Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series.
The terms “conservative” and “liberal are often associated with political parties, the Liberals with Democrats and the Conservatives with Republicans.
But that is sometimes not the case and with the advent of the presidency of Mr. Barack Obama, it is even less true. Some federal Democratic lawmakers have sided with Republicans, which has facilitated the defeat of many of the President’s efforts to help this country help itself.
It is not unusual, though, that in American politics the ruling party can be so thwarted in its ability to govern according to its mandate. But it is this sort of situation that brought about the label “Reagan Democrats” for those who are Democrats in name only but in fact are Republicans in Democratic clothing.
What is Conservatism? The verb “conserve” means to save, to protect, to keep as is. To maintain the status quo or keep things as they are or once were, requires vigorous opposition. People who enjoy advantages fight hard to keep them. It is understandable that people who discover they have something to conserve would aspire to be conservative.
The Tea Party, people who now stand behind words instead of sheets, revealed their true agenda when they hysterically shouted in the nation’s capital, “We came here to take back our country.” To take it back from whom was not stated, but implied. Since America has not been taken over by foreign invaders, the implication is to take it back from “that black man.”
Another more telling slogan is, “We want things like they were,” implying a return to this country’s history of apartheid, or maybe even slavery or the days of the Ku Klux Klan.
Conservatives do not want national health insurance because they have health care. They are not concerned about low wages because they have always been well-paid. They are not interested in public education because their children have viable options. They are not interested in entitlement programs because they believe that the poor should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, even when they have no boots.
But the Conservatives are also good at winning over some poor and non-white Americans to their side. How does the conservative movement recruit them to join their cause?
Americans tend not to be critical thinkers. Conservatives recognize that; they also know that racism is deeply rooted in the American psyche. So they proselytize and hammer away at emotional issues, day after day, all day. To the poor whites, they paint a picture of black people being the cause of their depressed economic situation and infuse racial hatred. To the elderly, they tell them Obama is a Muslim out to make America an Islamic nation and that national health insurance will surely hasten their death.
Conservatives know to exploit the emotional investment of non-white people regarding issues such as gay rights and abortion by using words such as “sin” and “the right to life.” The emotions overshadow the thinking of minorities who soon forget that it is the Conservatives who continue to oppose their right to health care and unemployment benefits.
Conservative politicians will vociferously attack “liberal” positions and policies but rarely give specifics of their own agenda, preferring to posture behind glittering generalities.
President Obama, the brilliant, non-hysterical man that he is, is quietly showing America what a true statesman is and, in doing so, he is effectively showing America that Conservatives are like the tailor who convinced the king that he was wearing a beautiful new suit, when, in reality, the king was stark naked. Mr. Obama’s most herculean task now is to teach Americans to think critically.
Gilbert L. Raiford is semi-retired after a career in teaching and working for the U.S. Department of State. He lives in Miami where he volunteers at homeless facilities, the Opera House in Miami and after-care school programs as a fund-raiser. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org