If there was honesty in politics, conservatives would call themselves by a different name
A couple weeks ago I wrote an article about my dislike for the word liberal and how, in recent decades, it has come to represent centrists I could not identify with. I also made a slight suggestion that the word “conservative” no longer represents actual conservatives.
It is no political secret that conservatives are afraid of change. Not just because the first black President advocated for it, but because their ideology all but forces them to reject it. It is after all, part of the very definition of the word “conservative.”
con•serv•a•tive adjective “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.”
con•serv•a•tive noun “A person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.”
This fear of change finds its roots in religion, from laws written thousands of years ago which were in some cases, plainly etched in stone. Religious conservatives, particularly those with a literal interpretation of the bible, will never accept social change or scientific advancement. They have followed the same guidelines for thousands of years and are not apt to change.
Conservatives however no longer follow traditional social values. Society has progressed dramatically over the last hundred years, therefore their traditional values have become past tense. Today, conservatives aren’t afraid of change so long as the change is regressive.
Since the dawn of the 21st century, conservatives in the United States and Canada have moved further to the right, some say the extreme right. This political shift can be seen in the names of the groups that have emerged in both countries, but they are not honest names.
The United States has seen the emergence of the Tea Party, an extreme right wing element of the Republican Party. Canada saw the death of the century old Progressive Conservative Party (an oxymoron if you think about it) as it merged with the right-wing Reform Party to form the new Conservative Party of Canada.
Although one is an actual political party and the other can be considered a group of far right-wing political activists, they are both similar in nature. I’ve often joked about how the Conservative Party should have named themselves “The Tea Party of Canada.” The truth is, if there was clarity and honesty in politics, both of them would have called themselves the “Regressive Party.”
As far as the second definition goes, conservatives favoring regressive tax policies is nothing new. It goes back at least as far as Reagan and Mulroney, if not further. Both leaders cut taxes on the ultra-wealthy and raised them on the poor and middle-class.
These same tax polices persist today with Stephen Harper in Canada cutting corporate taxes in half and introducing income splitting tax breaks. Republicans in Congress on the other hand, while they support similar action, do not hold the presidency to ensure their passage.
There are many political and social issues that have been settled in North America for decades. Abortion, environmental protection and civil rights to name just a few. All these issues have nevertheless come under heavy attack over the past ten years.
It’s getting a lot harder to find an abortion clinic in some States within the Union, while some conservative politicians within Canada have recently requested to speak about anti-abortion laws (there are no laws currently governing abortion in Canada).
Climate Change science in both countries is either disputed or repressed by conservative leaders. This despite an all-out effort to fix the ozone layer only a couple decades ago under Republican and PC governments. Today you would be hard-pressed to find a conservative in the United States that didn’t want to shut down the EPA.
Let’s not forget gay marriage, which has clearly become the civil rights issue of our time. It has become the norm across the developed world over the last twenty years, but for some conservatives, civil rights will always be meant for those who are white, straight, English men. Hard to believe this day and age, there are still people regressive enough to wish for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act.
Social issues aside, the principal area where conservatives show off their actual regressive ideology can be found in economics. The Great Depression showed us how dangerous unregulated free market capitalism can be, but that hasn’t stopped conservatives from going backwards.
Although deregulation and union busting started with the conservative revolution of the 1980’s, the move to further deregulate industry has taken on a new meaning in the last ten to fifteen years as has the war on unionization.
If we truly want our voting populous to understand the shifting ideology our conservative political parties and groups believe, we need to call them out for what they truly are. We need to make the word regressive a noun.
re•gres•sive noun “A person who prefers returning to a former or less developed state and prefers taking a proportionally greater amount of tax from those on lower incomes”