HomePoliticsAre Right Wing Populists Conservative?

Yesterday, I had a brief encounter with a contractor who does work for the company that I work for. I learned, very quickly, that he thought very highly of Glenn Beck. I told him, quite firmly, that I thought Glenn Beck was worse than Rush Limbaugh. As I said, the encounter was brief – I made it very clear that we shared no common ground on the subject of the right wing populists on talk radio. On the way home, I decided to do an Internet search on “rhetoric” and “Glenn Beck” to see if I could learn why this man (and so many others) were so attracted to Mr. Beck and his colleagues. I thought perhaps his appeal might have something to do with the way that Mr. Beck speaks. It is widely acknowledged that President Obama has a masterful command of spoken English and many on the right mockingly accuse Obama of being the Messiah because so many people are spellbound by his speeches. I found nothing that would place Mr. Beck in the same category of rhetoric as President Obama. All I found were links that accused Mr. Beck (rightfully so, in my opinion) of hate speech and inciting violence. I suspect that a book on my reading list, The Populist Persuasion, by Michael Kazin, will give me some insight into the appeal of Mr. Beck. However, I did find a website, Seeds for Thought, with some very well written articles that intrigued me. The following essay reflects my thoughts on right wing populists. There is a rich history of Conservative political thought, but right wing populists are not Conservatives.

Why I am not a Conservative

People often assume that I am a conservative.


Because my writings focus on western ideals, personal values, universal
principles and responsibility. For some reason, conservatives think they own these topics-along with patriotism and belief in God. What they don’t realize is that my beliefs were not born from that dark corner of extremism, nor do they reflect those two-dimensional views. In truth, I find their take on values trite and demeaning of human nature. This includes the tiresome rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and all the conservative propagandists who make a living bad-mouthing free thought, compassion and civility. If hatred and paranoia were illegal drugs, these rabble-rousers would be prosecuted as pushers.

I am not a liberal as conservatives define them (or shall I say malign them). Conservatives need an enemy to blame and hate, a progressive cause to oppose, no matter how legitimate, or they really have nothing to say. This is central to their existence. We’ve seen similar dynamics in modern times whenever a dictatorship attempts a coup, maligning some race, religion or ideology in the name of some fake nationalistic cause. In the United States, conservatives have done this to liberalism, despite the fact that our nation was built on liberal principles-liberal, as in liberty.

There was nothing conservative about the founding of this nation. Conservatives at the time, like now, resisted change. They wanted to remain subjects of England. The Age of Enlightenment ideals that Jefferson, Adams and Madison propounded were considered radical, untried, too secular and risky. Equality and popular rule contradicted the familar safeguards of aristocratic control.

The product that our founders created, for which we were then recognized throughout the world, was called a “liberal democracy.”

Conservatives who know this contend that modern liberalism is different from liberalism back then. This is true to an extent. It has evolved. It has risen to the challenges posed by the Great Depression, which called for government regulations of the economy and intervention for the poor. This was a good thing, resulting in unprecedented prosperity and progress. Conservatives disagree. They criticize the New Deal and government regulations, not with relevant fact, but with angry denunciations. Never do they say how the United States might have better responded. For all their talk, there would have been no defense of capitalism at all, no help for the poor, who were in the majority back then. If they had their way, the nation would have collapsed and paved the road to communism.

But then, they were against communism too.

Although conservatives talk a good game, one thing is for certain, the ideals they represent are not the same as our founders. The American experiment was based on free thought, tolerance, equality, separation of church and state, and a respect for science, as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin amply personified.

What does modern conservatism represent? Thought restricted to the party line, intolerance, the inequality of social Darwinism, the merging of fundamentalist Christianity and government, and the replacement of science with biblical mythology.

Conservative rhetoric may be exciting, and may appeal to one’s inner demons, but it leads nowhere. It is regressive, pointing back to some idealistic time that never existed, that would be completely anachronistic today.

History shows us that conservatism is habitually on the wrong side of the issues. In my own lifetime it fought against civil rights, women’s equality, Social Security, protection of the environment, energy independence, much needed regulation of the stock market, the United Nations, universal medical coverage, a woman’s right to reproductive choice, homosexuality, minimum wage-the list goes on. They demean every liberal attempt to build a more perfect union, and then, when those ideas finally succeed, they grudgingly accept them. Today’s Republican platform has turned completely around on such issues as regulating the stock market, civil rights, and energy independence. With Sarah Palin, they even go so far as to embrace a type of feminism. But their commitment rings hollow to those of us who remember their long-standing oppositions, which was not so long ago. These ideas remain too progressive for conservatives to effectively deal with.

Conservatism owes its incredible success at duping the American people to certain powerful influences. First and foremost, it is unquestionably supported by wealthy businesspeople who see liberalism and equality as a threat to their bloated profits. For instance, they would rather see people take the very great risk of investing in their companies rather than protecting their retirement income through Social Security. They would rather see people medically uninsured, as long as pharmaceutical and private insurance companies can make obscene profits on disease and ill fortune. These companies, and others like them, know that conservative representatives will almost always place the good of big business ahead of the little people.

Think tanks. It takes a lot of thought, skill and strategy to make people believe that conservative ideals are beneficial and all-American-which they are not. To accomplish this, conservatives dare not face an honest debate of the issues. They know that their shallow ideals are questionable at best. To accomplish this mass transformation of facts and public opinion, they instituted well-financed think tanks, where devious minds work closely together to bend every fact, distort every good deed, and redefine the issues to their advantage. That liberals have held onto half the nation in light of this invasion of mass propaganda speaks well for their efforts.

Consider how, in just a few short decades, conservatives have decreased the balance of power in Washington that our founders so carefully designed. They have elevated the power of the executive branch, weakened the relevance of Congress (which most represents the people), and attacked the judicial branch as an activist threat to our culture. It does not take much imagination to see this as a well-planned attack designed to return to the tyranny of a single leader-something that our founders completely rejected.

Through conspiratorial effort, they have redefined American patriotism to have nothing at all to do with the people and free thought, and everything to do with blind nationalism-the kind of nationalism that plagued Europe with war for centuries. They continually try to turn our flag of freedom into a symbol of close-minded chauvinism based on power and greed. Like it or leave it is their retort to disagreement with their anti-Enlightenment dogma. Agree, or be branded a heretic, or traitor, as Ann Coulter calls them. Some conservative talk show hosts work themselves into such a frenzy that they fantasize about killing liberals as enemies of God and country. Their maligning of big government inadvertently encouraged the Oklahoma bombing. Some of their staunchest supporters are members of the Ku Klux Klan. With all this known and out in the open, conservatives still convince people that liberals are the threat!

They disregard the hypocrisy of ministers and representatives denouncing gay rights one minute, and then soliciting gay prostitutes the next. Why would anyone do this, unless they don’t believe what they are advocating? They say they want smaller government and lower taxes. They deliver larger government and huge deficits instead.

Unfortunately, there are many conservative supporters who are sufficiently brainwashed that they will not see beyond much repeated slogans. I, for one, refuse to be one of them. My nation, and the ideals it really stands for, demands that all of us think for ourselves and resist the un-American and regressive propaganda that conservatism now represents. There is more to life than serving the whims of the wealthy and powerful, who will do and say anything to subjugate us. The leaders of conservatism have shown their contempt for the American people leading up to the stock market crash of 2008, the widespread corruption of Tom Delay’s Congress, and misleading the nation into the Iraq War before that. Even the negative advertising of John McCain, whom we once considered unimpeachably honorable, has resorted to lies and distortion in order to mislead, not the American people, who recognize these falsehoods, but the conservative base that has been trained to accept anything their leaders tell them.

Why am I not a conservative? Because their ideals are empty rhetoric, their morality contrived to hide a deeper immorality, and because their plans for America are not of, by and for the people-but for the wealthy alone. The truth is, they have contempt for many of their own supporters, despite the folksy rhetoric. Check out their bank accounts and where the money came from, and you will find the treasure they have sold their hearts to.


Are Right Wing Populists Conservative? — 1 Comment

  1. Another excellent essay. The last sentence reminds me of Matthew 6 where Jesus says that “…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Although many of the Right-Wingers suggest that their party is the party of God, in my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus deplored hatred, intolerance, and greed.

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