No, this isn’t the proclamation of some self-loathing conservative in the pangs of political self-doubt and disillusionment. Quite the contrary. If anything I’m more conservative than I was when I left the Democratic Party in 1996 as a liberal.
This article is a kick-in-the-butt, slap-in-the-face (whichever act of violence you prefer) assessment of the state of modern conservatism in America.
It was back in about 2005 that I met with the late Andrew Brietbart near UCLA at one of the many coffeehouses that dot Westwood. He had always been very supportive of my political club at the time and I had the pleasure of having the chance to hang out with him a few times. He easily encapsulated what I was already realizing, despite my super-activism, with the phrase “conservative wasteland.”
Winston Churchill said that “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.” In my twenties, I was not only a liberal, I was a hard-left liberal. How left-wing? I was so left that I thought Bill Clinton was “too conservative” when I began my political activism in 1991. However by 1995, I was already having serious doubts about my Democratic Party. For instance, I was intensely concerned about public education, especially in regards to Black and Hispanic children. It was this passion that brought me into politics to begin with and I even once ran for LA school board. But I soon learned that my passion was not shared, in any genuine way, by my fellow liberal Democratic comrades. It was this Democratic cabal of teachers unions, civil rights activists, think tanks, political lobbyists, and even Black church leaders who had created the “Blob” of bureaucracy that stood in way of quality education for our children—especially those not blessed to be in the “right” neighborhoods, nor have the “right” parents able to whisk them away to exclusive private schools. The government mandates that all children must go to school, but conveniently absolves itself from any meaningful requirement—with consequences—to educate them. The situation in public schools is far worse today.
As time went on, I slowly grew to loathe my party. “You did what during the civil rights movement when you marched with Martin (Luther King Jr.)? Yea, I heard you the first fifty million times you ‘spontaneously’ mentioned it. How about you wrap up this civil rights thing so that the People don’t need your help anymore and can help themselves in controlling their own destiny? Or is getting a real job for you out of the question?”
As a liberal Democrat, I was confronted with the notion that this group (“my people” at the time) controlled every aspect of political Black life from dog-catcher to school board to city council to congressional seat. But the state of many urban areas was worst than when they took over. It was such a painful realization that I truly felt like Neo at the beginning of the Matrix—all the words out of their mouths were a lie.
It was education politics that was also the last straw for me and made me angrily leave the Democratic Party in 1996. The Oakland School Board wanted to get federal funding to teach Black children Ebonics. Then the only Black Los Angeles School Board Member wholeheartedly agreed with their efforts because “African Americans speak in short sentences.” I am a not joking. Nor was it funny to see the parade of Democratic education leaders, including Black ones, come out of the woodwork championing Oakland’s plan. I can count the number of times that I have been truly angry in my forty-plus life on one hand. That day was one of them. I re-registered out of the Democratic Party.
Looking back I should never have been a Democrat. In my case, if you’re a New Yorker and are either Black or Jewish, you are automatically registered as a Democrat. I’m only being somewhat facetious. If you truly believe in the liberal agenda, as many people do (including some Republicans by the way), then that’s fine. But I actually never was a liberal even if I thought I was.
Now on to “my people:” Conservatives.
I have to be equally critical of fellow conservatives. Why is it after 40 years that Democrats have been allowed to do what they are doing to this nation’s children in the public education system? Why have they allowed both Democrats and Republicans to continue to grow the size of government to frightening levels? Bill Clinton as president spent 500 million dollars a day that we didn’t have, but George Bush spent one billion dollars a day. Yes, Obama is spending more than four billion dollars a day we don’t have! But who really opened the door for the current economic madness?
Why are conservatives so useless? As a Democrat, I heard the following saying: “Democrats are the evil party and Republicans are the stupid party.” Obviously, I thought it was a silly saying back then. However, I have since grown to view the saying as one of the most accurate and concise statements on the modern two-party statement in America today.
Establishment conservatism seems to want to be the permanent opposition party. “If we solve it, what will we do?”—ironically, the same cosmic question for liberal Democrats. In the conservative world, there are tons of individuals, groups, foundations, think tanks, commentators, making money by talking, writing and screaming about the evils of Democrat liberalism. I prefer to have the problems solved, rather than spending decades complaining without any real action or counter-action.
What must happen is a political reformation of sorts within modern conservatism. A new wave of conservatives must emerge who are “focused like a laser beam” on getting things done, truly solving issues, and are not interested in being in the spotlight as another talking head. They must have a fiery determination and not be shy about pushing any illegitimate political opposition out of the way whether liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican. Until this happens the wasteland will continue on. Even with both the House and Senate in GOP hands, we are all living an illusion.
As usual the stupid party keeps pointing to liberalism as the problem when it’s far worse than that. It is the growing disengagement of the American electorate. Winston Churchill also said, (I know I’ve gone past my Churchill quote quota, but who cares) “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” The word in America that we should be using is Republic, but this system has been sorely weakened to the nation’s detriment. Democracy, though the best ever, is an awful form of government, unless the people are informed and engaged. Without that, then it becomes this “thing.” It can even become potentially dangerous. I live in Los Angeles, and we have had some local elections where 91% of registered voters–keep in mind that registered voters represent only a fraction of the total citizenry who could be registered voters—did not vote. Please tell me what kind of democracy a 9% total voter turnout is representing. Government will continue to grow. America will continue to decline.
When the GOP has 31 of the 50 governorships in the nation, but Sweden has school vouchers and Russia has a flat tax, you have to start asking some hard questions. “You say conservatism and conservative principles and polices are what we should be fighting for. Instead of fighting, how about actually winning? Muhammad Ali didn’t become the heavy weight champion of the world by just fighting. He did so by knocking fools out and winning the fight! It occurs to me that I believe more in conservatism than you do because my anger level is growing at the lack of conservative action and you seem quite content simply flapping your mouth in the breeze about the status quo.”
Conservatism is the best political system when we talk about creating a functioning society from flawed human beings. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a “smart” party—leaving the stupid and evil ones behind—to solve these problems (and they are solvable) in an aggressive, deliberative, and thoughtful manner; getting it done, ensuring it lasts, leaving others to maintain their great works, and then riding off into the sunset (to their real jobs).