party. The reason there’s a Libertarian Party at all (or any other third party of smaller government) is because Republicans have alienated so many. And worst of all, moved so far away from what they claim to want. But with the likes of the Paul family sticking with them and the fact that there is a Republican Liberty Caucus, it is clear there is a Libertarian entrenchment within. With that noted, all that needs to take place is strengthening that wing, letting it spread about the entire bird. Returning to small government has a better chance with the only party big enough to stand up to New Liberals.
I don’t argue with Democrats or New Liberals any more. Why? Glad you asked. I don’t argue with them any more than a gynecologist argues with a Stork-Theorist about where babies come from. (Thank you Dr. Dawkins for such a reference). They have made their choices: Without government, they can’t do anything. At this point, it’s energy wasted to hash it out over a computer screen with them. It is, however, a better alternative to use my energy to keep the Republican Party on track and in line with their stated principles. It’s like this, a mother will scold her own child for two reasons: 1) So the mother doesn’t look bad; 2) So the child doesn’t turn into an asshole.
If I’m going to be associated with conservatives whether I like it or not, then I must assist in changing what it means. I have to insist that you don’t have to be stuffy or Christian or white to be in favor of small government or a member of the Republican Party. And, quite frankly, if you’re a “conservative candidate” catering to the stereotype, you’re doing it wrong. There never was a time in our country’s history like you pine for. So let’s do this. Let’s dispel some myths trumpeted by conservative candidates and politicians. Let’s talk about them Good ole’ days conservatives pay lip service to. Time for some house cleaning because the Republican Party is better than that and needs to be scolded.
Oh the Good ole’ days. We need to get back to a time of simplicity. A time when women were women and men were men. When kids obeyed their parents. When the churches were full come Sundays. A time when people said “please” and “thank you”. There was a day when the police officer never drew his pistol, only a whistle to assist kids across the street. A time when families were strong, unbreakable. When drugs weren’t rampant. A time…
…that never existed.
After finishing The Good News Club by Katherine Stewart (review here), I was left with how it’s not only Christian apologists who get American history wrong. It’s everyone else who saw Leave It To Beaver after it aired and thought, “Wow, how things used to be. Wish we could go back.” There’s a notion among conservatives that once upon a time, Dad earned a decent wage and came home to dinner and a news paper while mom took care of the house, made sure the kids were off to and back from school and that that news paper was on the end table, waiting for Dad. Girls wore dresses, boys wore ties. Not always. Well maybe the dresses part, up until 1960 something or other. But…
…back in the Beaver 50s,
Domestic violence was just as common as today. Just less reported. It was expected that the man would keep his woman in line. Women had a larger problem with alcohol and tranquilizer abuse considering what they were required to do – Be superwomen but not be super. There were more unwed pregnancies than now. And marriages didn’t last as long as we think. Funny how the entertainment industry that conservatives point fingers at for ruining the family helped promulgate the myth in the first place. *
…further back to the 1800s, before television,
In these years, the nuclear bread-winning father, child-rearing mother appeared for the first time but the husband and wife weren’t even close to Ward and June Cleaver. No, separate spheres dominated male/female realms, leaving many women to have the most intimate relationship with…wait for it…other women. (Must I point out that the fathers of western civilization, the Greeks, reserved women for child bearing and male-on-male physical contact for pleasure?) Conservatives lashing out against homosexual relationships have no foundation in history. Unless you use the Bible.
…on to those “Christian roots” that never were.
Sure, many came to America to escape religious persecution. But the Puritans and like minds weren’t the Founding Fathers. No, the Founding Fathers were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, et al. These men wrote the founding documents but failed to include the name of Jesus. Strange for a government supposedly based on Christianity. The name “God” appears but not Yahweh. Not any other form indicating “God” from the Old or New Testament. Looking at the lives of these men they were more so deists, than conforming to any sect.
Evidence exists that this is so: Thomas Jefferson rewrote the New Testament, removing all references to the divinity of Jesus. George Washington refused communion. In fact, when asked about Washington’s religious beliefs after he had died, the Rev. Dr. James Abercrombie remarked, “…Washington was a Deist.” Other famous deists were Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. While Dr. Franklin preferred to take no quarrel with Christianity, Mr. Paine had no problem ridiculing it, taking up the task in his work, The Age of Reason. Finally, the most obvious thwart to the argument that America was based on Christianity comes from our second president himself, John Adams. In the Treaty of Tripoli, that which ended the Barbary Wars for a time, it is written (with President Adam’s signature), “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”
Late 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote to then president, Thomas Jefferson. Their complaint was that the State government of Connecticut was based on Congregationalism and they wished to see it not interfere with their practice. President Jefferson wrote back, indicating that Wall of Separation between government and religion that is so familiar that some think it’s the text of the First Amendment. In this letter to the Danbury Baptists, Mr. Jefferson noted that federally, such a wall existed. He wished the States would do the same.
There never was a time like that of Leave It To Beaver. There never was a time of simple and happy and pleasant family life. There has never been a model of “family” that worked for all ages. “Family” has changed and adapted with the times. And since there’s no golden age to return to, stop saying we have to get back to it. Drop the holier-than-thou attitude. You can be a Republican or just call yourself a conservative without camping out with the Religious Right. By all means if you wish to pursue a religion, fine. But do it for yourself. Don’t govern from the Bible and claim it’s tradition. It’s not.
The only tradition worth fighting for is individual pursuits of life, liberty and happiness. That is what the Republican Party should be fostering, not entangling alliances with groups promoting false histories. The Republican Party should be spending more of its time acting like Rand Paul (who isn’t entirely an angel here but I already addressed that). They should spend more time listening to the Liberty Caucus within itself. I am not the first person to try to whip the Republican Party into shape. Over a decade ago, David Horowitz wrote, The Art of Political War where he called upon the Republican Party to start acting like the party of smaller government. Perhaps members need to read that book again. Or most, for the first time.
The term, “conservative”, really should mean one who wishes to remain the most confined to the Constitution. The elements shown above to be more legendary than real, should be removed from it. If we can, then by all means, start referring to me as a conservative again. Until then, I’m sticking with the Capital L.
* I can not recommend enough to read The Way We Never Were, by Stephanie Coontz if you wish for a detailed analysis on the history of families. And if you wish to know more about how poor living conditions were long ago, and how much better we have it today, I recommend The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible! by Otto Bettmann.