Turning Back the Clock Politics
Conservative initiatives that would have Americans live in the past are the main divide between conservatives and liberals or moderates. It’s the reason conservatives want to expel moderates from the GOP whom they label as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). The more conservative a politician is, the more he or she sees the past through rose-colored glasses and wants to move America back in time. They want to go back beyond the Great Society of Johnson, the New Deal of Roosevelt, and even measures favored by Nixon such as the EPA.
Examining conservative stances, their love affair with the past becomes readily apparent. Smaller government and lower taxes head the list. This is in disregard of globalization and the problems raised, the complexity of citizen’s lives, the need for an adequate safety net, protection against external and internal enemies, a suitable infrastructure for the nation, food, drug and environmental monitoring, safety standards for air travel and automobiles, allocating the wireless spectrum and off shore drilling, and numerous other functions of government in the modern world. Conservatives would like to shrink the federal government’s role and spending in virtually all of the above areas, except for the military.
As for lowering taxes, America’s marginal income tax rates are among the lowest they have ever been and among the lowest in the developed world. During the early 1950s through 1963, the marginal tax rate was above 90%, and as recently as 1979 it was 70%. In moving the nation back past the New Deal, conservatives would probably be happy with the income tax rate of 7% that was in place in 1913.
And conservatives want government to be less intrusive in people’s lives, except when it comes to hot-button issues of importance to them, such as a woman’s right to choose and same-sex marriage. This really has to do with religious beliefs and government should not be involved in regulating these areas. However, many conservatives would like the wall between government and religion to be torn down and for policy to be concordant with religious practices. Perhaps they would feel more comfortable in the Massachusetts’ colony in the 17th century, when religion and government walked hand in hand, controlling people’s lives.
Conservatives also do not think contraceptive coverage should be an expected part of health insurance since this could lead (God forbid) to women’s sexual freedom and possibly sexual relationships outside of marriage. Better that America should go back past the 1960s, before oral contraceptives became widely accepted and state laws banning the sale and use of contraceptives were overturned by the Supreme Court. And conservatives believe a woman’s place is still in the home with the man as the breadwinner for the family, with no need for equal pay for equal work laws.
There’s also the “old West” model of society that conservatives promote; every citizen packing guns and standing their ground against whomever they see as miscreants. There’s no acknowledging the danger of weapons in an overwhelmingly urban nation and that weapons should be limited to hunting, sport shooting or home protection.
Their rejection of scientific information take us back in time as well, with an unwillingness to accept evolution, the “big bang” theory or global warming, and a desire to teach non-science in the classroom.
In addition, conservatives are suspicious of America being corrupted by foreign influences. This may be one of the reasons for their adamant opposition to sensible immigration reform, besides the economic grounds and possible racism. The overwhelmingly WASP nation that existed around the time of the revolution would probably fit the bill for them.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is currently dominated by conservatives who hold many of the above views and would like to take America back to a simpler and more freewheeling time of robber barons and gunslingers.
If conservative ideology becomes more ascendant in the future, America will indeed be returned to a previous era, its stature in the world eroded, economic inequality heightened, and the gains women have made rolled back. Perhaps if the electorate truly understood how conservative policies would change the nation, America might remain in the present with a brighter future.
A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.