But perhaps the essential question for the now-disenchanted Bush voter is this: “What if it’s not just Bush who’s imbecilic? What if it’s the entire conservative ideology?” Why does this political philosophy hold any attraction for me?
What is the conservative mindset? Conservatism resists change. Its history in this country is very revealing. Conservatism fought freeing the slaves, fought giving women the right to vote, fought organized labor, fought giving Americans with black skins the right to drink a coke at an integrated lunch counter, fought freedom of speech, fought environmental protection and fought for the imposition of its religious beliefs on every citizen. It continues to fight against many of these progressive issues.
A Supreme Court now dominated by five Roman Catholic male conservatives epitomizes the dark designs of the Bush presidency and the right wing movement. This gang of five has already begun to turn back the clock on decades of social progress.
It seems to me that conservatism appeals primarily to three groups: the rich, the rustic, and the religious.
I haven’t the slightest difficulty understanding why a rich conservative would support George W. Bush. After all, the single accomplishment of his disastrous presidency — other than tilting the federal judiciary rightward — has been the tireless care and feeding of the wealthy. As a ne’re-do-well who has devoted his entire adult life to capitalizing on his last name, we can only imagine the largesse awaiting Bush in 2009. He will be handsomely compensated for eight solid years of tax cuts for the rich and carte blanche for corporations (“Welcome, thou good and faithful servant, into the reward of thy true Lord.”).
The conservative rich are understandably the truest advocates of conservatism: they like things exactly the way they are; the only change they seek is more money and more power.
As there are not enough billionaires to elect a government directly, the rustic and religious voters must be appealed to in order to swell the conservative voting ranks. The rustic conservative should not be defined as strictly rural but as a comparatively unsophisticated voter residing anywhere (unsophisticated does not mean stupid but “ingenuous; naïve; inexperienced” [Dictionary.com]).
This group is more influenced by simplistic argument and the sight of a candidate attending a NASCAR race or an NRA convention than by any deeper consideration of that candidate’s political philosophy. This is the “Bush as the guy you’d like to have at your barbecue” mentality. The rustic voter is also more likely to be unyielding in his or her beliefs; more bigoted and resistant to other points of view. Thinly disguised appeals to racism, blind patriotism, and inflammatory issues like abortion and immigration reform are the demagogic tools employed to sway this electorate. These are the voters who actually take Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter seriously. These are the working poor and struggling middle classes who doggedly support the party of the rich-voting entirely against their own interests, like a non-wealthy homosexual voting Republican.
The religious conservative, like the rustic, is also understandably persuaded by the candidate who appears to share their beliefs (in this case religious prejudices). As Sinclair Lewis famously warned, “When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” The conservative sales pitch to this group rests on the laughable claim that conservatism is the sole depository of family “values;” Christian “principles;” governmental “integrity;” etc. It promises legislative support of the conservative Christian agenda (abortion, stem cell research, public school teaching of creationism, etc.). But what sort of “Christian” behavior do we observe once the right is in power?
The left holds violence as an act of last resort. The right, and particularly this administration, sees violence as the first tool to reach for. From gleefully signing death warrants to ordering bombing raids, this “Christian” president runs to shed other people’s blood. Bush, indefatigable apologist for the affluent, is the anti-Robin Hood: he steals from the poor and gives to the rich. Christians should ask themselves very carefully which ideology their avowed Savior, a true bleeding heart of compassion, would likely embrace: liberal or conservative. Jesus is said to have cautioned, “By their deeds you will know them.”
So the question remains: how can so many Americans continue to be drawn to conservatism? Here’s my theory. The rich (the true elitists) are in control of this country and probably always have been. To remain in power they must rely on suckering the rustic and the religious masses into believing that conservatism sincerely cares about them and their “values.” Mainstream media is owned by billionaires and the billionaire advertisers who keep them in business. The media is the all-powerful persuader of the masses (taking control of radio and TV stations is a top priority in any revolution). Owned by the rich, the conservative message prevails. And let’s have no more nonsense about a “liberal media.” To the extent it ever existed, it has long been supplanted by a super-rich right-wing propaganda machine. When is the last time you heard a liberal voice on widely syndicated talk radio?
Ted Turner once said, “Everything you see, hear, and read is controlled by basically five corporations.” In other words everything we see, hear, and read is basically what a handful of billionaires want us to see, hear, and read. The American people are not stupid. They are being deliberately misinformed. They are being willfully kept in the dark. They are being played for suckers. The result is an ineffectual clown sitting at the most powerful desk on Earth.
We all need to wake up to the fact that we are not living in a democracy but a plutocracy. We have been brainwashed into believing that unregulated capitalism is synonymous with democracy. It isn’t. In Monopoly, the one with all the cash holds all the power. We average Americans are not equal and we are not free. We are de facto slaves to the rich.