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Thu Jan 26, 2017, 05:10 PM

Remember when conservatives stood for slow, incremental change?

A new blog post I just published at DailyKos.

[font size=5]Remember when conservatives stood for slow, incremental change?[/font]

by markpkessinger



Remember when conservatives stood for, or at least claimed to stand for, slow, incremental, responsible change?

In recent conversations with a number of Trump voters, I have heard more than one person say that he or she voted for Trump because they (and presumably Trump) believe in “conservative values.’ Those who say they supported Trump because he represents 'conservative values' either don't understand what 'conservative values' has traditionally meant, or they are rank hypocrites. There is nothing at all conservative about Trump's nihilistic agenda. It is a radical agenda, and traditionally, it is radicalism, not liberalism, that has been the polar opposite of conservatism.

To take just one example from the past week: Trump's wholesale suspension of EPA admissions standards, and appointing an EPA director who is intent on abolishing the agency. Look, the EPA was not the invention of some lefty tree hugger clad in earth shoes. It was proposed in 1970 by none other than Richard Nixon, and passed in Congress with broad bipartisan support. And anybody old enough to remember what this country was like in the years prior to the EPA can tell you why. And it has, without question, vastly improved the air and water quality in this country.

Republicans have always been cautious about what they see as over-regulation, because, being the party of big business interests, such regulations impose additional costs on the business interests they have historically represented. But generally speaking, most Republicans of earlier generations could be persuaded to support regulation if it could be shown that such regulation was clearly in the public interest. Democrats, for their part, tended to place a higher priority on public health and safety (along with worker health and safety), and thus, it could be argued, were not always sensitive to the costs involved in proposed new regulations (although in most cases, it was because they placed a higher premium on public health and safety than on corporate profits). But they, too, were often willing to compromise if it was clearly shown that a proposed regulation would be unduly burdensome.

So that was how business was done back when our politics was still more or less functional: both sides recognized a problem that needed addressing, and then the struggle ensued over exactly how to address it. Makes sense.

But over the last 20 years or so -- it's hard to pinpoint, but I tend to think it began in the mid-90s, when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House -- this pattern began to shift. Or rather, I should say, one party, the GOP, began to embrace a new strategy, one in which they would no longer argue and negotiate with the opposition over the severity of an issue, or over the extent to which an issue needed to be addressed by legislative or regulatory action, but would instead simply deny outright that entire categories of issues even existed. For Republicans, it became no longer a question of balancing competing, but legitimate, interests; for rather about serving ONE set of interests while completely denying the legitimacy and/or the existence of any competing ones.

Actually, it occurs to me that the ideological underpinnings of this newer strategy lay in the virulent anti-government rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, even if it did not find its fullest expression during his presidency. Reagan’s “government is the problem” mantra was surely one of the most toxic ideas ever to enter this country’s public discourse. But irrespective of where, precisely, one dates this strategic shift by the GOP, it did occur, and was, I believe, a fundamental breakdown in the kind of good faith governance on the part of both parties that is essential to the functioning of the republic under a two-party system such as we have. Whether a party finds itself in the majority or in the minority at any given moment in history, the recognition that the opposition party’s constituency are also still citizens, with legitimate interests that may or may not prevail on a given issue, but must always be considered, remains incumbent upon both parties if the republic is to function.

And that brings us to this past week. Whereas in the past, one could expect a new regulatory standard from the EPA to encounter some serious push-back from Republicans on the grounds of the costs of compliance to certain industries, now they do an end run around all of that, and simply attempt to abolish, or at least neuter, the regulatory agency itself, in effect denying the very existence of the problem the agency was created to address. Debate over whether a regulation goes too far, or costs too much in relation to whatever public benefit might result—that's a healthy debate we should all welcome, because it is in no one's interest to cripple business or the larger economy, and if there truly is some sort of real risk to certain industries or the economy as a whole, that should certainly at least be debated and considered. And indeed, that is, ideally, the role conservatism is supposed to play in public discourse. And likewise, conservatives should welcome serious debate about the public health and safety issues at stake in the same debate, since it is also their health and safety that is potentially at risk. But when one side simply refuses to engage the issue, and instead denies that there even IS an issue, that is NOT healthy. And it most certainly is not conservative in any sense of the word. It is, in fact, the exact opposite of conservatism: it is radicalism. And it's fucking insane.

And that's what we are now seeing unfolding: sheer, fucking insanity by a bunch of neo-confederate nihilists, drunk on the power they now hold and newly enabled by the belligerent, overgrown adolescent narcissist who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, who are intent on rolling back every bit of progress this country has made in the last 100 years,

Trump and Republicans are playing with fire. I sense there is something in the air: people are simply not willing to sit back and allow this to happen. This is the stuff of which bloody revolutions are made, and if that prospect doesn't scare the bejesus out of you, you haven't read enough history. Because revolutions -- even perfectly justifiable ones -- fail far more often than they succeed, and when they fail, the aftermath can be even worse than what people rose up against. But, one way or another, the current situation cannot, and I believe will not, stand.

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Reply Remember when conservatives stood for slow, incremental change? (Original post)
markpkessinger Jan 2017 OP
elleng Jan 2017 #1
markpkessinger Jan 2017 #4
Bernardo de La Paz Jan 2017 #2
DFW Jan 2017 #3

Response to markpkessinger (Original post)

Thu Jan 26, 2017, 05:14 PM

1. 'holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation,

typically in relation to politics or religion.'

I've said for years today's repugs are NOTHING like conservative, they are radicals.

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Response to elleng (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 26, 2017, 08:19 PM

4. Exactly, elleng! n/t

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Response to markpkessinger (Original post)

Thu Jan 26, 2017, 05:16 PM

2. I also remember when they were not drunk with power and absolutely corrupted by it. . .nt

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Response to markpkessinger (Original post)

Thu Jan 26, 2017, 05:22 PM

3. You can't buy the rights to a word

"Conservative" means a cautious, measured approach to things in English. Think "Barack Obama."

In Republicanese, the "a" is not pronounced ("conserv'tive", and it means radical rightist. They can CALL themselves "conservative" all they want. It doesn't mean they ARE conservative any more than wading into the ocean makes them fish.

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