I never, ever, ever, respond to bad reviews (or good reviews for that matter). I prefer to remain quiet and simply hold my breath as I walk past them (rosy or toxic)…until now. And I’m not responding because the individual didn’t like my book. I have a more personal reason.
In a recent bad review, I was accused of being [swallows hard, grits teeth] arrrrrrg! a liberal.
Let me start by saying, it’s not the first time I’ve been called liberal. In fact, it’s not the first time today I’ve been called liberal by a 100 mile an hour, hair on fire conservative. Some of my family members even call me a liberal.
“Well?” you might asked. “If your family and other conservatives call you a liberal…don’t you think you might be a liberal?”
No. Hell no. $%^& no! Hmmmmm. Maybe.
The confusion begins with the definition of a Conservative.
Here is the “Modern” notion of what a conservative is:
1. Political Views: Right-wing, anti-federalist. Prefer smaller government, less regulation, most services to be provided by the private sector in a free market, and a literal interpretation of the Constitution.
2. Economic Views: Government should tax less and spend less. Cutting spending to balance the budget should be the priority. Higher income earners should have an incentive to invest (credits). Charity is the responsibility of the people.
3. Social Views: Opposed to gay marriage, abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Support the right to bear arms, death penalty, and personal responsibility as an individual.
4. Personal Responsibility: Individuals should exercise personal responsibility and it is the governments role to hold them accountable even with severe penalties. Laws are enacted to reflect the best interest of the society as a whole.
Here’s the problem…those soundbite planks in the new platform (post 60’s & 70’s) are not the positions that the Conservative party traditionally exercised–not as executed anyway.
1. Political views:
Yes, smaller government is a good thing, but “small” is relative to the need and the size of the population. If you have a monster truck 4X4 and you pull up to a drive-thru, then yes, it’s too big. But if you try to load boulders into that truck from the rock pit, you soon discover it isn’t big enough to do what it needs to do. And therein is the problem with modern Conservative calls for smaller government: Yes, they want smaller government, but they want it smaller when it conflicts with their social stances, not when it comes to military, prisons, drug enforcement, police, corporate subsidies/protectionism, moral enforcement, promoting “Christian Ideals” etc. Oh…and a literal interpretation of the Constitution. I’ll get back to that.
Ironically, REGULATION is one of the components specifically enumerated in the Constitution and granted to congress. There is nothing in the Constitution which prevents Welfare. In fact, if you included the preamble of the Constitution into the reading of its intent (which I feel you must since, you know, it’s part of the document that was signed and agreed to by the founders), the government has a responsibility to promote the general welfare of its citizens. There is a stronger constitutional argument for welfare than there is less regulation. But yes, government is too big…just not in the regulatory areas. I’ll get to the “why” below.
2. Economic Views:
Tax less, spend less. Balance Budget. Investment incentives for higher earners (lower taxes), charity is responsibility of the people:
Tax less spend less. Yes Wonderful, beautiful! Except, that policy was always in place with both parties (for the vast majority of tax payers) until 1981 when the top earner rates were sliced nearly in half to introduce the experiment of “Supply side economics” (also known as Trickle down or voodoo economics).
The thing is, the proponents of this Supply Side experiment already knew what the result would be. It isn’t a failed experiment — it did exactly what it was intended to do: undo the distribution of economic wealth and power to the middle class that had occurred since the end of WW2.
The tax policies in place from post WW2 to the 1980s, weren’t meant to fund a welfare state. They were meant to enact punitive taxes on the very wealthy so they would be forced to reinvest their wealth in the economy rather than harvest it and sequester it away from the economy…and it worked. Between 1945 and 1981, the U.S. successfully grew the largest middle class and reduced its national debt from 120% of GDP to 30% of GDP…yes, that’s right…before Reagan changed the tax code, the U.S. was within 30% of paying off its national debt.
But then voodoo economics took over. Those punitive tax rates were suddenly gone and wealth began to leave the economy (The same economy that had created their vast wealth to begin with). Suddenly, with no incentive to grow business, build industrial infrastructure and HIRE WORKERS, the middle class began to shrink. Suddenly, workers were being laid off, inflation rates increased, and corporations were being starved of capital, forcing them to go overseas to find cheaper, non middle class, non union labor and materials. The party of Capitalism killed capitalism. I will go into more detail about this in another post at a later time. It’s a real sore spot for me.
Needless to say, with the massive infrastructure and wealth that had been built in the post war years, suddenly exiting the economy, it fell to the (now shrinking) middle class to carry the tax burden. So, for the first time since ever, the tax rates on the middle class were increased.
Then, to add insult to injury, the same “small government” conservatives who had been the architects of the supply side tax policy, failed to reduce the size of government. In fact, they grew the military to the most expensive it had been since WW2 (the event that created our massive debt to begin with).
With no punitive tax structure in place to continue to grow the middle class and economy, it began to accumulate debt again. Unwilling to reduce the size of the massive military structure, those same “Conservative” architects began to point to social programs as being the cause of the rise in debt. In no small way, they were right, but it came no where near the level of the military. But in a 35 year sustained message that the “Welfare State” policies were the cause for our debt, everyone has now been led to believe the poor are somehow responsible for our decline into massive debt again.
Amazingly, had the punitive tax policies remained in place for just another fifteen to twenty years, our debt would have been paid off and tax rates on the rich could have been reduced because they would no longer have been needed. And, I might add, with a little more “Conservative” common sense, the middle class could have continued to grow.
Social views and personal responsibility: I lump them together for a reason. Here is how the architects of the “New” definition of conservative got to rewrite conservative history.
3. Social Views:
Conservatives are opposed to gay marriage, abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
These positions are based almost entirely on religious precepts that began to invade the GOP when the religious right was given a place at the political table. And it happened at a most suspicious time. In the 1960’s and 70’s, at the height of the civil rights fight, southern democrats were looking for a new place to call home. They were no longer welcome in the Democrat party due to their racist policies and practices, so they needed to find a voice elsewhere. With a few, well placed, religious/political voices rising to power, they were able to convince the majority (the “Moral Majority”) that the GOP was the best place for them all along.
The super wealthy looked at them as the tool they needed to supplant the policies of the “Establishment” Conservative party and undo the power of the middle class. All the rich-few had to do was whip up enough support with this new southern power base and they could project their candidates into place…and holy shit! They did it in grand form. For the first time ever, nationwide office was successfully being used to promote core religious positions…Anti-Abortion, Anti-Gays, Anti-blood sucking welfare recipients…these issues drew on the most sensitive of southern prejudices and successfully integrated a full half of old school democrats into the GOP.
It wasn’t without a fight though. The “establishment” GOP (as they are called now), fought tooth and nail to keep that Christian Jihad out of the power structure. Being TRUE Constitutional purists, they knew that inserting religious backed prejudiced into national law would undermine the rights of everyone. One of the most vocal opponents of the “new” religious right power rise, (And one of my heroes) was Barry Goldwater.
“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”
“Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives.”
It might surprise you to discover that the GOP presidential candidate in 1964 was a strong supporter of Gay rights and abortion rights. But in the pre southern democrat defection era, it was not only common, it was the platform. The GOP was populated by social libertarians…what you want to do is up to you as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else…it’s your business and no one else’s. Constitutional purists.
“Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar.”
“It’s time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.”
“You don’t need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.”
Later, after the power shift was complete, Goldwater had this to say:
“Today’s so-called ‘conservatives’ don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”
In a time when our greatest enemy was the Godless Communist, events conspired to rip the conservative platform away from the grownups and hand it to the unscrupulous industrialists. Using the newly displaced, religiously organized southern anger to propel them into power, they began to systematically dismantle the party that had protected and grown the working class (and the economy) for decades. With the “New” conservatives now in place, they could rewrite conservative history, making it seem and feel like theirs was the way it always was…like the 1950’s…when unions ruled, the middle class was strong and the tax rate on the richest 1% was 91%.
Support the right to bear arms: Oh yes. Hell yes. Guns! You have to understand that the majority of liberals live in urban areas. Their biggest mental association of guns is tied to crime. And understandably so. But Conservatives have always understood the right itself is not a geographic one, but a core principle. Sadly, at a time when crime was at its highest (thanks to the war on drugs), the “NEW” conservative leadership used this as a wedge issue. Cities were trying to manage the massive surge of violent crime the only way they knew how. NeoConservatives took the opportunity to paint it as a desire by liberals to take ALL guns, creating a new, fearful, angry gun culture.
It was far easier for the leadership of the NRA to be supplanted than it was the GOP, and in no time at all, they had conservatives believing that everyone in the Democrat party wanted to take their guns away. It’s a bullshit issue. Only a very small percentage of people want guns “gone”, and yes, they are liberals. Even the majority of Democrats don’t want to take your guns away. But as a wedge issue, plied against an increasingly isolated and paranoid religious right, it’s perfect.
Had it not been for the “Big Government” anti drug policies of the new religious/industry controlled GOP, crime would not have risen to the levels that required knee jerk gun policies. The point would have been moot.
That brings us to the last group of core Conservative principles.
4. Personal Responsibility:
Individuals should exercise personal responsibility and it is the governments role to hold them accountable even with severe penalties. Laws are enacted to reflect the best interest of the society as a whole.
In an ideal conservatively governed nation, this is strong, moral, tough love policy. But it requires a few things for it to work in a non-draconian fashion.
- An economy that hasn’t been overtaken by corrupt policies that are detrimental to the people of the nation.
- A society that recognizes its policies affect the people. Economic, social and Industry policy do not occur in a vacuum.
- A government that hasn’t stacked the deck against a thriving working class.
In this regard, the new conservative movement has failed. Not, however, in the minds of its architects. The ultimate goal of the grand new conservative movement was to slowly transfer the power of the middle class back into the hands of the wealthy, while convincing the working class that its interests were best represented by them. It has almost come full circle. The conservative base is now a majority of poor and lower middle class, fighting for scraps from the “other” poor and the elitist liberals.
This “new” conservative platform has succeeded in growing the liberal platform:
The “New” GOP is responsible for the social successes of the the Democrat party. Had it not been for the false political arguments of the religious right, the civil rights issues facing society would have quietly resolved with little or no fight and the mega rich would not have had an army of social conservatives to propel them into power. The middle class would still be booming, our debt would be paid off and our biggest concern as a society would be…well, we can speculate.
Conservatives and Liberals would still argue, but the conservatives would be the dominant voice. Let’s face it, common sense always has been the best argument. Sadly, common sense is a long dead plank in the Conservative platform. The Democrat Party seems like the grown up party now…not because liberals have the market cornered on common sense, but because the Neoconservatives chased the reasonable people away from the GOP, relocating many (maybe even most) of them in the Democrat party.
Ike warned us:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
It would appear we didn’t heed his warning, and his own party has become the flag bearer for the ensuing corporate rampage.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear (and it may be too late for many readers as I’ve probably already alienated all of the religious right), I have no problem with religion personally…any religion. There is no religious belief that offends me because I believe it is your right to honor (or not honor) your personal deity in anyway you see fit…as long as it is not used to apply pressure or harm to the lives of those who do not believe it. The Constitution demands (and if you are a Constitutional purist you will agree), “…no religious test shall ever be required…” and “…shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..”
You can finesse and cherry pick “founders words” all you like, but the framers made it clear, religion and government DO NOT and SHOULD NOT mix. Some say it just means the government can’t make a state religion. But if the government makes a law based on religious sentiment, that is precisely what they’ve done. The solidifying statement in the Constitution that shows the intent was to permanently and irrevocably sever the ties between organized religion and of any sort governance is “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust“, found in Article VI, paragraph 3, of the United States Constitution.
It is ironic to me that those who most fervently defend their positions as “Constitutional Purists” are the very people responsible for the most egregious undermining of Constitutional protections. Done (with or without foreknowledge) in order to hand the power of this nation over to an elite wealthy few. Those few are now and have been for more than 40 years, undermining the very way of life that modern conservatives claim they want to go back to.
By writing this, I’m certain to draw ire from both sides to some degree…which is fine with me. If you aren’t able to listen to an informed opinion about your politics (or religion) you aren’t reasonable enough to govern anyway…which sort of makes my whole point.
S.L. Shelton is not an expert on policy or politics. He is a Goldwater/Eisenhower Conservative … by today’s GOP standards, that makes him a RINO or worse, a liberal. He cares not. He is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Political Thriller Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series). Check him out on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook