One of your esteemed fellow readers — an Army vet and aviation defense attorney from Ft. Worth, Jim Burt — writes:


Harry Truman uttered what could be the entire Democratic Party platform in three sentences: “Democrats work to help people who need help. That other party, they work for people who don’t need help. That’s all there is to it.”


Jim found that quote on a must-bookmark page with 44 others “to use when describing conservatives and Republicans to your friends,” ranging from Barry Goldwater (“Today’s so-called “conservatives” don’t even know what the word means. . . .“) to Mark Twain and George Carlin to William F. Buckley, Jr. (“A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling “Stop!”)

And he adds thoughts of his own:

I have occasionally questioned why we let Republicans get away with calling themselves “conservatives” when they don’t seek to “conserve” anything except the bank accounts of the very richest people, and their program is one of the destruction of time-honored programs, practices, and principles.  Mitch McConnell’s systematic dismantling of Senate norms is a good example of this.

Conservatism in the classic Burkean sense has always been about the recognition of reality over ideology, an expression of disdain or even revulsion for starry-eyed paper programs for the betterment of government or society and a preference for practices and procedures which have been shown by time and experience to work, if not always perfectly, at least adequately.  In this sense, “dynamic scoring” of tax cuts on the always-disproven premise that they will actually increase tax revenue by spurring economic growth is the very antithesis of traditional conservatism, as is the dismantling of proven safety net programs like Social Security and Medicaid.

One Republican politician recently acknowledged that the bank bailout and fiscal stimulus that pulled the world back from the brink of disaster in 2008-2009 were necessary, and that it was perhaps a good thing the Republicans weren’t in power at the time because their principles would not have permitted them to do what was necessary.  Prioritizing ideology over facts would be scorned by true conservatives.  Unfortunately, too many of the people calling themselves conservatives in the US today are a mix of racists, reactionaries, and radicals with ideological agendas that are not fact-based.

Are all of today’s “conservatives” — or Trump supporters — racists or nativists?  No!  But if someone is a racist or a nativist in America today, they will claim to be a conservative and likely support Trump.  Are they all reactionaries who want to return America to a “robber baron” economy?  No!  But if that is their de facto goal, they will claim to be conservatives and they will vote Republican.  Are they all radicals who want to tear down not just the Affordable Care Act but Social Security and Medicare?  No!  But . . . you get the idea.

Are any of these plans or programs compatible with what Andrew Sullivan calls “the pragmatism, moderation, incrementalism, and [cautious] reform” which at least purportedly characterized classical conservatism?  No.  Do they rely on science or other investigative tools to identify the actual facts (about virtually anything) so that they can make cautious fact-based decisions, or do they take more of a “Who are you going to believe — me or your lying eyes?” approach?

Then I look at myself, and at the modern Democratic Party, shorn of its former racist base — which has all gone over to the Republicans.  Do we look to science for answers about climate, energy, medicine, etc.?  Yes.  Do we rely on other investigative tools, such as the Census and other population surveys, to gather verifiable facts about economic and social conditions?  Yes.  Do we try to identify actual problems and take a “whatever works” approach to fixing them, instead of identifying as a “problem” any incongruity between our theoretical aspirations and reality, in favor of our theories?  Yes.  So, I’m a conservative in the classical sense, and so is the Democratic Party.  That we’re actually trying to help people and make our world a better place is a lagniappe, in that sense.


I won’t insult you by hyperlinking lagniappe.  (Though if you didn’t have Tek Lin for eighth grade English, click here.)

But I will join you in saying, “Amen!”  (Even if we Dems too may from time to time be guilty of a little non-fact-based dogma.)

And hello?  Jim didn’t even mention conserving the environment, on which the habitability of our planet depends.

How about that small item?

 

 

Comments are closed.