The Sideshow Annex

Organizing Principles

by Avedon Carol

All you need to know about conservatives

Well, of course, I've been saying this for pretty much the life of this weblog - what they're about isn't fiscal conservatism, it isn't individual freedom, it isn't strict Constitutionalism, it isn't even maintaining the structure, mores and folkways and ethic of America from its inception. It's just their hatred of us. However, although it's been obvious for a long time, I hadn't realized anyone had said it way back in the '80s, but John Dean now puts me straight in "What Is Conservatism?"
Sidney Blumenthal, then a staff writer at The Washington Post, concluded in his 1986 book, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment: From Conservative Ideology to Political Power, that "conservatism requires liberalism for its meaning." For "without the enemy [of liberalism] to serve as nemesis and model, conservative politics would lack its organizing principle."

The ensuing decades, it seems, have only proved Blumenthal more right. Talk radio could barely exist without its endless bloviating about, and bashing of, all things perceived "liberal." And distaste for all that is considered liberal has remained a constant theme of conservatives. Ironically, this aversion persists even though many conservative believe that its object is dead. For example, in 1998, Newt Gingrich flatly stated, "The age of liberalism is over."

Nevertheless, condemnation of the liberal bogyman continues to unite conservatives of all stripes. Consider recent, bestselling conservative titles by Ann Coulter's work: Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (2002), Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror (2003), and currently How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Realizing what all conservatives are against, and what appears to hold them together, however, is not much of a definition of what they affirmatively believe in. We know what they all hate - but what, if anything, do they all love?

What they love is their hatred of liberals and liberalism. And hating liberalism is hating America. Make no mistake about this: the foundation of America is liberalism. Our form of government, from the very beginning, is liberal democracy. And, while they talk about how they love America while liberals do not, and how it is conservatives who adhere strictly to the Constitution, it is also abundantly clear that when they are given an opportunity to prove such things, they do the reverse.

Even professed libertarians, for the most part, keep hating liberalism closer to the heart of their beliefs than they keep libertarianism itself. How else to explain their willingness to call themselves conservatives rather than liberals, and to support Republicans rather than Democrats, even when conservatives/Republicans are clearly embarked on projects that directly conflict with libertarian principles? Identification with conservatism and support of Republicans is about no other principle than the hatred of liberals. It isn't even necessarily liberalism they hate (although they clearly despise any token or talisman that is associated with liberalism), since most of the libertarian program is itself primarily liberal. Yet they refuse to see themselves as part of liberalism, even when the only people who do not oppose them (on, say, drug laws) are liberals. Despite every evidence that the biggest and most oppressive programs come from conservative Republicans, they insist on identifying with the right wing.

How do they love America? They say they do, and that we don't, but how do they show it? By telling us that in order to love our country, in order to show our support for the Land of the Free, we must sacrifice our Constitutional freedoms. It is precisely our Constitutional freedoms that have historically made America the envy of the world, that gave us our strength. Yet look how eagerly they slash and burn them to "protect America".

In the aftermath of 9/11, all the while insisting that, "They hate us because they hate our freedoms," our conservative leaders made common cause with dictatorships (Pakistan!) and declared France to be our enemy. France!

What makes it so easy to hate France, and any other nation that shows every sign of being a liberal democracy, is that they've got liberal democracy. In the parlance of conservatives, any government that shows a concern for the welfare of its people is practically a communist state. But, wait:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
And that, my friends, is the organizing principle of liberalism. The "general Welfare" and "the Blessings of Liberty" are meant to be the goal of the United States of America - it says so in the very first sentence of the Constitution. It is the obligation of the government to "secure" these things for us.

But France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have "socialized medicine", so they are obviously indistinguishable from Stalinism, to hear conservatives tell it. That's why it was so easy for conservatives to start accusing Bill and Hillary Clinton of being communists when they campaigned for "Hillarycare". Although they sometimes claimed to despise this program because it was supposedly complicated or bureaucratic, the truth is that they opposed it precisely because it might actually work. The same reason they despise Social Security, which clearly does work. Because such programs promote the general welfare.

This is why conservatives must lie about what they are doing. They are trying to destroy Social Security while claiming they mean to save it. They have to lie, because no one with any sense, or any concern for our nation, would want them to succeed at destroying it. They make up reasons why any proposed national health insurance plan would fail, because they do not want one to succeed. They claim they want to stop abortion "to save lives" while instituting programs that are known to increase the likelihood of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. They empty our treasury and cut taxes to the rich while claiming to "improve" our economy. They construct a program of theocracy while claiming it's in aid of "freedom of religion". They claim to be "Constitutional constructionists" while stripping the Constitution of any meaning. They even restrict our travel and threaten to remove our citizenship for political reasons while claiming to "protect our freedoms".

Oh, they hate America, there's no question of that. The only question is why liberals hesitate to say so.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, 18 December 2004

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