Today's Republicans Aren't Conservative

Republican presidential hopefuls took to the stage in Milwaukee on Tuesday night to duke it out for the fourth time and to try and win the hearts and minds of Republican voters.

One candidate after another took their turn trying to convince Republican viewers that their policies are more conservative than any of their opponents'.

They disagreed on immigration policy, they disagreed on the role of the US military in world affairs, and they disagreed about how best to gut Obamacare and what agencies to gut in order to balance their budget.

But they could all agree on a few things.

For example, they all attacked Dodd-Frank with claims that it's killing community banks and making it easier for big banks to get bigger.

And they all had their own ideas for how to reform the tax code to even further line the coffers of corporations and the superrich.

But those ideas aren't really "conservative", and the Republican party isn't really a conservative party anymore.

This Republican party isn't the party of Barry Goldwater and Dwight D. Eisenhower conservatives anymore, it's not even the party of conservative Federalist John Adams.

It hasn't been "conservative", ever since the "Reagan Revolution".

Oh sure, they all call themselves conservatives, Donald Trump even evoked Dwight Eisenhower's conservativism during Tuesday's debate.

But if you look at the history of American conservatism, it's clear that this Republican party isn't my father's conservative Republican party.

Before the Reagan Revolution, for literally hundreds of years, conservatives and liberals differed mainly in their understanding of human nature and the role of government in society.

But conservatives and liberals were still basically similar in that they still promoted improving the quality of life for working people in America.

The major difference between conservatives and liberals for hundreds of years wasn't whether government had a role to play in improving society.

The major difference was that conservatives wanted very slow, gradual improvements, and liberals argued for rapid social changes.

The vast majority of our Founding Fathers were liberal progressives, heck, they were revolutionaries, they took up arms and fought a bloody revolution to rapidly establish independence and fundamentally transform the agricultural American colonies into a self-sustaining independent country.

Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine both argued for rapid and frequent changes, Jefferson famously supported a new constitutional convention every generation, every 19 years, so that the Constitution could reflect how society's values change over time.

America's original conservatism really has its roots in Europe, mainly in Britain, with Sir Edmund Burke being one of the more outspoken supporters of conservativism during America's early years.

Burke was a British aristocrat though, one who supported low taxes on the rich to ensure the exact opposite of what Jefferson wanted.

Burke argued that laws and customs of England should never really change, and the way to do that is to make sure that the richest families in a country were allowed to pass their wealth from generation to generation, thus "conserving" Britain's aristocracy and the status quo at the time.

But it wasn't until the 19th century that the American conservative movement really emerged, mostly in reaction to anti-slavery movements at first, and later against child labor laws, women's suffrage, and racial integration.

It's not that conservatives were always 100% against all of those issues, but they never supported rapid changes to America's norms and laws.

Conservatives weren't obstructionist, but they were circumspect and slow-to-action.

Conservatives weren't totally against change, but they didn't want to try and improve society too quickly and risk destabilizing everything.

They wanted to make sure that any changes happened gradually, slowly, and without disrupting the status quo too much.

That, by the way, is pretty much the definition of "conservative".

Barry Goldwater's Republican party wasn't completely against integration, but they didn't want it to happen all at once for fear of destabilizing society.

But America's 200-year tradition of conservatism all changed with the election of Ronald Reagan.

Suddenly the Republican Party was the party of rapid change, rapid deregulation, extreme and rapid tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, and a new focus on increasing the volume and speed of global trade in goods and services.

Suddenly the Republican party wasn't conservative in how it saw America's place in the world, and Reagan wasn't conservative about the speed of social and economic changes he pushed through, if anything, he was a revolutionary radical.

Reagan's tax cuts took place almost overnight, and they followed Burke's conservativism in only one way, by concentrating the wealth in the hands of a few hundred corporations and the billionaires, the new aristocracy that bought Reagan to power.

Thirty-four years on, the post-Reagan Revolution reality is that the Republican party is no longer " conservative" and has no interest in improving society anymore.

Instead, the entire focus of the party is enriching the rich and impoverishing the working class and the poor.

They want to give tax cuts to the rich and the corporations, and they want to pay for it by gutting social services to the elderly and the poor, like Social Security and Medicaid.

Or, like Ted Cruz proposes, they want to make more room in the budget for corporate giveaways by gutting government agencies like the EPA and HUD, agencies that protect our commons and help the least among us get housing.

And going back to Dodd-Frank, they want to gut any financial regulations that keep the banks from defrauding the public and making unimaginable profits as a result.

This isn't "conservative", it's a coup by the super-rich.

For the modern Republican, government is no longer here for the benefit of the nation or its working people.

For the modern corporatist Republican, society and individuals are just pawns used to maximize profits for corporations and to increase the amount of wealth concentrated in the hands of the new aristocracy.

Today's Republicans aren't conservative.

They're corporatists - what Benito Mussolini called "fascists" - the takeover of the state by corporate power.

It's time to call them out for what they are, and stop the charade.

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