“I only seem liberal because I believe that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not gay marriage.” – Will McAvoy, “The Newsroom”
So it’s four more years for President Barrack Obama. I’m not terribly shocked. I knew it would be close – Obama has a slim edge in the popular vote – but I did not expect he would walk away with such a huge electoral college lead.
Obama’s victory has some conservatives in the US and in Canada totally confused. How, how, how did the devil himself win the election? Why would more than half of Americas vote for a guy who will “radically change” what America is and destroy everything America has been and could be?
One such conservative pundit is my Sun Media colleague Ezra Levant, who appears somewhat baffled by Obama’s victory and laments what he figures will be the dismantling of America’s “empire of freedom.”
I think it’s a safe bet to say that America will still be America in four years time, its constitution and legacy and values still intact.
Sherlock Holmes often criticized Dr. Watson for seeing but not observing. Ezra is doing the same thing. He sees the results but cannot fathom why anyone would vote for Obama.
What he doesn’t see is that while he likes the word “conservative” what that term means isn’t what it used to mean in the US and increasingly in Canada.
Being a conservative used to mean advocating small government, but understanding society cannot let those who have fallen simply lay in the gutter. Encourage charity, but understand sometimes that isn’t enough. It meant building social programs, but ensuring they worked rather than become a black hole for tax dollars. Foster private business and a free market, but knowing that the free market is on its own unkind and citizens may need help. It meant respecting traditions as important, but knowing when the time had come to let them go. Allow change, but in a way that minimized the harm that sweeping change can sometimes cause. It recognized that investment in science and education was the foundation for better future business, military, and economic growth.
That isn’t what conservative means to a lot of self identifying conservatives these days. Increasingly, it means turning the clock back to a mythological past where everything was sunshine and rainbows and everyone went to the same church and kept their doors unlocked and gay people knew enough to shut up. It means, all too often, adhering to an intolerant religious literalism that yearns not for a secular democracy (which is what the American Found Fathers created) but a quasi-democratic theocracy, where the Church decides social policy. Non-believers and the wrong kind of believers are ok so long as they don’t have political influence. It’s become a movement that is anti-science, anti-contraception, anti-women in many ways, anti-gay, and anti-intelligence. Where once being conservative meant science and intelligence were things to be fostered for the future, they are regarded with suspicion. (Notice the anti-evolution and anti-global warming crowd come from only one slice of the political spectrum.) “Intellectual” is a dirty word. It’s the ideology that consistently produces nuts who talk about “legitimate rape” and who make insane claims that a woman’s body “shuts down” its reproductive system to prevent pregnancy during rape. And these ideas are discussed SERIOUSLY instead of being dismissed for what they are: the rantings of a madman.
It’s an idea that wants military might for it’s own sake, counts it only in terms of the numbers of ships, planes and bullets, but has no idea how it ought to be used. It’s a political idea that appeals only to the heart, never the mind, that prizes action on instinct rather than careful consideration. It is, above all things, an idea that becomes increasingly small, increasingly loud, increasingly out of touch, and increasingly pigmy minded.
Of course, saying such things will result in being called a “leftist” or a “liberal”, as though both words must mean one is a Stalinist of some kind. A liberal is not a person with a different political view with whom you can disagree but work with for the greater good, but an enemy at best, a traitor at worst. Unless you share their ideology, you hate freedom, democracy and capitalism. Dissent is not something that can be tolerated. Even if you happen to be what I guess could be called a “classical conservative,” you’re not part of the “in” crowd should you hold a different view on a political or social issue. And when that happens, when the fingers start wagging and the word “liberal” used as a curse, my point has been proven.
A big part of the reason that more than half of Americans voted for Obama is because they reject this mutated version of conservationism. The GOP of 2012 is not the GOP of Bush Sr., or Reagan (who weirdly has become a conservative saint even though a lot of his policies upset the people who define the GOP and Tea Party today. His legacy is lost in a mythological history created by those who call themselves “conservative.”) The GOP and the Tea Party are the ones who claim even today that Obama is a secret Muslim (he’s a Christian. And the fact that the constitution says there is no religious test for office is lost on them I guess) that he was born in Kenya (he wasn’t) and that is a some kind of socialist/communist nut bag (his policies are all well right of anything seen in Canada or Europe which have actual socialist parties that are regularly elected.).
Even those who might otherwise have voted Romney (check out some of the exit polling) didn’t. Why? Because while they liked his economic ideas, particularly in attacking the deficit and reducing the size of government, Romney and his party were so out of touch socially they lost voters. By being against gay marriage, being anti-immigrant, by being anti-poor, Romney lost to a president he could have beaten.
In short, the GOP are out of touch and while they continue to appeal to a large segment of Americans, these “neo conservative” ideas don’t fly with enough of them to win the White House. And they won’t fly and unless the GOP and those who consider themselves conservative grow up, reclaim the legacy that true political conservatism is, let go of the religious zealotry, worship of ignorance and mythological history, they will become increasingly marginalized.
That’s what Ezra isn’t seeing.