In a world whose 21st Century inter-connectedness and complexity are no doubt entirely beyond the visions of even the most imaginative among those of prior generations [and surely beyond the capacity of our Founding Fathers], insistence on narrowing our focus and policies in honor of the earliest conservative interpretations of “limited government” is to disrespect the greater principles upon which our nation was formed.
As others along the way have noted, we can either be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Doing nothing and/or preventing others—duly-elected by majority vote in accordance with the most basic principles of our democracy—from enacting the mandates upon which they were chosen is the very definition of “being part of the problem.” The benefits accrue only to the few, who then double-down on their efforts to promote fear, confusion, and anxiety to further distract their supporters from the self-serving agendas they seek to fulfill.
Contemporary conservatism is first and foremost about shrinking the size and reach of the federal government. This mission, let us be clear, is an ideological one. It does not emerge out of an attempt to solve real-world problems.
The Republican Party continues to demonstrate that it is an insurgent force in our politics, one that aspires to rewrite the social contract and role of government developed and affirmed over a century by both major political parties. The old conservative GOP has been transformed into a party beholden to ideological zealots, one that sees little need to balance individualism with community, freedom with equality, markets with regulation, state with national power, or policy commitments with respect for facts, evidence, science, and a willingness to compromise.
Unwarranted paranoia stoked by a media wing whose first priority is not honesty or integrity doesn’t help us address our economic, environmental, or cultural concerns. It’s not a blessing for the political disputes, either. Ratings spikes and revenue dollars rolling in are obvious “benefits” to the war being waged between Left and Right, but those numbers don’t exist in a vacuum.
They translate into more intense polarization and partisanship, for one thing. Compromise and negotiation—long the hallmarks of an intelligent, forward-thinking, and wise political process designed for and guided by the notion of acting for the common good—has now become tantamount to treason.
Have we become that selfish? Do we no longer possess the wisdom of generations before us who understood that governing and policy to benefit the most among us for the longest periods of time requires something much less than adherence to rigid, unthinking ideology?
If our nation is to continue to uphold the ideals and principles which have sustained us and been the hallmarks of our astonishing history, then someone needs to inform leaders that narrow-minded is not the way to go.
Mere unthinking negative opposition to the current of events, clutching in despair at what we still retain, will not suffice in this age. A conservatism of instinct must be reinforced by a conservatism of thought and imagination.
Whether one agrees with the principles of conservatism or not, the wisdom of F. A. Hayek’s observation cannot be rationally contested. “Mere unthinking negative opposition” wasn’t appropriate in the less-complicated past, and so it certainly has no place in modern times. Yet that very strategy has been on full display since before Day One of the Obama Presidency.
It may have brought great benefits to the few and psychological satisfaction to the many, but an ongoing failure to cast aside facts, reason, different perspectives, and a host of other variables necessary to effect almost every meaningful solution to every meaningful challenge in this 21st Century ought to be the last tactic deployed.
That it has become the first and only all too often is a sad, troubling commentary on the distance we’ve put between the strengths of our democratic history and the failings of the modern political warfare which now substitutes for governing.
The costs will soon become incalculable unless we start making different choices. Will we? Soon?
~ My Photo: Rowes Wharf, Boston MA – 08.25.16 ©
Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows
Be the change you want in the world – Gandhi
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein
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As I state in the “About Me” section, I’m driven by an intense commitment to learn why those on the conservative side of the fence view so many matters of great importance to us all so differently than do those of us on the progressive side. Those contrasting behaviors, beliefs, and ideologies are contributing factors to the very problems we’re trying to solve—the ones we must solve if our own ambitions and our hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world we leave to our children are to be well-served.
If we don’t recognize and accept that bitter partisanship is not always the wisest or most beneficial strategy, the goal of a better future will forever be as far away tomorrow as it is today.
The late Senator Paul Wellstone’s observation continues to hold far more truth and power than we give it credit:
We all do better when we all do better
Why make setting up inevitable and enduring conflict the primary objective of policy and planning?