End of the conservative era

There are many people involved in politics today that decry excessive “partisanship” and vow to fix a “broken Washington.”  They believe that the biggest problems facing our country are essentially procedural; that if we just worked together rather than engage in “partisan politics,” we’d solve all of our problems.  Even Senator Obama devoted much of his primary campaign to bringing a “new kind of politics” to Washington, DC.

While I don’t deny that Washington could use some procedural house cleaning, I believe that this argument misses the bigger picture.  The primary problem in Washington today is the failed policies and philosophy of the Republican Party and conservatism itself.  Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural address laid out this philosophy succinctly: “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”  He and the GOP essentially declared war on the New Deal.

The Republican party has carried forth this philosophy to all aspects of their economic policies, for example: a regressive tax policy that rewards wealth rather than work and balloons the budget deficit; a lack of investment in infrastructure and research and development; deregulation and anti-regulation; free trade policies that shift our jobs over seas; a war on labor unions; and immigration policies that seeks to drive down wages for all by exploiting undocumented workers.  The disastrous results of the last eight years, as the “Reagan Revolution” came to fruition, have demonstrated the utter failure of conservatism.

President Clinton in Denver last month at the DNC made this same point: “The choice is clear. The Republicans will nominate a good man who served our country heroically and suffered terribly in Vietnam. He loves our country every bit as much as we all do. As a Senator, he has shown his independence on several issues. But on the two great questions of this election, how to rebuild the American Dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world, he still embraces the extreme philosophy which has defined his party for more than 25 years, a philosophy we never had a real chance to see in action until 2001, when the Republicans finally gained control of both the White House and Congress. Then we saw what would happen to America if the policies they had talked about for decades were implemented.”

Senator Obama followed up the next night in his acceptance speech with these observations: “For over two decades, he’s [McCain] subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.”

President Clinton and Senator Obama have demonstrated that they know the primary problem in Washington today.  We see this in all aspects of our economic woes.  The good news is that although the Republican Party has waged war on New Deal liberalism for decades now, it’s clear that they have failed.  It is their ideas that have been totally and utterly discredited, not those of New Deal-Great Society liberalism.  The New Deal advocated government involvement in those problems that individuals cannot solve themselves with private initiative and philanthropy.  The New Deal sought to alleviate economic insecurity, advance economic opportunity, and promote economic justice.  Moreover, the New Deal demonstrated that while free market capitalism is the best system to produce and distribute goods and services, ensure liberty, and grow the economy, it is inefficient without government oversight, public investment, and social insurance programs.

Without appropriate government involvement, the totally unfettered market will quickly deteriorate with failures and deficiencies that will weaken economic growth and the standard of living for all of us.  As we’ve seen most especially in recent days, our economic future depends upon rejecting these failed policies.  As FDR said, “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we now know that it is bad economics.”  Let’s hope that the public chooses the words of FDR this November and not those of Reagan.

~Captain O’Biden


September 24, 2008. Conservatism, Economy, Election 2008, FDR, Great Society, New Deal.

Leave a Comment

Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: