There are a couple of ways that questions could be asked and answered. Today, I think US conservatives do not stand for anything. They want to “bring back” religion into politics and education, two places where religion has historically been a catastrophic disaster. US pseudo-conservatives would like to relive the 1950s, with absolutely no guilt about racism, sexism, intolerance, and the prosperity of the 1950s without the 90% upper income tax rate, the low national debt, the general lack of recreational wars, the nasty hard work of manufacturing and low cost universal education, and, most of all, without the threat of stagnation and being overtaken by the future. That doesn’t even qualify as a delusion. That sort of mindless wistfulness is purely insanity.
That’s not the question I want to answer, though. I’m more interested in the purpose of conservatives. And there is a purpose. To put it simply, the “larger animal,” as Robert Pirsig put it in Lila; an Inquiry Into Morals, needs and craves stability; the status quo.The higher animal is, in Pirsig’s terms, society. In our current society, corporations are an animal even higher in the food chain than government, what most sociologists might consider to be the driving force in societies.
In most ways, conservatives are the forgotten parking brake of society. Anyone with a lick of sense knows that “the only constant in nature is change.” However, a basic character of all animals is a fear of change. Humans are more animal than most. The majority of humans are conservative and terrified of change. Well over 50% of us are confirmed conservatives in most of our attitudes; probably closer to 90%, in fact.
The reason for this panic reaction to on-going change is the desire to prevent things from going from bad to worse. This is a solid, well-founded fear. However, when we are actually not undergoing the stress of bad times, the conservative fear change because it will alter the status, power, and wealth of the ruling elite; exactly the group who will (as they always do) bring on bad times with their extravagance, greed, corruption, incompetence, and arrogance.
Good times are exactly the moment when a nation should be doing basic maintenance, just like a well-run business (at least as rare as well-run countries). Instead of allowing ourselves to be distracted with toys, mindless entertainment, and other useless bullshit, we ought to be taking our spare moments and using them for the future good. We ought to be doing the things that need doing to keep the good times rolling.
The problem with poor insight is that we easily forget the purpose of things. In the same way too many US citizens have forgotten the militia obligation in their precious second amendment (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”), humans quickly forget the “bad to worse” purpose of trying to hold back change and delude themselves into believing that all change is bad: quite naturally, since change is naturally resisted under all conditions.
Too many US citizens calling themselves “conservative” are considerably less than that. Since they actually imagine they can turn back the clock on change they are better identified as “pseudo-conservatives.” Only idiots imagine they have any control of time and even bigger fools imagine that using terrorist tactics will convince people who are not terrified of change to become as timid as pseudo-conservatives regarding obvious issues with obvious conclusions. The problem they miss comprehending is that working from a base point of fear will not make you brave, but it will make you do cowardly things:
While conservatives often portray themselves as being brave individuals, they are pack-following, timid old ladies in character. The breakdown of a recent poll of US citizens’ opinion on marijuana legalization is illustrative. The big opponents of change (legalization) are women, the 45-and-older crowd, and Republicans. The strongest opponents to legalization are old Republican women, the world’s most conservative (as in “timid”) group. Nobody is more risk adverse than conservative women, especially old women. Oddly, even the conservative groups put the known risk of (in this order) alcohol (69% to 15%), tobacco, and sugar above marijuana, but they do not advocate regulating or outlawing those products because that would mean incurring dreaded change.
For me, all of this has resulted in a mild improvement in my regard of actual conservatives. On the rare occasion I have the opportunity to talk with someone who is knowledgeable, insightful, and honestly concerned that the changes made in society will bring us closer to some real (not imagined) bad consequences, I listen. Too many conservatives typify John Stuart Mill’s analysis, “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.” In the simplified eye of modern corporate media, all Democrats are liberals (or “lib-tards” to the not-so-bright Teabaggers). Any reading of modern or historic American politics would deny that assumption. There are stupid people wearing red or blue hats and neither have the qualities required to be called “liberal.” They are simply afraid of changes in different areas of society. They are both, to some extent, worried that change will make things worse than they imagine they already are and neither have the imagination to consider how bad things will get if change doesn’t occur.