I’m jealous of my liberal friends. I’m jealous because they seem to have a corner on the compassion market. Their political representatives champion the poor, minorities, and marginalized, while mine seem intent on invoking Reaganomics and the importance of a balanced budget. Although the economy is fundamentally important, the rhetorical superiority of the liberals should be evident. (Rhetoric 101: When you want to create a following, you should not turn to your accountants for most of the speech material.) It may well be that a more conservative fiscal and economic policy will end up benefiting the most people, but the people, not the policies, should be the focus. As I have written, I tend to believe that conservative principles will ultimately be more beneficial than liberal policies (although I think there are exceptions); however, I find liberal rhetoric much more compelling–it feels more altruistic and mission-driven: Let’s make this a truly equitable country! While equality is not an infallible ideal, it is a powerful rallying cry.
The Republican Party (along with conservatism in general) is the party of abolitionism, women’s suffrage, and school desegregation; of Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, and Brown v. Board of Education, but it is no longer seen as the party of equality–the Democrats have taken that place. No, the GOP is the party of laissez-faire government and traditional family values, and these are increasingly viewed as contradictory to equality. I do not think this view is entirely accurate, but I believe that unless this image changes, the Republican Party (should it survive Trump’s candidacy) is doomed. As members of the rising generation become more politically active and powerful, they are likely to bring their idealism and desire to do good with them to the polls. They are already turning down higher-earning jobs for jobs with values and a lifestyle that match their own; they will do the same with political choices–they already are, and they are fleeing the GOP.
Surely part of this leftward movement is due to the caricatured representation of Republicans as self-interested bigots. Although only the most antagonistic of Democrats would claim that every Republican is selfish and bigoted, the GOP as a whole is increasingly viewed as the party of rich white men and poor white racists. There is some truth in every caricature, but the artist also intentionally misrepresents reality. Where this is true of the GOP, it must be rooted out. Where it is inaccurate, Republicans themselves must prove it wrong.
They must prove that conservatism is not antithetical to equity and do-goodism. Indeed, I believe the most important PR work conservatives can do is to demonstrate that conservative principles are inspired by a deep concern for the underdog and will result in a more equitable system. Selflessness, not just security, will vitalize voters. Compassion, not just capital gains, will motivate millennials.
11 thoughts on “Why I’m Jealous of Liberals, and What Conservatives Can Do About It”
That doesn’t work. Ask McCain, or Romney, or Cruz. Americans want a clear choice that ISN’T Liberal crap, not some watered down version of it.
And yes, I lot of us – pretty much every single right-thinking and sane American – is “racist.” This is because that word has been redefined so as to ensure that non-Whites gets special privileges and protections at the expense of Whites and it is all predicated upon ensuring an equality of result despite both an inequality of input and those Blacks having built for themselves a culture that is diametrically opposed to America.
Oh my. Your first paragraph definitely raised my eyebrows — I’m not sure Americans as a whole want you to speak for them.
But I find your second paragraph quite disturbing. I don’t agree with a single bit of it.
Unfortunately, conservatism by definition amounts to the defense of monarchy, inequality, and social hierarchy. Conservatives will never be able to claim compassion, because compassion is antithetical to the conservative project…
It always has been.
Great post. I have found it very strange in this year’s politics, where more than ever I’m divided between parties. I can’t find one that feels truly compassionate. How can one possibly choose between a party that wants to persecute the unChristian and a party that wants to persecute the unborn?
I’m glad you liked it. Let’s hope for the best (whatever that may be) in this upcoming election!
While reading this, it occurred to me that I only have vague notions of what conservatism and liberalism are. I glanced at the wikipedia article on conservatism, and it looks like there isn’t a single clear definition. Is seems like the terms conservative and liberal change meaning depending on the specific nation they are being applied to. This could be fodder for a future post…
Also, it occurred to me that I am unaware of many genuine attempts to validate principles of government. How do we know that conservative principles or liberal principles are better at helping the poor? Or better for the economy in general? It seems like there should be trade-offs between these and other perspectives, but these trade-offs are not honestly discussed in the limited political media I consume.
Ryan, I totally agree. I don’t know if truly validating principles of government is feasible due to the immense scale, but I think it is worth pursuing. Also, I would love to see more honest discussion of the pros and cons of various policies instead of the simplistic rhetoric that implies that one’s own opinion is infallible and the opposition is ignorant/uncaring.
Found one conservative political theorist’s definition of conservative principles: http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/detail/ten-conservative-principles/
This is from the 1950s, so I’m not sure if conservatives today would agree with everything he says. For example, his 5th principle is “conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety”. By this he means that conservatives value diversity in society. He states, “For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality.” Do conservatives today really believe that economic inequality is desirable? If they do, conservative politicians probably shouldn’t include that in their pitch for why people should vote for them.
I hadn’t heard of Russel Kirk before now, but he seems to have had a lot of interesting things to say. In my quick read-through, he seems to situate conservatism in opposition to communism (not explicitly, but that seems to be what he is addressing). I’m intrigued by the idea that we shouldn’t necessarily strive for a perfect (i.e. perfectly equal) society–indeed that doing so will eventually result in new forms of inequality.
Perhaps you don’t need to be either conservative or liberal. Don’t they say most Americans are somewhere in the middle? You could align with conservatives on certain topics and align with liberals on other topics. If you don’t feel the need to be identified as one or the other, then problem solved! : )
I do know from personal experience that you can switch your party easily, and as often as you like — especially if neither one lines up perfectly with your own personal beliefs. I’ve voted in 6 presidential elections since I became old enough to vote (this year will be #7). Three of those times I voted for the democratic candidate, and 3 times for the republican.
I’d be curious to know at what date the republican party was most recently considered more compassionate in its views and teachings than the democrats. I don’t remember it happening in my lifetime. If we have to go back 50 years or more to find a compassionate republican political platform, does that mean it will take another 50 years to get there again?
Hey Gabby! Thanks for your comments. I know that I do not totally align with either party, and like you, I have identified with different parties over time. One related question I’ve been mulling over is, Why is the GOP associated with conservatism and why is the Democratic party associated with liberalism? We conflate party and place on political spectrum. Although there is some sense in this, I can imagine a system in which is would be more common to find progressive republicans and conservative democrats.