Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Conservatives Today: Small Government Libertarians OR Big Government Authoritarians

Most of us consider ourselves liberal or conservative (or the politically agnostic "moderate"). Liberals have a rep for being "bleeding hearts" who want to help people, and who don't minding spending tax dollars to do that. But what does "conservatism" actually mean today? When they run to get elected, leading conservatives allege themselves to be all about smaller government. As Grover Norquist famously said, conservatives want to make government so small, they can drown it in the bathtub. So that position--the one they sold so hard in 2010--would be a more libertarian stripe of conservative.

Remember when the tea baggers tea partiers were really making a big political splash? It was all about strict constructionism of the Constitution, states' rights, and little bitty federal government. There was quite a bit made of the fact that the "social conservatives" had taken a backseat to these "taxed enough already" activists. No more wailing about gay people, abortion and the rest. This was all about real conservatism.  Mmm hmm. Until they get elected.

Since they won their big election in 2010, Republicans (tea and not tea varieties) have reignited their social conservatism, with tons of focus on gays and abortion. They've got their meanness on like we've not seen in decades. The seething, white hot nastiness pouring out of state governments and potential cartoon characters presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich and (ahem) Donald Trump has been stunning. And while they dress up some of their budget slashing, teacher firings, union squashing and other policies in quasi-logical sounding arguments, at the base of it all is control at any cost. A judge says they can't? Ignore them! A rule says they can't? Screw it! It might be unconstitutional? We'll sort it out later! And though they might try to say that this is all somehow about "smaller government," it sure doesn't look or sound like it. It seems like the wrath of a party who was out of, but is now back in power.

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