Friday, June 06, 2008

"Conservatives" Always Lose - In the Long Run

If you pay attention to the media, you know that there are many newspapers, radio stations, and TV networks that identify themselves as "conservative" either overtly or by their content. They tend to kowtow toward the predominant religion, glorify patriotism (which they define as their own views on the current government), and stand for an economic policy which ensures that the current "haves" grow their fortunes. In short, conservatives like the world to stay pretty much like it is (when they are in power), or like it was (before they lost power). They abhor change, whether it be in religion, social mores, politics, science or economics. But they always lose, in the long run, because change happens.

As we move a bit further into the 21st century, we see change on every front. Genetic engineering, powerful new telescopes, nanotechnology, and climate change are providing new scientific information that must be acted upon. The world's political power structure is evolving eastward with a velocity that would have been scoffed at only 25 years ago. Many churches are reaching out to homosexuals and starting to focus more directly on religious "action" rather than dogmatic theology. The world's appetite for fossil fuels is driving up their prices and motivating accelerated research into new energy sources. Women are holding key positions in government and industry. The world is re-making itself, and conservatives are in a tizzy because they are not change-oriented.

We often mistakenly see conservatives as people with right wing capitalist leanings, but conservatives are simply those who dislike change. The communist USSR was as conservative a regime as there has ever been, simply because it singlemindedly pursued a political/economic model that proved faulty and eventually collapsed the country. Conservative management and unions in the American auto industry resisted change and are now watching their markets and their employee base shrink dramatically. Conservative Roman Catholic bishops looked the other way at priestly pedophiles for centuries, but their adherence to the old rules has cost their church much treasure and eroded its moral standing. These examples show that change can be successfully resisted for a time, but that time often ends with devastating consequences for those whose feet have been stuck in the status quo.

Conservatives have had a prominent or dominant position in U.S. politics for more than 20 years, and not long ago they looked forward to a century of such dominance. But they, like conservatives of all ages, refused to acknowledge that the world was changing all around them - in science, religion, social mores, and economics. They made decisions based on obsolete facts and beliefs, and Americans have watched as these decisions produced adverse consequences. Americans now see us mired in an unnecessary and costly war, unprepared for high fuel prices, pummelled by climate-change-induced storms, and ruled by layers of incompetents. The tide is turning, and the November election will turn out self-described conservatives in droves.

Does this mean that the liberals will lead us forever? No. They have their own constituencies, and these constituencies also resist change. Take the teacher's unions, for example. They talk liberal from a social perspective, but they are conservative as hell when it comes to economics or change in the education process. The best we can hope for, then, is that the liberal administration will attack and solve some of the obvious problems before they, too, get stuck by moving their focus toward consolidating their gains and hanging on to power. The conservatives will then return to restore order for a time.

It turns out that we need both liberals and conservatives to move the world along. But the liberals always win in the long run. Change is inexorable. It's time for change.

1 comment:

Ron Davison said...

Given your thinking (and I quite agree), bet on conservatives in the short-run and liberals in the long-run.
It does point to the muddle we've made of labels in this country, tho. There are those who more blindly trust in markets and big companies and those who more blindly trust in elections and big government. Those divisions don't always neatly line up with those who are willing for social innovations and those who resist them.