Dysconservatism

From Why Republicans Suck
Jump to: navigation, search

Chapters: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

The one core principle which might have saved Republicanism, had they honored it, is conservatism: the idea of being cautious in the face of change, of conserving one's resources and institutions against the forces that try to destroy them – but modern Republicanism has betrayed nearly everything that is implied by the label "conservative".

Let's look at that word for a minute. When it's not referring specifically to a political party or religious entity[1], here is what the dictionary says about "conservatism".

  • The first three definitions from dictionary.com:
    1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
    2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
    3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: a conservative suit
  • The two lowercase brief definitions from Merriam-Webster (m-w.com):
    1. believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society : relating to or supporting political conservatism
    2. not liking or accepting changes or new ideas

Merriam-Webster's "full definition" punts a bit and defines it as "of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism". It defines "conservatism" first as "not liking or accepting changes or new ideas" and "a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change", but then specifies this as:

specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)

This is more or less in line with the modern political philosophy which calls itself "conservatism".

Definitions from the 1969 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (hardback edition, edited by William Morris), however, say nothing about taxes, government regulation, business, defense, or financial responsibility. Omitting only the capital-C definitions, the full text is:

  • con-ser-va-tism n. 1. The disposition in politics or culture to maintain the existing order and to resist or oppose change or innovation. 2. The principles and practices of persons or groups so disposed. [...]
  • con-ser-va-tive adj. 1. Tending to favor the preservation of the existing order and to regard proposals for change with distrust. [...] 4. Moderate or prudent; cautious; a conservative estimate. 5. Traditional in manner or style; not showy; a conservative suit. [...]

So, in summary:

  1. preservation of the existing order
  2. opposing change or innovation
  3. moderate or prudent; cautious
  4. traditional

On none of these points does the modern political philosophy calling itself "conservatism" succeed.

It has worked to erode long-existing establishments essential to the preservation of the existing order. It has supported change -- especially destructive change -- in the name of "progress" and "profit". It has been profligate in its pursuit of war and in its disregard for prudent measures necessary to maintain a functional economy. It has violated the American traditions of democracy, fairness, tolerance, diversity, justice, and the rule of law.

In short, it is absolutely the opposite of everything a naive reader might assume "conservatism" to mean; at best, it has become completely dysfunctional at serving the interests of those who prefer a conservative approach to government; at worst, it does them a complete disservice.

For those reasons, I will be referring to the political philosophy of today's Republican Party -- a philosophy which brands itself as everything from libertarian to puritannical, but maintains no principles except that of self-promotion -- as "dysconservatism".

Footnotes

  1. I'll refer to these as the "capital-C definitions". Where they come up, the views of the parties or sects in question are not described, so those definitions are of little use in this discussion.