Democratic Candidates Should Educate Voters About "Republicanism" And Co-Opt The Term “Conservative”

It’s amusing to hear Newt Gingrich proclaim that, in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, he is the “true conservative.”  The Tax Policy Center shows that the Gingrich tax plan would add $1.3 trillion to the U.S. budget deficit each year. True conservatism? For his tax ideas, alone, Gingrich deserves to be laughed off the stage.

George H. Bush in 1980 said Reagan’s “supply side” tax proposals amounted to “voodoo economics.” He had it right. During the Reagan presidency, the national debt tripled — going from one to three trillion dollars.

To be conservative means to believe “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” To be conservative means to be prudent, logical, reality based. It means taking a long term view and making wise plans for a secure future. It means showing a resolve to “conserve” what is important and what is of value.

Gingrich and Republicans want to frame their wacky ideas as “conservative,” but they are not conservative at all. What Gingrich calls “true conservatism” is an ism, all right.  It is a collection of irrational beliefs based on a pretend universe that demagogues like Gingrich use to manipulate the gullible. It is simply wrong to call this ism conservatism. It is “Republicanism.”

George Lakoff states, “At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.” He writes:

“The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.

Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions.”

What is astounding is how effective Republicanism propaganda is. There are true believers who actually think Gingrich and other “true conservatives” are wonderfully logical and honestly interested in advancing the general good. Long time Republican, David Frum, asks, When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality? He writes: “We used to say ‘You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.’ Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.”

In 2005, the Ohio Republican government passed a big tax cut drastically reducing taxes on corporations and changing the progressivity of the income tax system, and gave the lion’s share of the tax cut to the wealthy, those who least needed to receive it. The tax cuts, phased in over a five year period, reduced revenue to the state by $2.6 billion each year.  There is no way this big change in Ohio’s tax laws could be defended as following “conservative” principles — prudently planning for the future.  It could only be defended by using “pseudo-facts and pretend information.”

It was obvious, to anyone not believing in voodoo, that this tax cut would cause a big gap in the budget. In 2005 Ohio Policy Matters said, “Closer scrutiny reveals that massive cuts in state spending, or alternative tax increases, that will be required to make up for the revenue shortfall of about $2.8 billion in 2010, the fifth and final year of the tax reform plan’s phase out period.”

And so, in 2011, when it came time for the first Kasich budget — Wow. Surprise, surprise — reality slapped us in the face. The state didn’t have enough revenue. Kasich argued that the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions should be gutted via SB-5 because such action would save the state $1.3 billion.

The motive behind pushing SB-5, of course, had nothing to do with conservatism, nothing to do with dealing with the deficit. It was an attempt to advance the ism of the true believers — smaller government, less regulation, free markets — a belief system deemed worthy of fierce loyalty.

But, authentic conservatism has nothing to do with this wacky belief system of Republicanism, but instead is centered on the democratic principles that make this nation exceptional. The first goal of authentic conservatism should be, in Lincoln’s words, to produce a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Why Republicanism rejects authentic conservatism is obvious. A “government of the people” would flatly reject the irresponsible, class warfare strategies that true believers of Republicanism hold dear.

In this campaign season Democratic candidates need to educate voters that “Republicanism” is not conservatism. Democrats should co-opt the word “conservative,” should show that they have ideas that are prudent, reality based, and honor the wisdom of our forefathers. Democrats should speak boldly how “We the People” must work together to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

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7 comments to Democratic Candidates Should Educate Voters About “Republicanism” And Co-Opt The Term “Conservative”

  • fred schindler

    Their goal is to eliminate social programs by reducing revenues. Lower tax receipts increase the deficit and pressure Congress to cut spending on everything except Military spending and aid to Corporations

  • Eric

    Democrats should speak boldly how “We the People” must work together to “form a more perfect Union…

    Maybe Ohio’s Democrats can help Secretary of State Clinton with her vision of “A more perfect union, a more perfect world.” See: Report of the United States of America Submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights In Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review.

    Which “civil society groups” concur that actions cited by Secretary Clinton in paragraphs 48 and 68 address the concerns alluded to in paragraph 49? Can the administration point to any school districts that systematically address the concerns alluded to in paragraph 49? What, specifically are the concerns of paragraph 49? Wouldn’t progress be faster with wide concurrence on the concerns that must be addressed?

    Do those concerns rise to the level of human rights abuses? Impeachable offenses? Would the “civil society groups” working with the Obama administration be equally discreet in voicing objections if the POTUS were Republican?

    If the Obama administration were serious about addressing human rights concerns with public education, wouldn’t a good start begin with Framing issues for public deliberation: a curriculum guide for workshops? Or is the Kettering Foundation too obscure an organization for the elites of the Democratic party to bother with?

  • Bryan

    I used to read DaytonOS on a regular basis for the thought provoking, generally non-partisan articles. Now I read it for a good laugh, primarily due to heavy pro left, calling the kettle black, slant.

    In this case, you telling people what conservatism means is like an old white telling people what its like to be a young black man.

    I almost fell out of my chair when I read the following:
    “Why Republicanism rejects authentic conservatism is obvious. A “government of the people” would flatly reject the irresponsible, class warfare strategies that true believers of Republicanism hold dear.”

    So democrats should co-opt the term conservatism because of the republican class war strategies? Wow.

    If any party is the mainstay of class warfare, it is the Democratic party. While the Republican variety of conservatism is far from perfect, to think that the Democrats could ever co-opt it with their class warfare strategy is hilarious. (Tax the rich anyone?)

    Keep the humor coming Mike!

    Do you care to offer up any of the Democratic policies or ideas that you consider to be ‘conservative’ and in the wisdom of our forefathers?

    If you ever want to return to serious, thought provoking articles, how about one breaking down each main position/policy of both parties and classifying them accordingly. Liberal, conservative, socialist, marxist, communist, or other. I think everyone might be a little surprised.

  • Mike Bock

    Bryan, We all need a good laugh now and then and so if my little post is somehow spreading joy, then, at least, I guess my effort here has not been totally in vain.

    This post is basically a response to the audacity of Newt Gingrich to present his tax proposals of evidence of the thinking of “a true conservative.” Absurdity and pomposity rolled up into demagoguery is amusing, but the fact that, evidently, a lot of people think Gingrich is presenting the sober views of a “true conservative,” is not amusing, it is pathetic, and, disturbing — that my fellow citizens are taken in by such tripe — very Orwellian: war is peace, etc.

    I offered this definition — To be conservative means to believe “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” To be conservative means to be prudent, logical, reality based. It means taking a long term view and making wise plans for a secure future. It means showing a resolve to “conserve” what is important and what is of value — and, I’d be interested to know how you define the term.

    My point is that the term “conservatism” has been co-opted by Gingrich and his ilk as a means of waging class warfare on the 99%. True conservatism is reality based and centered on advancing policies consistent with those values that make this nation exceptional. True conservatism is all about advancing those policies that bring to reality the ideal of “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” We need a political party of true conservatism, but, as it is, both parties now have been absorbed into the “Money Party,” that controls most everything and divides and conquers by, among other strategies, misusing labels and definitions to the point of meaninglessness.

  • Stan Hirtle

    Conservatism in the US is not any kind of philosophy or ideology as much as a collection of positions of people who have banded together to get and hold power (perhaps held together by an emotional state of loathing against people on the other side). That’s why the positions of conservatives change over the years. Abortion was once not a big deal to Reagan. Immigration waxes and wanes as votes get counted. Foreign wars often depend on whether their guy or the other guy is in the White House. Same with government power. Although there tends to be an underlying affection for authority holding them together, you also get some libertarians (generally concerned mostly about regulation of business) in the mix. Thus conservatism is best a description where you list the members of the coalition (businesses large and small, the military industrial complex, social and religious conservatives, increasingly whites with less than college degree of education and “blue collar” careers) and their goals. It’s not really worth much talking about what “conservative” might mean in some other historical or philosophical context.

  • lce Bandit

    …banded together to get and hold power, Stan? Au contraire, mon frere. This is a movement to put government on a leash by cutting back its’ size and starving it of money. The power junkies come from the left, and there is no area so picayune that they won’t try to wield control. From laws restricting smoking in what were once cigar bars to regulating the amount of water toilets may hold, the left tries to insert its’ proboscis in areas that shock the sensibilities of free men. If you ask those in this movement what they want government to do, a very common answer would be “leave me alone…”

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