I’ve seen conservative before, and this ain’t it

Words should mean things

Something that annoys the hell out of me: when people see the members of one political party1and it is only one political party blatantly ignoring standards and tradition2including “traditions” they made up out of political convenience to redefine how our government is supposed to work, for the purposes of perceived short-term gain, and still call that “conservative.”

Case in point: the “hearings”3scare quotes because the so-called “conservatives” are obviously just treating this as a formality right now to approve Amy Coney Barrett to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court. The whole process is, simply put, unfair. That’s not me talking as some California liberal; it’s fact. It’s objectively and incontrovertibly true. Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm Merrick Garland for eight months with the tepid excuse that it’s “tradition” not to confirm a lifetime appointment in an election year.

The only argument you could possibly make in good faith is that you believe the unfairness is justified for some reason. One example that I’ve seen is the idea that it’s dangerous to have all three branches of government controlled by one political party. I strongly disagree with that on principle, but even if I didn’t, anyone who thinks that the Democrats would become an unstoppable machine of progressive change if they took control of the executive, legislative, and judicial branch is someone who has obviously never seen how the Democrats operate in practice.

No doubt there are plenty of people who’d say that complaining about “fairness” in politics is naive, childish, or unrealistic. (Or if they didn’t say it outright, it would quickly become clear that it’s what they believe). This is why it’s not great to have the political conversation completely dominated by pundits and activists โ€” they treat political issues either as a sport, or as something so crucial that being concerned about fairness is a luxury they don’t have. In either case, the objective isn’t to govern, but to win.

But if there’s any part of government in which it’s important to stop, take a step back, and consider the full implications of what’s happening, it’s with the judicial branch. That’s the entire reason the judicial branch exists in the first place. Genuine conservatives and liberals alike should all agree that the court should be non-partisan. The purpose of the court isn’t to further conservative policy or liberal policy, but fair policy. The reason for lifetime appointments is to make sure that justices aren’t subject to shifting party alliances. A real conservative would actually be pushing for a moderate or a liberal justice to replace Justice Ginsburg, to preserve the balance. Real conservatives should be disgusted that Kavanaugh was confirmed after his disgraceful meltdown(s).

If we think of it only in terms of a win for “our side” or “their side,” then we have ignored the entire reason the government is supposed to exist in the first place. That’s why, out of the ten billion things that disqualify Trump from being President, his frequent assertions from day one of his campaign that he was only president of the people who voted for him should be the most damning thing for actual conservatives. Even the ones who were able to overlook his thousands of lapses in character, his gross incompetence, and his blatant corruption. When he’s done so much that’s inexcusable and inhuman, it would seem like only caring about the red states would be the least important thing to complain about, but I’d argue that it’s the one thing that, in a nation of conscientious adults, should offend everyone.

(That’s also one of the reasons that the faux-progressives who throw a tantrum instead of voting for “another old white man” are so insufferably infuriating. They condescend to everyone else while failing to understand that centrism, tempered by active dissent, is essential to the democratic process. A democratic government has to represent even the shittiest and most selfish Republican, or else there’s no point in having a democracy at all).

I definitely understand that when we’re threatened with corrupt authoritarianism and blatant attempts to establish a theocracy, complaining about using the wrong word to describe Republicans is a non-argument that completely misses the point. But I’d insist that defining “us” vs “them” in terms of “conservative” and “liberal” is just falling for Republicans’ decades-long branding campaign. When the rest of us fall for it, it subtly changes the way that we think about the issues and about the people actively trying to subvert our democracy. We all know that branding is effective at shaping the way we think. Even though I’ve had almost 50 years of being shown, over and over and over again, that the Republican party has never truly been the party of fiscal responsibility and conservative economics, I still instinctively assume that Republicans are going to behave conservatively.

By shitting all over our institutions and branding it “conservative,” they’re trying to normalize anti-democratic, anti-American policies as if they were merely another valid part of the political spectrum. It’s like acting surprised and offended when the Slytherins reveal themselves to be evil, when they’ve got a fucking snake in their logo.4#NotAllSlytherins

It’s good that social media is being vocal about refusing to normalize corrupt behavior, and calling out the traditional media for trying to create false equivalencies and insist that “both sides” are playing politics. I just want to remind people that calling gross manipulation of our institutions “conservative” does nothing but help normalize it.

  • 1
    and it is only one political party
  • 2
    including “traditions” they made up out of political convenience
  • 3
    scare quotes because the so-called “conservatives” are obviously just treating this as a formality
  • 4