Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Are We Conserving?

On National Review Online's The Corner I found this recent recording of Robert Bork, appearing on Mark Levin's radio show. I've always had a lot of respect for Judge Bork, and I've heard all of the buzz about both McCain and Huckabee not being "true conservatives," so I listened to the five or so minute recording hoping to hear some intelligent and substantive analysis of what I've started to think of as "the conservative question."

Boy, was I disappointed. And underwhelmed. I wish there were a transcript of the audio available, but if you can't stand to listen to the whole thing, I can sum it up for you here:

In the definition of conservative, the "social conservative" issues aren't nearly enough, apparently, to confer conservative creds. If "conservative" were a job posting on monster.com, then being pro-life, pro-family, opposed to gay marriage, opposed to euthanasia and the like would be listed under the "desired qualifications" heading as "nice to have, but not necessary for this job" according to the interpretations of Levin and Bork (and, I'm afraid, others like them). What's really important, what really makes you conservative, are the following things:

  1. Support for any and all tax cuts, regardless of government spending or the amount of the deficit.
  2. Refusal to raise anybody's taxes, anytime, anywhere, for any reason. Until the baby boomers start retiring en masse, of course, and Social Security tanks. But we're not done yet pretending that's never gonna happen.
  3. Refusal to work with Democrats to accomplish anything, ever, because "bipartisan" is apparently some foreign term for "the bad guys get all the credit."
  4. Refusal to make it easier for judges to be appointed, because of course all future Presidents will be Republican so there's no need to worry that making judicial appointments easier will come back to haunt us during a Democrat administration.
  5. Possession of strong "administrative skills." This is never defined, so why do I get the notion that practice administering your own trust fund factors in?
  6. Refusal to entertain any notion of amnesty for illegal immigrants, at least not unless GWB is the one proposing it, in which case you are to insist, loudly, that it's not amnesty no matter how much the proposal looks, walks, and talks like amnesty; but of course, you are also to refuse to talk about border fences or sending people back, because you might upset your corporate sponsors.
  7. Refusal to engage in "demagoguery" which is defined as bashing corporations.
  8. Disdain for "people feeling sorry for themselves" which is, it is implied, the only reason why anybody would be upset with our current economy, given how wonderfully our corporate masters have treated us (and if you didn't put half of your salary back into the stock market out of a selfish desire to feed your kids and let your wife stay home to raise them, it's your own expletive deleted fault, so quit whining. You could have every bit as much money as the CEO of your company, or even Rush Limbaugh, if you didn't mind discarding a wife every decade or so and seeing your kids at the airport on your way to Cancun. It is, after all, the conservative way.)
Okay, that last one gets a touch snarky. But just how out of touch are these people?

It takes two incomes today for a family of four to get by; those of us who are countercultural enough to give up the second income and are blessed with more than two children face real economic disadvantages, because contrary to the beliefs of Republican leadership there are people who generally vote Republican who don't (gasp, faint in horror) own any stock. Or land. Or other capital. Or have any expectations to inherit same.

For a man working a corporate job for all the income he'll ever have, self-sufficiency or even self-improvement may remain a distant dream in this world of 24/7 on call expectations. Taking a career-oriented class or developing a potentially lucrative hobby are luxuries for far too many American husbands and fathers; by the time they meet the demands of their jobs and spend a tiny bit of time with their families there's no time or money left to pursue such things. It's not laziness or "feeling sorry for themselves" that prompts these men to remain in dead-end jobs for barely sufficient pay with no end in sight; it's the fact that they have no other options, and that even the job they hate could be sent tomorrow to a call center in India or a plant in Mexico, leaving them, at middle age and the sole support of their families, with no financial resources and no choice other than to embrace a shaky future career at Walmart or in food services.

I recognize, of course, the arguments in favor of capitalism and free trade, though I don't make the mistake of confusing the former with the latter. The reality is that the kind of conservatism that Bork and Levin are defining is a conservatism that always puts the desires of Wall Street ahead of the needs of Mr. and Mrs. Middle-Class America, and that permits multinational companies with no ties or loyalty to America to set our economic policies in ways that allow them to make disproportionately large profits using the labor and resources of this nation, but that also permit them to put nothing back into the community, not even a share of federal taxes that is equal in percentage to what one of their own workers pays. Right now, these corporations, having participated in the weakening of the American dollar, are eagerly courting foreign investors, and the day may come when "conservatives" may drop all pretense of caring more for our nation than for the bottom line--if that day isn't already here.

By the definition of "conservatism" that's been floating around these past few weeks, I guess some of the Republican candidates really are more "conservative" than others. The problem for me, and for voters like me, is that all these "conservative" candidates appear to want to conserve is the status quo.


Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Another great one! You're so right!

freddy said...

Excellent! And very well said. Future generations will look at our definitions of liberal and conservative and see very little difference in the end. They will point out that the Emperor is, in fact, naked.

Stina said...

Thank you. I was starting to feel like I was losing it by not being able to keep track of who and what everyone was calling "conservative."