An Evolution Conservatives Cannot Deny
My alma mater, The University of Georgia, had a problem in 2011. Its mascot was going extinct. The English Bulldog, once an active and aggressive sporting dog, had spent the last century getting fatter and lazier as breeders’ efforts to meet kennel club standards exacerbated the dog’s health problems. Both kennel clubs and consumers alike valued the look of the dog’s short, smooshed snout, which is commonly the root of breathing problems and other related physical ailments. Making matters worse, UGA compounded a genetic problem by insisting on replacing each of its eight fallen mascots since 1956 with an all-white, full-blooded male heir to the doghouse. This hyper-selective breeding of the famous bulldog mascot resulted in the premature deaths of two dogs in two years.
To address the problem, the school departed from tradition. The current canine representative for the University has some brown markings and is the half-brother of his predecessor. Fortunately, most of the southern school’s supporters seem to have accepted this instance of chromatic integration with less resistance than in times past.
Not unlike UGA’s recent biological dilemma, the laws of political evolution are dictating a similar fate of extinction to America’s political conservatives, who are ironically lacking in their own collective pigmentation. The last two Presidential elections along with a Census Bureau forecast that predicts whites will be a minority by 2043 are evidence that modern conservatism’s days are numbered. However, do not be fooled by the new rhetoric of right-wing politicians who simply seek to add minorities to the fold. The demographic homogeneity of conservatives, and by extension, the Republican Party, is not the direct cause of their devolution. Instead, the imminent cause of death is a shallow gene pool of inbred ideas recycled by prominent peddlers of faulty logic, an extremist faction, and one bitter, lonely media outlet.
The guard dogs of morality.
Perhaps no one represents the perilous backwardness of conservatism more than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His position makes him one of the most influential conservatives in the country. He is a true handpicked disciple of conservatism’s demigod, Ronald Reagan. From the bench, Scalia has long been an outspoken defender of the right’s values, but the security afforded to him by his lifetime appointment has recently led to a humiliating unraveling of conservative thought.
Scalia’s well-publicized comments that compared the illegality of homosexuality to murder are more of an affront to basic logic than a particular lifestyle. And it is specifically this fallacious thinking that comprises social conservatism’s hamartia, the fatal flaw on which stands an intellectual house of cards.
Here is a synopsis of Scalia’s argument from the Associated Press:
Scalia was asked by a gay student why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder.
“I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective,” Scalia said, adding that legislative bodies can ban what they believe to be immoral. …
“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”
Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both.
The honorable judge’s headfirst swan dive into the empty pool of absurdity illustrates how conservatives attempt to justify the legislation of their own self-righteous morality. The judge and others who believe similarly fail to respect the single most important principal of America’s golden theory of governance: laws exist only to protect against the infringement of citizens’ inalienable and Constitutional rights, not to dictate to the people what is morally right and wrong. While murder may be wrong, or immoral (as Scalia so insightfully explained) that is not why it is illegal. It is illegal because it deprives another person of his or her right to live.
Popular conservative legislative proposals that dictate “family values” according to one group’s morality are not made in an effort to protect people from a violation of their rights; instead, they are blatant attempts to destroy the innocuous pursuit of a different happiness.
If conservative leaders like Scalia, Santorum, and Bachman are all so badly mistaken in their fundamental philosophy of governing, how can the conservatives survive? The simple answer is they won’t. They cannot afford to lose the immense voting power of the evangelical social conservatives, but they also cannot afford to associate themselves with the ignorance that inherently comes with that bloc. Scalia’s recent comments are more than an ugly crack in the conservative armor; they are the undoing of a vital conservative paradigm.
The tail wagging the dog.
2010 was a banner year for the Tea Party. America’s most vociferous conservatives won back the House for the Republicans in dramatic fashion. But shortly after, the Tea Party began its work to destroy any chance the GOP might have at winning the White House. Each Republican Presidential candidate, save Ron Paul, chose to move further and further right in order to satisfy the tax-hating, small-government-loving Tea Partiers. The ultimate result of the faction’s influence was the re-election of what they deem to be a liberal socialist—not exactly a win for conservatism.
Moderate conservatives seem to have sold their political souls for the victories they won in 2010, and now their entire side of the political spectrum is dominated by a relative handful of ideologues and the specter of an uncompromising tax pledge. In today’s contentious political climate, any conservative who dares to break with far right is quickly disowned. This with-us-or-against-us behavior is killing conservatism from within, and the policies (steeped in rigidity) for which the Tea Party advocates just aren’t fit for America’s two-party system.
The limitation of pack mentality.
Conservatives love to gripe about the under-representation of their views in the mainstream media. The existence of only one major television media outlet dedicated to their cause seems to incite a petty jealousy worthy of far less energy than they constantly ascribe to it. What these staunch believers in capitalism will never acknowledge is that their beloved “invisible hand of the market” has made things this way. There are plenty of uber-rich conservatives with the means to buy television networks and make them representative of the political right, but they don’t—probably because they know an inferior product is a bad investment.
As the only game in town, Fox News has the de facto loyalty of most conservative Americans. However, being the lone source of conservative political punditry has severe drawbacks for Fox nation. Every other media outlet may indeed carry a liberal bias, but each of these carries a different degree of that favoritism. MSNBC is certainly nowhere near CNN on the bias spectrum. Mainstream media outlets also have different agendas according to the producers and media moguls behind the scenes. Different shades of liberal media give the political left a distinct advantage; the diversity of thought and opinion in the liberal media allows pundits, politicians, and citizens to engage in intra-party debate. This debate produces the kind of political compromise and intelligent policy that is necessary for success in a democracy.
Fox News has very little debate regarding conservative politics. There is debate on the network, but only with the liberal agenda. Fox promotes the us-against-them mentality, which leads conservatives to passively accept the right’s stale ideology and focus solely on the demonization of the enemy. It is a profitable strategy for the network because creating a common enemy is extremely effective at fostering loyalty, but the strategy is disastrous for the declining health of conservatism.
The new breed.
There are some good redeeming qualities of conservatism. An insistence on fiscal responsibility is critical for a country with such economic woes, and there always needs to be a counterbalance in a two-party system. But conservatism as Reagan knew it is taking its redeeming qualities to the grave.
A new, more evolved brand of conservatism is already emerging. Libertarians could even displace the GOP if they can figure out how to substitute the evangelical social conservative bloc with a diverse coalition of semi-likeminded thinkers. However, in order to accomplish this, the new conservatives cannot simply seek to add women and minorities for their votes alone; they must also be willing to accept, value, and integrate the differing ideas that come with those votes. This is something traditional conservatives could never do. Scalia wouldn’t allow it, the Tea Party wouldn’t allow it, and Fox News couldn’t allow it.
- Editor's Note: this story also appears on Jason's blog, PoliticDiscourse.com. The image was provided by author with original sources being either public domain (President Eisenhower) or fair use (promotional photos of the three dog mascots).