Conservatism: Looking for a Good Home

 In the wake of the election, it’s worth a few minutes to consider what has become of the Republican Party. Simply put, it’s in shambles. That’s not good. We need two viable parties, each to keep the other on its toes.

When I check Webster’s for the definition of “conservative,” I find the following:

Tending to preserve old institutions, methods, customs and the like; adhering to what is old or established; opposing or resisting change.

Although I’m an independent, I tend to think of myself as a conservative along the lines of the above definition. I want to conserve our nation’s wealth, our American way of life and American companies and jobs. When I hear of resources being depleted, I want to conserve them. When I hear of the environment being threatened, I want to conserve it.

I struggle to understand how, in 1947, ditching 171 years of the successful application of tariffs to protect domestic industry in favor of an unproven 18th century free trade theory was a “conservative” thing to do. How is it “conservative” to continue to cling to such free trade theories even now, after they’ve been discredited by global economic collapse? How is irresponsible deregulation, giving free rein to greed to plunder our financial institutions, a “conservative” thing to do? When scientists universally warn of a looming environmental catastrophe, how is it “conservative” to deny the problem and dismiss the facts? How is it “conservative” to adopt a “drill, baby, drill!” mantra in the face of an energy crisis?

In Tuesday’s election, conservatism was the winner. Incredibly, it was the Democratic party that, at least temporarily, evolved from the party of left-wing ideology and special interests into a new home for true conservatism, conserving the American way of life. The Republican Party has been left exposed as a radical party devoted to corporate greed, one that puts blind faith in free trade and globalization, all wrapped in a thin and ever-more-transparent veneer of “Christian values” and marketed by loud-mouthed radio talk show hosts. Fewer and fewer people are buying it.

We need the two-party system and the checks and balances it provides. I’m leery of a government in which one party is weakened to the point that the other has free rein. But the world is changing and both parties need to evolve along with it. In this election, at least as demonstrated by their embrace of a conservative presidential candidate, the Democratic party has evolved into the new home for true conservatism, at least for the time being.

Now, in the aftermath, is the time for some soul-searching by the Republican party. I have no problem with their pro-business ideology. But they need to make sure that business is working for Americans and actually conserving jobs and our economy. The time for self-delusion is past – self-delusion that huge trade deficits are sustainable, that deregulation won’t foster greed and corruption, that the earth’s supply of fossil fuels is unlimited, that greenhouse gases can concentrate in the atmosphere without effect and that never-ending population growth is a rational economic model.

Things have changed dramatically and the world bears little resemblance to the one of Reagan’s time in 1980. The world population has nearly doubled and so too has the population of the U.S. Communism has been swept away and vast labor forces have been unleashed to prey upon our once-healthy economy. Oil resources are being depleted at a frightening pace and climate change threatens our continued existence. True conservatives tackle such problems to preserve our way of life. Denial of these realities isn’t conservatism; it’s the road to ruin.

C’mon, Republican Party, we need you.  There’s much to be done.  Overpopulation, global climate change, over-dependence on dwindling oil supplies, economic collapse – all of these are challenges that demand new thinking and new approaches if we are to have any hope of preserving our American way of life.  We need both parties competing for the best approaches.  Are you up to the challenge or will you continue to cling to the glory of the Reagan years?  That time is past.  It’s time to move on.  True conservatism is still looking for a good home. 



14 Responses to Conservatism: Looking for a Good Home

  1. Pete,
    I very much agree with your assumptions regarding the Republican Party, however I grew up in a Brown Dog Democratic family and find the Dems to be equally off their base.

    My belief is that both parties are equally culpable and the answer will lie in the rise of a third party…if it arises at all.

    Please remember that the signature on the two most damaging agreements in U.S. history, NAFTA and the WTO, are in fact a Democrat, William Jefferson Clinton.

    There are 535 members of Congress who share the blame, split by an aisle that may as well be a steel wall.

    As the U.S. slips deeper and deeper into recession and as our illustrious government becomes increasingly desperate with their temporary fixes, it will hopefully unveil the ineptness of our leadership and American’s will see that you are correct. Population must be stabilized, trade must be balanced, and American jobs must return.

  2. sandysays1 says:

    I agree. Please see my blog

  3. Clyde Bollinger says:

    Although population explosion is one of the most troublesome problems facing the world a glance at the evening news on any TV channel will show hordes of starving children in some of the most impoverished areas of the earth. What thinking parent would bring an innocent soul into such despair? It is probably true that these children do not represent a large environmental burden but by the same token, they certainly do not comsume very much. Is this lack of restraint on the part of these parents evidence of the enormity of the task of population management? Incidently, most of these areas were prosperous in colonial times. Food for thought.

  4. Clyde Bollinger says:

    I’d like to offer an alternative to the standard dictionary definition of conservative as it applies to the political environment.

    I believe a more accurate definition of the Conservative political ideology would start with the expectation of individual responsibility as its cornerstone, a limited federal government as described in the constitution including full implementation of the bill of rights, judicial restraint, a srong national defense, compassion and meaningful support for the truly unfortunate, encouragement for self sufficiency and individual liberty, and respect for the environment while making full utilization of our natural resources.
    A strong case can be made that we have strayed from the path.

  5. Pete Murphy says:

    Mike, I agree wholeheartedly! Both parties share the blame for our current situation. You are exactly right that both parties have been big supporters of free trade and globalization. But the Democrats have taken a noticeable turn back toward protectionism. I’d love to see the Republicans do the same and become an even stronger advocate of restoring a balance of trade. Balanced trade sure sounds like a conservative postition to me.

  6. Pete Murphy says:

    Clyde, I’m with you on all counts, but would like to make a couple of points:
    1. Regarding limited government, I agree but, unfortunately, as we grow ever more densely populated, I’m afraid it becomes necessary for government to take a ever-bigger role in order to maintain an orderly society.
    2. Regarding individual responsibility, I agree but we should also recognize our interdependence. If all of us tried to be totally independent of others, we’d all live no better than cave men. It’s through collective effort that all human advances have been made. So the question becomes what is the most effective method of organizing and directing that collective effort? Volunteer organizations? Corporations? Government? The right answer is probably a proper mix of each. I think government’s biggest role is to establish boundaries within which the others must operate for the common good. The biggest problem I see these days is that there are two boundaries which have yet to be set but which we’ve desperately needed for quite some time: (a) make all the money you want in the global economy but the U.S. shall maintain a balance of trade, and (b) we must have a stable, sustainable population. Population growth can no longer be used as a source of growth in sales and profits.

  7. underboss says:

    Problem is when you allow government to take over the reins – it doesn’t end. You give a finger and they will take your whole arm.

    The Republican party has strayed from its small government principles. Neoconservatives who hijacked the party for their use – now they are abandoning the sinking ship. I do not see any “hope for change” with Obama either. No one understands the proper role of government.

    Start with the Constitution.

    The role of the government is to protect its people – not bailout banks using our taxes to pay corporations, (and now the auto industry) that take high risks and made bad investment and management decisions.

    The government’s role is to maintain law and order in the country – not spy on its citizens and maintain secret prisons and gulags in illegally occupied islands.

    The role of the government is to maintain a force to defend the country – not maintain 700 military bases in 130 countries around the world and then attack countries around the world that never posed a threat to us resulting in a war that costs trillions.

    Fact is our government has gone beyond what is really necessary for the proper functioning of a country. People survived fine without these criminals

    Read this book:

  8. FJ says:

    Reading that now, and have been a Ron Paul supporter for a while underboss – excellent post, thanks for sharing!

  9. Pete Murphy says:

    Underboss, I generally find myself agreeing with the Libertarian philosophy with one huge exception – their support for free trade. Our free trade policy is the single most destructive factor in our economic decline. For 171 years, our nation employed tariffs to protect domestic industry. Trade flourished and the U.S. built itself into the world’s preeminent industrial power. Then, in 1947, in a bid to make the world more interdependent and thus prevent future world wars, the U.S. led the signing of the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The result is that, in only six short decades, our nation has been completely bankrupted. If you subscribe to the Libertarian free trade philosophy, I encourage you to get a copy of my book and find out why, when trading with densely populated nations, free trade is tantamount to economic suicide.

  10. Clyde Bollinger says:

    Speaking of your book, I assume you’ve comped books to some of the politicians and if so, what has been their typical reaction? I’ve gotten nothing, from those to whom I’ve written with a recommendation, but the usual form letter thanking me for my interest and an appeal for a contribution. I’veeven offered some a free copy at my expense to no avail.

    We must be looking at different people when we look at Obama. You see a conservative Democrat and I see a radical Socialist who, due to past acts and associations, could not meet the minimum qualifications for our local police department. With that being said, if he can turn this thing around and restore balance/fair trade with jobs coming home I’ll work for his re-election. We all need to do everything possible to help him and his administration be successful for the good of the nation.

  11. Pete Murphy says:

    Clyde, first of all, thank you so much for your efforts to promote the book. Unfortunately, my experience matches yours pretty closely. It’s amazing to me how disinterested the people of some influence are. I even wrote to Ron Gettelfinger, president of the UAW, and didn’t even get a reply. That was really disappointing to me – the leader of the group of workers most severely impacted by trade. It all kind of confirms what I thought when I wrote the book – that I’d have my best success with trying to stir up a grass roots understanding among normal folks like you and me.

    I have had some success in sending complementary copies to a few economics professors I’ve found on the web who are opposed to our free trade policies, but haven’t gotten much feedback.

    Regarding Obama, I certainly understand your position. My enthusiasm for Obama is rooted primarily in two factors: (a) the fact that he spoke out about our failed trade policies during the campaign, something we haven’t heard from either party in many years, and (b) he just seems to be a very intelligent and articulate person with lots of innate leadership ability, qualities I think have been lacking for a while in the White House since Reagan. (I know, it seems weird to compare Obama to Reagan.) Also, his concern for the state of the country seems genuine. Maybe I’m a sucker. I hope not. I think that, in the coming year, he’s going to be pouring enormous sums of money into the economy and bailing out companies, starting with the Big Three. Many will interpret this as socialism, but I’m afraid it’s going to be necessary for a while, as I believe our economy is on the verge of total collapse without massive government intervention. I wish it weren’t, but I’m afraid that the U.S. has been completely bankrupted by our trade deficit. It’s a very scary but fascinating time.

  12. Clyde Bollinger says:

    You once spoke of a promising young politician, (member of the US House of Representatives I believe) that you have supported. Is there any way you can think of to get him interested in your theory and indirectly possibly expose someone in the new administration as well? Until there is serious and persistent exposure the prospect of any movement is slight.

    The current economic turmoil presents the ideal platform for making the changes you propose. As you have explained, there will be a somewhat painful period up front from the imposition of the “balancing” tariffs. With what we are already experiencing, a bit more pain would be less noticable.

    I’m not well enough informed to know of all the possible scenarios, but yours is the only economic theory I’ve explored that offers any solution to the trade deficit problem.

    I’ll keep plugging along promoting your book and theory with whatever contacts I can get to listen.

  13. Pete Murphy says:

    The name isn’t coming to mind, Clyde. I’ll just have to run some searches on this blog and see what I come up with.

    Regarding the tariffs and the pain that I predicted might go with them, I think that we’re already experiencing something worse. In light of that, I think that the imposition of some tariffs now would actually improve conditions, and I’d start bigger than I would have in normal times.

    Thanks again for your kind words and support. For my part, I’ll keep plugging along and raising hell on this blog.

  14. Clyde Bollinger says:

    We’re in complete agreement – when we’re already hurting, what is a bit more pain. Now the problem is “how to get the powers that be to see this and apply the pain?”. They don’t even realize that there is a need. I’ve expanded my list of targets, but still no favorable response. I’ll keep trying.

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