Why We Cannot Afford More Conservatism in 2012 – From Democrats or Republicans

by George Kennedy on October 6, 2011


Why We Cannot Afford More Conservatism in 2012 – From Democrats or Republicans


Conservatism as a governing philosophy is another name for calamity. I feel we are too fragile as a society to sustain the current onslaught of conservative policies advocated by the conservatives in Congress and practiced by the current administration.

The last time we hit “bottom” was during the Great Depression. Are we willing to go there again?

In the breast of each American of voting age lives a complex of emotions including a mixture of trepidation, hope, and expectation regarding the 2012 elections.

Depending on political or ideological persuasion, you hope your guy wins because you think he relates to your concerns; you fear the other guy for just the opposite reason; and, your vote will be all about your expectations should he ascend to the presidency.

I say “he” because only male contenders appear poised to capture the nomination. This, I concede, could change. Your expectations are where you live on a daily basis. It is why you engage in the political process.

Expectations, therefore, give rise to hope that your candidate will be successful. Here is a dash of cold water for you. Unless you are among the one percent the political establishment is most responsive to, you are destined for more disappointment.

This outcome is assured if the conservatives recapture the White House and maintain their grip on the Legislative Branch.

We as a society cannot afford more conservatism because for all of the professed devotion to the notion of the power of the individual in American society, the glue that binds us is an unconscious reliance on the collective: government. The institution of the federal government is enshrined in American life.

Conservatives are publicly pathological about shrinking the size of government at all levels, most notably the federal government. Their zeal to do so “does not emerge out of an attempt to solve world problems, such as managing deficits or finding revenue to pay for entitlements built into the structure of federal legislation” notes author Alan Wolfe (“Why Conservatives Can’t Govern”, Washington Monthly, June 2006.) It has its genesis in a libertarian conviction that “the money government collects in order to carry out its business properly belongs to the people themselves.”

Recall the two infamous Bush tax cuts and their principal beneficiaries. While this notion that taxes belong to the people is true, in the minds of most Americans, the reciprocal is a more civilized society where, for example, the Wild West is a part of history, not contemporary America.

Conservatives would govern without accountability to society thus delegitimizing requests from voters for government support to improve life. The inherent conflict is between conservatives’ fealty to extremist ideology and their management of government entities whose mandates they deem illegitimate. Is there not a contradiction?

Alan Wolfe notes conservatives are thus “unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve government.” Their response is to “split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding. The end result is not just bigger government, but more incompetent government.” This is the enduring legacy of G.W. Bush and his irascible vice president.

We are all too familiar with the disaster that was the eight years of the second Bush administration. Their one consistent goal, disasters being a natural consequence, was the consolidation and exercise of power. What is the likely outcome of a well-funded and organized effort to disenfranchise five million, with multiples more economically enslaved, to employ one new occupant in the White House in 2012? Here is a partial list of probable consequences:

  • No expanded middle class opportunities.
  • Widening income inequality.
  • Rampant unemployment.
  • Defunding and emasculation of regulatory agencies – especially enforcement.
  • Reduction in quality of public schools through reduced funding and staffing.
  • De-emphasis on financial reforms with Wall Street assuming even more risk to earn bonuses.
  • A second bail-out of Wall Street (should Europe’s weaker economies default.)
  • A sustained effort to abolish – and privatize – Social Security; not that it is a drain on the budget but because its very success is anathema to conservative values.
  • Turn back Roe-v-Wade at the state level.
  • Rising health care costs without reform.
  • Wage a struggle to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Enact more restrictive measures to disenfranchise those who vote Democrat despite a lack of evidence to prove voter fraud.
  • Massive increases in the Defense budget.
  • More tax increases on the middle class.
  • Restrictions on civil liberties.
  • Defund government-sponsored programs that lift the poor, the elderly, low-income women, and populations of color – aka – those who vote Democrat.
  • Privatizing the federal corrections system.
  • Selective debt reduction measures while expanding government to provide more security and benefits for the wealthy.

In other words, elements of the status quo will reign but enforced with a vengeance we have not witnessed lately. Conservatives are creative. What I suggest here may represent no more than the tip of the iceberg.

As disenchanted, disillusioned, disappointed, and angry as we are with the Obama administration that has not earned our vote or our continued support, examine carefully the alternative before you choose to remain at home on Election Day in 2012.

Let the issues and probable policy outcomes direct your decisions in 2012, not the personalities. Should the President recapture the White House, our salvation as a country will lie in our willingness to organize and demonstrate to hold him accountable? He will have to earn it this time.

George Kennedy

George Kennedy is a retired senior Foreign Service officer with extensive international experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon and two graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kennedy was a political advisor to state and federal officials and has authored strategy pieces for Members of Congress and presidential candidates. He serves on the Advisory Board for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona.

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