“Conservative: A statesman who is enamored with existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with other evils.” — Ambrose Bierce in The Devil’s Dictionary
I rail against liberals plenty, so today I’m going to set my sights on the other side of the aisle and say what most people already know deep down:
Most conservatives today are fake conservatives.
They don’t care about fair business.
They don’t care about balanced budgets.
They don’t care about shared freedom.
They aren’t actually pro-life.
They don’t care about family values.
They don’t care about the future.
Just so long as the red team wins and they get to shrink government until it magically ushers in a corporate-controlled libertarian paradise.
Which, of course, isn’t conservatism at all.
Calm yourselves, lefties
You’re the kind, warm-hearted, open-to-newness people, remember?
No need to get hopped up because someone’s having a civil discussion about a chunk of the political spectrum that you loathe to the core of your fair trade organic vegan knickers.
It’s important to start by pointing out what conservatism is not:
It’s not the Republican party.
It’s not the Tea Party or the Capitol Hill rioters.
It’s not Fox News, OAN, Breitbart, etc.
It’s not future president Donald Trump.
So don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
In other words, don’t act exactly like the people you hate.
The Core Principles of Conservatism
Conservatism, like all ideologies, is full of flaws. But perhaps no set of political values has been re-interpreted and lived out as poorly as by today’s Republicans:
Ironically, today’s conservatives conflate the word “freedom” with the word “autonomy.” The ancient Greeks and Romans defined freedom as the ability to do right in any circumstance, whereas Americans today simply think freedom means “do whatever I want, others be damned.”
Which is ironic, because Republicans are in favor of a massive military and are the ones that got Citizen’s United passed, which allows for unlimited campaign finance.
Which is ironic, because they’re also chaotic and anti-institutional, and can’t seem to find a way to reconcile this dichotomy within their ranks.
It’s quite sad that for many people, fiscal responsibility is more important than the responsibility we have to take care of each other. It’s also ironic, because there’s never been a fiscally-responsible Republican president. (After all, they’re the party of massive corporate socialism.)
Which is ironic, because rules-free markets are just black markets that always end in monopoly.
The Rule of Law
Which is ironic, because the judicial branch is not supposed to rule the roost — yet Republicans have stacked the bench and passed horrible pro-corporate decisions like Citizen’s United, sending anti-corporatists to prison, gerrymandering districts, and using it to rig elections.
Which is ironic, because they’re against sensible gun laws, raising wages, elevating workers’ rights, ending wars, or providing healthcare to all.
Which is ironic, because they’re one of the most homogenous (and racist) voting blocs in history.
As you can see, there probably isn’t a Trumper, Tea Partier, Fox News commentator, or QAnon believer who actually believes and lives out these flawed conservative values.
The Republican Party
… is a total disaster.
It’s filled with gun-toting preppers.
It’s filled with rabid anti-vaxxers.
It’s filled with delusional QAnoners.
It’s jam-packed with racists.
Most Republicans aren’t even pro-life — they’re just anti-abortion, but more than happy to carry a weapon, keep the nukes, send thousands of young people off to fight endless wars, and let tens of thousands die each year due to lack of medical coverage.
Most Republicans aren’t in favor of small government — if they were, they’d start with the military.
And let’s not pretend for a moment that most Republicans believe (or even understand) the rules-free-market or fiscal responsibility. No, the Republican party is bought-and-paid-for with corporate dollars, and contains an unfathomable number of monopoly defenders, corporate socialists, and billionaire sycophants.
Modern conservatism is, above all, just political corporatism.
That said: The Republican Party also contains millions of kind-hearted, hard-working, fair-minded, pro-science, utterly-sensible people who hate what their party has become, but rightly see the swamplike corruption on the other side and continue to vote for the devil they know.
If only there was another option…
Introducing Commons Conservatism
I know a number of people who aren’t extreme right or extreme left. There’s no political party for them, but they all tend to believe in a common set of progressive conservative-ish ideals:
We don’t need big government or small government, we need good government — filled with capable public servants who are transparent, accountable, and absolutely terrified of those they represent.
This means delivering services to customer-citizens in an effective and accountable manner. If we get taxed, we want to see an itemized receipt.
Commons conservatives are equally opposed to the tyranny of the centralized state (ie socialism/communism) and the corporatized state (ie multinational monopolies.) This is achieved not by eliminating regulation, or by authoritarianism, but by enacting democratically-decided fair rules for how the economy will run.
Yes, family matters. But not in the nuclear one-dad-one-mom-two-and-a-half-kids-white-picket-fence kind of way. No, we’re talking about the family unit we had for thousands and thousands of years; the one that included support for children, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Commons conservatives look at where our economy is heading and realize that a full-family structure is essentially inevitable when childcare, education, and eldercare costs become impossible for the middle class to pay. At the same time, they also believe in structuring society so that one-income families can thrive — which is more important than ever, now that single parenthood is at an all-time high.
They don’t conflate it with idiotic libertarian autonomy. Commons conservatives understand that we all share one freedom, and that the only sensible path forward is pluralism — that “people of different beliefs, backgrounds, and lifestyles can coexist in the same society and participate equally in the political process” — so long as no one party is able to tell everyone else what to do.
Commons conservatives still believe that abortion is murder, but they're willing to invest heavily in unwanted pregnancy prevention and step up to adopt babies from women willing to carry their infants to full-term. They’re also 360-degree pro-life: In favor of sensible gun laws, against war, anti-nuke, anti-drone, anti-robot soldiers, anti-chemical weapon, and in favor of ending any corporate practice that harms nature and sickens people.
Sensible Land Stewardship
It’s hard to believe, but the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act all came to life under Nixon. Without clean land, air, and water, we literally have no future. Millions of commons conservatives — especially farmers, ranchers, hunters, and fishermen — fundamentally understand that sustainability is an economic, social, and scientific imperative. Nature doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.
Safety and Security
We don’t need to be “tough on crime”… we need to build a society where crime is unnecessary. This means investing heavily in crime prevention, systemic poverty elimination, and restorative justice.
Commons conservatives believe we are only as safe as our most dangerous neighborhood, only as wise as our least-educated classroom, and only as rich as our poorest neighbor.
Fake conservatism is dead
American Republicans and British Conservatives live under the delusion that their brand of fake conservatism is the future.
They’re out of their mind.
The majority of the younger generations, specifically Gen Z and Gen Alpha, cannot fathom voting for the rabid corporatists and mentally-deranged hyper-right-wingers who currently control right-leaning parties.
If commons conservatives don’t rise up and lead their half of the spectrum back to reasonable ground, extremists within the party will almost certainly seize total control and do whatever they need to do (legally or otherwise) to take over America and turn it into a fascist dictatorship.
And isn’t that the ultimate betrayal of conservative values?
It’s time for commons conservatives to do the right thing and break up with the Republican party. America is well-overdue to become a multi-party nation anyway.
And when commons conservatives grow a backbone and do the right thing, they might discover they have some friends across the aisle.
After all, most modern “liberals” are fake liberals, too.