It seems to me….
“Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called Social Security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.” ~ Harry S. Truman.
For many years, those on the conservative right in the U.S. have invoked a nostalgia for the 1950s and an America that never was but they presume to have existed so as to rationalize their sense of loss and abandonment, their fear of change, their bitter resentments, and lingering contempt for the social movements of the 1960s; a time of new aspirations for women, gays, and people of color. Conservatives insist on striding backwards towards a glorious past that existed only in their imagination. In truth, at least in economic terms, the country of the 1950s resembled Denmark as much as the U.S. of today. Marginal tax rates for the wealthy were 90 percent. The salaries of CEOs were, on average, just 20 times that of their mid-management employees.
I was a registered Republican for most of my early life. I did not leave the Republican party, they left me in their shift toward the extreme right in the years following President Eisenhower – an ideological shift that still continues today. Many Democrats also have shifted toward the right and now occupy the position once occupied by the Republicans. There effectively is no longer any extremely liberal political party in the U.S. as both parties have abandoned their traditional constituents.
My basic political tenets remain similar to when I was young probably characterized best as being an Eisenhower Republican. Looking back at the Republican Party platform of 1956, my personal ideology has barely changed. Though I now prefer to consider myself an independent, my political ideology is probably consistent with that of a moderate Democrat.
There are a considerable number of people who have mistaken ideas as to what our nation actually is. The U.S. is not now and never has been a democracy: it is a republic. A democracy is a political system which is made by/of/for the people; a republic is a representative democracy with a chief of state known as a president.
In a democracy, the rule of the majority of people prevails; in a republic, the rule of law prevails. In a democracy, minority rights are overridden by the majority. A Republic protects the rights of minority groups or of an individual.
Similarly, while we have had social welfare programs since our country was founded, we are not now nor ever have been socialistic. People should be more careful when they throw labels around without understanding their meaning. Socialism has never worked anywhere it has been tried and neither would it work here in the U.S.
This does not deny that there are widely supported socialistic facets of our nation. Socialism is the political and economic theory of social organization advocating that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. E.g.; the U.S. military is an example of total socialism but I am not aware of conservatives opposing it. Those serving in the military are provided all their basic needs: shelter, food, healthcare, clothing, training…; without charge.
Democratic socialism is another term widely derided by conservatives who seem quite willing to advantage themselves of its provided benefits. It is a system of political thought and action that calls upon the government to provide certain social and economic rights or entitlements necessary to the wellbeing of all members of the community. Many cities provide such basic amenities as water, sewerage, basic education, security (police, fire…), roads, street lighting, and other essential services. Some cities also provide electrical power or, essentially exclusively in rural areas, telephone communications. All attributes common to social democracy commonly available – without conservative complaint.
Similarly, it is difficult to speak of a “conservative” ideology as it means something different to each person. Additionally, each of us is more or less liberal or conservative depending upon the specific topic being considered.
While there is no single set of policies universally regarded as conservative, conservatism is basically a political and social philosophy that favors retaining traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. The meaning of conservatism therefore depends on what is considered traditional in a given place and time. Conservatives do however, in general, tend to believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values, a strong national defense, and that the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.
Being slightly more specific since the primary political differences between Republicans and Democrats supposedly are between either a liberal or conservative ideology, conservatives typically place a higher value on existing institutions based on custom and tradition. They are more likely than liberals to express faith in some supernatural force that guides human affairs which they believe to be necessary due to mankind’s essential base and irrational nature. They believe there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant and moral truths are permanent.
There is an acceptance of human inequality and the attending consequence of social hierarchy. Conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked; that economic leveling is not economic progress.
They recognize a need for a sense of community among individuals that will bind them emotionally to their society. Conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. In a genuine community, the decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily.
Conservatives adhere to custom, convention, and continuity accepting that both permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. They believe it is the old customs that enable people to live together peaceably. That there is a need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.
They are guided by their principle of prudence. Conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription. We, as moderns, are unlikely to make any brave new discoveries in morals, politics, or taste.
Conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety. They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems.
While a counter description of liberal beliefs is not provided, there is more similarity and acceptance than generally recognized. It is unfortunate that the chasm separating the two dominant political parties has grown to where neither is willing to listen or compromise with the other. There is strength in both sets of beliefs and our country is stronger when both willingly come together and cooperate. Admittedly, achieving compromise when strong beliefs are involved can be extremely difficult.
Additionally, there are a number of largely empirical issues whose answers need not, in principle, be associated with one’s position on the left or right politically but, in practice, are. These include:
- The anthropogenic basis of climate change,
- The effects of fiscal stimulus/austerity,
- The effects of monetary expansion and risks of inflation,
- The revenue effects of tax reductions,
- The practicality of universal healthcare.
In the world’s largest cities, where populations are densely concentrated and growing, economies are generally thriving and cosmopolitanism is embraced. Where populations are sparse or shrinking, usually in rural places and small cities, economies are often stagnant and populism sells. This tends to further divide growing urban liberal localities from those more conservative rural areas.
Change is inevitable in society, in governmental arrangements and relationships, in leadership, in public policies, and throughout the political world. Ideologies of the moderate varieties seek change at a pace that enables progress to occur but neither so quickly that destruction of stability and order in society becomes more likely, nor so slow as to foster stagnation and status quo permanence. Clearly, there is considerable room for disagreement and dispute over what is the proper balance in all of these concerns.
When discussing political issues, some conveniently choose to ignore basic facts when confronted by something with which they either disagree or that differs from their preferred ideology or set of beliefs. Republicans are never happy even when Democrats propose anything positive or beneficial. Democrats, on the other hand, would be glad if Republicans ever proposed anything worthwhile.
Conservatives claim Democrats are extremists when it is they who have moved to the extreme right embracing such factions within their party such as the Tea Party, libertarians, White Evangelical Christians, alt-right, white supremacists, QAnon, and others. The Republican party has moved sufficiently far to the right that they now either favor, or at least willingly tolerate, neofascism. In the 2020 Presidential election, almost 47 percent of the voters supported a populist candidate for President who actively campaigned as a would-be autocrat. Several nations in Europe now consider the Republican Party to be an extremist organization.
That the U.S. wavered on the edge of neofascism should alarm everyone but apparently does not. Characteristics of neofascism include blind loyalty to a leader who’s really more of a national father figure; belief that the leader is the state; belief that opposition to the leader is opposition to the state and thus treason; conviction (instilled or ignited by the leader) that the source of the problems facing the good wholesome ethnic majority is some Other or collection of Others who must be ostracized if not banished; agreement that the rules and constraints of democratic order are sometimes useful and should be obeyed as long as one can obey them and win as doing so confers a certain legitimacy, but if they have to be cast aside to hold power, then cast aside they must be. These principles have animated every fascist regime in human history. They were at the heart of Trumpism and were able to draw many more adherents in this country than many of us would ever have thought possible.
While democracy prevailed in 2020-2021, its fragility and need to be carefully nourished and protected from would-be usurpers was all-too apparent. Symbols and support for neofascism, prevalent in the election campaign, will take time to fully overcome.
The irony of current politics is that policies advocated by liberal Democrats primarily benefit those of lower and middle income rather than those with greater wealth. Policies supported by Republican conservatives have been detrimental to that group mostly benefiting the wealthy – healthcare, education… – not those with little voice at lower-income levels. Conservatives now represent a constituency that embraces a closed ideology.
Republicans have successfully sold the big lie to their base convincing them that Democratic policies represent socialism – never let an actual fact stand in the way of ideology. Voting patterns indicate conservatives would rather stay with a set of ideas and priorities that are frankly failing them. The main thing that has to happen is that the system has to once again work well for enough working and middle-class people such that neofascism’s allures are diminished. Currently, too many people, on both the left and right view the government with mistrust and suspicion. For that to be overcome so the majority once again accept and support those elected to represent them will require compassion, sympathy, and understanding.
Democrats currently control the Presidency and enjoy a very narrow Congressional majority. If they are able to approve measures helping working-class people; e.g., COVID-19 recovery, a decent minimum wage, infrastructure improvements, public investment in rural areas and small towns, and building a greener economy; they most likely will be able increase that majority in the mid-term elections in 2022. If Republicans are once again able to stand against advancement, the opportunity will be lost along with any prospect of progress.
That’s what I think, what about you?
 Harry S. Truman was the 33rd U.S. President from 1945 to 1953, succeeding upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt after serving as the 34th Vice-President. He implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe and established the Truman Doctrine and NATO.
 Davis, Wade. The Unraveling Of America, RollingStone, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/political-commentary/covid-19-end-of-american-era-wade-davis-1038206/?fbclid=IwAR2g4crbtzGPQDBq-B72pq_Da8LiE8H7QhxI5zwXrTBcz-oKEHm3SWLILLw, 6 August 2020.
 Krugman, Paul. The Closing of the Conservative Mind, The New York Times, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/the-closing-of-the-conservative-mind/, 25 May 2013.
 Brammer, John Paul. The Republican Platform Is Extremist – And So Is Anyone Who Supports It, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/14/republican-platform-extremist-conversion-therapy-donald-trump, 14 July 2016.
 Tomasky, Michael. Trump Just Broke Through The Last Level of Neo-Fascism, Daily Beast, Trump Just Broke Through the Last Level of Neo-Fascism (thedailybeast.com), 11 December 2020.