Smile Politely

Debunking crackpot conservatism

Words become charged with meaning outside the bounds of their dictionary definition. A century ago, if one was a liberal, it meant backing hands-off policies regarding corporations ― a view which has become a core conservative tenet today.

As a fiscally conservative, socially liberal former Republican ticket voter I have a painful personal acquaintance with the various flavors of crackpot thinking that have infested the Republican party. Strong words, but I think warranted, given the gravity of the debt ceiling negotiations. The GOP can just barely lay claim to the role of loyal opposition, which has always been a vital duty for the minority party in our system.

First, some words about the debt ceiling. This was raised seventeen times during Reagan’s presidency and seven times during George W. Bush’s presidency. They are Republicans, while Barack Obama is a Democrat. What more do you need to know about this matter?

A sensible conservative view is that we ought to dramatically reduce, but not eliminate, our national debt. Cutting the foolish Bush era tax cuts, which have accomplished nothing but fostering speculation rather than investment, would be half a solution, and ending two wars that grind on without any clear foreign policy goal would be the other needed step.

The reduction in debt is a worthy goal, with a universally defensible lower bound being an amount of U.S. Treasury bills required to serve as a buffer for global trade. People hold our national debt because it’s backed by the full faith and credit of the last superpower standing after the cold war.

The loony libertarian wing of the Republican party, taken with the mythology of Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, would argue that we should completely eliminate taxes, yet they expect we’ll continue to defend our borders. They imagine us dominating world trade even though they support the current foolhardy brinkmanship that would end the dollar’s role as a reserve currency. This is never explicitly argued, of course, but ask a question about where tax revenues will come from, then ask about defense, and witness the unbridgeable chasm between the two positions.

This slavish devotion to Social Security and Medicare recipient Ayn Rand puzzles me. The Libertarian viewpoint is an ideological one, a source of interesting talking points, a guide to how we might maintain a government that involves itself less, rather than more, in our lives. Attempting to implement the whole body of theory is as poor a plan as the Soviet Union attempting communism on a national scale, and pursuing it will bring America to the same crashing end the U.S.S.R. experienced two decades ago.

Yet at every turn we face this foolishness, funded by the billionaire brats Charles and David Koch. When not purchasing politicians that back laws protecting their wealth above all else, they’re huddled somewhere with corrupt governors and state legislators figuring out how to make sure the rest of us won’t be able to make a living.

Hand in hand with economic theories that mysteriously benefit only the ultra-rich we find the conservative Christian right. One fifth of our populace wish to conserve our heritage of religious freedom by selectively editing our history until the idea that America was founded on biblical principles seems to be plausible. Now would be a fine time to revisit Article 11 of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, which was read and approved by the United States Senate.

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,-and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

That the United States is a secular political entity ought to require no more than a quick read of the Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, which states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The presence of this quite famous article in a key treaty is a pointed application of that principle, applied to international relations.

Enter the Christian crackpots ― the racist Christian Identity heretics, and worst of all the disloyal Seven Mountains Dominionists, leaning on fanciful theories from “historian” David Barton. This group believes that some conspiracy ejected Christianity from its rightful role in controlling our society, and they’re going to reclaim the Seven Mountains: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion. 

Anyone who has read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich ought to be paying very close attention at this point. What they seek is a totalitarian religious state, just a few clicks past the Islamic Republic of Iran in terms of the control they’ll have over your life.

So there you have it ― two radical, anti-American ideologies, clinging to the word “conservative” when they’re conserving nothing but their own power, and poised to steal your religious and economic freedom. Haven’t you had enough of this tomfoolery?

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