Don’t Call Them Conservatives

Edmund Burke and the Kaiser of Chaos.

There’s a lot of discussion about the ways in which Democrats are playing into the hands of the Trumpified Republican party. I agree with much of the criticism but there’s something that bothers me: people still refer to Republicans as conservatives. They’re not conservatives, they’re radicals, reactionaries, and extremists. Take your pick but call them anything but conservatives.

The word conservative may be thought of as a curse word on the left but it’s a positive word to millions of Americans; some of whom have voted Democratic in the past and may do so again in the future. Calling the current batch of GOPers conservatives is not only a misnomer, it’s self-defeating.

Here’s one of the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of conservative:

“a: tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions TRADITIONAL 

bmarked by moderation or caution 

cmarked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners”

Do any of those definitions fit today’s Republican party or right-wing media? They want to burn things down, blow shit up, and disrupt democracy. How is that conservative?

A true conservative wants to preserve the best in society and maintain the rule of law. The current GOP is out to damage our institutions and radicalize the judiciary. How is that conservative?

They pay lip service to traditional values but high on the list of traditional American values are tolerance and respect for divergent views. Today’s Republicans disdain those values. They’re fixated on owning the libs. How is that conservative?

I’ve long considered myself a conservationist a la Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot. Conservationists want to conserve nature and protect it from human predation. The word conservationist is rooted in conserve as is conservative, another positive usage of the word.

Today’s Republicans want to despoil the air and water without regard for the consequences to the environment. In fact, environmentalism is conservative in the classic meaning of the word. Saving the Louisiana wetlands to protect city dwellers during hurricane season strikes me as profoundly conservative.

True conservatives supported vaccines in the past as an indicator of personal responsibility. Anti-vaxxers are not conservatives. They’re extremists who place their own personal preferences above society as a whole. How is that conservative?

The theatrical grievances expressed by the Impeached Insult Comedian, Lindsay Graham, and other right-wing pols are reactionary in nature. True conservatives want to preserve what’s best in our society, not tear it down.

True conservatism is rooted in a respect for order not in stirring up chaos and division. Would I call a true conservative the Kaiser of Chaos?

I have a different take on conservatism than many on the left. My father was a conservative. He was a good man who believed in truth, justice, and the American way. I was taught to be tolerant and respectful of those different than me. Lou didn’t always practice what he preached but he was polite to everyone he met and never uttered racial or ethnic slurs. That’s the sort of conservatism I grew up around. Trumpism is rude and crude. How is that conservative?

I realize that the definitions of words evolve over time. What FDR, JFK, LBJ, and HHH called liberalism had little to do with the Victorian liberalism practiced by British Prime Minister William Gladstone. It was his conservative rival Benjamin Disraeli who advocated government action to ameliorate poverty and urban blight. In fact, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck pioneered the first primitive social security system. The Iron Chancellor was no one’s idea of a liberal.

Do I believe in the conservative school of thought founded by Edmund Burke? No, but I consider it intellectually respectable. The 21st Century American right is neither intellectual nor respectable. It does not deserve the label conservative. Please don’t call them that.

Call them wingnuts.

Call them extremists.

Call them reactionaries.

Call them radicals

Call them Trumpers.

Call them anything but conservatives.

Calling them conservatives is unimaginative and inflexible. If you want to change the country, you should change what you call Republicans. Repeat after me: conservative is a positive word to millions of Americans: some of whom are persuadable.

Calling them conservatives sends the message that the GOP is a normal American party. It is not. It has morphed into a radical reactionary party featuring a cult of personality. Cults of personality are Fascistic in nature. Conservatives are normal Americans. Trumpism is aberrant and should be abhorrent to true conservatives.

Call them anything but conservatives.

One thing they are is irresponsible. The last word goes to Frank Sinatra: