How toxic Conservatism focuses on increasing wealth for elitists at the expense of democracy
Republicans are on the wrong side of history, along with everything else, and conservatism is a dead end.
So-called conservatives are actually regressives and reactionaries, pushing us down to a worse state of being. Republicans are conserving little beyond their own wealth, racism, sexism, and homophobia, while eroding American democracy, health, and the environment. Progressives, in contrast, have brought us forward to a better world and continue to do so. Progressive ideology and action is what makes America as great, civilized, and advanced as it is, despite its continuing shortcomings, which progressives seek to repair.
Progressivism has brought us independence from England, slave abolitionism, racial desegregation, women’s suffrage, minimum wages and maximum hours, Social Security and Medicare, civil rights and civil liberties, clean air and clean water laws, pure food laws, public education, public libraries, public parks, public transportation, public health, public housing, pay equity, net neutrality, consumer, worker, health, and environmental protections, women’s rights, human rights, welfare, food programs, unemployment insurance, birth control and abortion rights, unions, paid vacation and sick leave, separation of church and state, anti-discrimination laws, racial and sexual marriage equality, a reduction in poverty, gun reform and protections, protections against corporate monopolies, medical and recreational marijuana, freedom of expression, the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, and most of the rest of the public sphere that civilizes and enhances our society. Conservatives have opposed all these and other vital achievements throughout our history.
And when the U.S. finally achieves universal single-payer health care (expanded Medicare For All or Berniecare); a Green New Deal; tuition-free public education from daycare through university and graduate school; an Equal Rights Amendment for women and sexual minorities; a living minimum wage; money out of politics; higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations; tough regulations on the financial sector; a Wall Street sales tax; Universal Basic Income; the end of homelessness; the end of child marriages; full reproductive freedom; a carbon price; a wealth tax; a society based on renewable energies; meaningful gun reform; expanded animal welfare and a stronger Endangered Species Act; an end to private prisons, money bail, and mass incarceration; universal suffrage including for inmates; abolition of capital punishment; marijuana legalization; paid parental and sick leave; doctor-assisted suicide; a national high-speed rail system; free public transit; Post Office banking; a smart electrical grid; free nationwide wi-fi; automatic voter registration and better election protection; and so on, it will be because of the hard work of progressives over the objections of conservatives.
In stark contrast, conservatives supported British colonialism in opposition to American independence; supported slavery and racial segregation; supported discrimination against religious minorities and atheists; opposed women’s right to vote, equal pay, and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA); opposed protections against racial and sexual harassment and discrimination; oppose contraception, abortion, and reproductive freedom; support child labor; opposed the National Park System; opposed seat belts and airbags in cars as well as higher fuel efficiency standards; blocked marriage equality and block full LGBT+ rights; block expansion and extension of healthcare; blocked civil rights; block full voter access while supporting voter suppression; block higher minimum wages; blocked desegregation of the military based on race, sex, and sexuality; opposed interracial marriage; opposed same-sex marriage; opposed Social Security and Medicare; opposed expanding the voting franchise to women, African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, the poor, and 18-year-olds; opposed reducing work to the 8-hour day and the 40-hour work week; oppose labor unions; oppose job security; opposed family leave laws, sick leave, and paid vacations; oppose anti-trust laws and consumer protections; oppose regulations to rein in Wall Street; oppose unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation; blocked health, worker, consumer, and safety laws; opposed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); oppose DACA (Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and block comprehensive immigration reform; do not welcome or protect refugees; oppose net neutrality; undermine health and safety measures for workers, consumers, and students; oppose any meaningful gun reforms and the banning of assault weapons; block environmental protections; oppose the Endangered Species Act; oppose more national parks and monuments; oppose tackling the climate crisis; support private prisons and mass incarceration; support privatization and corporate deregulation; support tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations; and so on.
Conservatives blocked the great artist Pablo Picasso from entering the U.S. and tried to do likewise with the great scientist Albert Einstein, who was escaping Nazis during the Holocaust. Similarly, conservatives were against Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, Helen Keller, Saul Alinsky, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Ralph Nader, Harvey Milk, Lois Gibbs, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and many other progressive American heroes who nonviolently struggled for a better and fairer America. “A conservative is one who admires radicals”, Leo Rosten once remarked, “centuries after they’re dead.” Republicans selfishly only want what they think is best for themselves – focusing on the greed of me, while progressives want what they know is best for society – focusing on the need of we.
Our most populous and richest state of California—the 5th largest economy in the world!—has no Republicans in any statewide office and Democrats dominate its Legislature. California erased its budget deficit and had a healthy budget surplus of several billion dollars for 2019 and a rainy day fund of $20 billion, some of which will likely be deployed during this pandemic-induced recession, even as California fosters innovation and creativity, has the most start-up businesses of any state, grows richer, and was creating more jobs. California also taxes the rich; raises the minimum wage; expands social services; makes community colleges free to all; advances women’s rights; protects women’s right to choose and reproductive freedom; reduces maternal mortality; expands protections for the LGBT+ community; celebrates diversity; protects immigrants and refugees; feeds more children at school; increases solar power; fights climate change; raises fuel efficiency standards; reduces air pollution; reforms the criminal justice system; enacts gun control measures; expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for poor Californians; legalized medical and then recreational marijuana; put a moratorium on the death penalty; supports privacy in its Constitution; institutes net neutrality; provides healthcare to more residents; increases protections for animals; extends rights; increases election security; begins public banking; and actively resists regressive Trumpism.
In contrast, “Mississippi and Alabama are the most thoroughly conservative states by most metrics. For some mysterious reason” according to Jacob Hoss, “they’re also the poorest, least educated, fattest, and have the lowest life expectancies.” Similarly with Kentucky and West Virginia. The ten poorest counties (and more than 90 of the poorest 100 counties), as well as the ten counties with the highest rate of poverty, are in Republican-led states, while nine out of the ten poorest states in America are Republican-led red states. The top ten states with the highest obesity rate are also Republican-led states, even as they oppose expanded healthcare. It’s as if Republicans don’t want to make people’s lives better. Democrat Bill Clinton is the only president since 1970 to report a budget surplus, instead of a deficit, and did so for four years.
There has been substantially more job creation and economic growth—as well as social, racial, sexual, religious, and economic equity—under Democratic administrations. Recessions tend to occur under Republican leadership, then get cleaned up under Democratic leadership. Republicans are socially, politically, and fiscally irresponsible with deadly consequences, while their party continues to get older, whiter, more male, and more Christian, yet less compassionate. Faux News and the greedy GOP wouldn’t tell you these things, but it’s the truth.
It is not that Democrats are always good or that California has solved all its problems—of course, that’s not nearly the case, especially with corporate Democrats—but Republicans are always destructive and regressive, both aggressively anti-people and anti-planet, if not individually, then certainly as a party. Even the most moderate and seemingly-reasonable Republican in Congress is giving the GOP its majority, protecting Trump despite his treason and conflicts of interest, and supporting nearly all of Trump’s destructive policies and abominable nominations, while eviscerating our democracy, increasing inequality, weakening our alliances, violating domestic and international law, eroding civil rights and liberties, and degrading our health and environment. It is for these kinds of reasons that Noam Chomsky has called the Republican Party the “most dangerous organization in world history.”
Of course we need to conserve enough of what is societally going on to maintain cultural continuity, yet we need to continually include, innovate, invent, democratize, and change for positive progress. Republicans have outlived their usefulness—indeed, are complicit in undermining democracy—and are obsolete. Republicans are on the wrong side of history and conservatism is a dead end. Progressivism is for the people and the planet.
Originally published on Common Dreams as Republicans Are On the Wrong Side of History—and Everything Else!