I don’t know how some of us continuously pay attention to politics without seeming to ever take a lengthy break from it. Every now and then, I absolutely need to take a break from reading about or listening to politics; and, until recently, I was on one of those breaks. But now that I’m back, I’m already a bit dismayed, for it seems to me that in my absence today’s Conservatives have made exceptionally fast progress towards their long term goal of becoming our nation’s premiere economic fools.
For instance, last night a rank-and-file Conservative declared on an internet forum, “The economy in East Texas”, where she lives, “is doing very well”. She then went on to state her conviction that Obama’s stimulus bill would destroy the good times the region is having — apparently because she believes the bill will raise interest rates a point and thus make it more expensive for her to buy a new house.
So, if I understand that woman right, she’s arguing “The economy in East Texas is doing very well” because she is one of the lucky few to have a bit of money and the recession there is helping her find a new house at fire sale prices.
A different rank-and-file Conservative on the same forum took exception to a Liberal’s remark that, “So many people in this country work their fingers to the bone, but still can’t afford homes or health insurance.” The Conservative answered, “That’s simply not true”, but didn’t provide any grounds for why he believed it simply was not true that many people work hard but still cannot afford homes or health insurance.
Over the last couple days, I’ve come across numerous remarks by average joe and jane Conservatives on one site or another that seem at best disconnected from reality and at worse downright callous towards the suffering going on all around them.
After all, we — that is, America and the World — are going through the largest economic downturn since the 1930s and yet so many of these folks not only seem to feel times are good simply because they themselves are getting by, but actually resent any effort to help people worse off than them.
Now, I don’t think my skimpy sample of Conservatives over the past couple days comes anywhere near to accurately representing the opinion of everyone who considers themselves a Conservative these days. I am quite sure many — maybe even most — Conservatives are not such foolish jerks as the folks I’ve been reading. Yet, the folks I’ve been reading seem quite in tune with the Conservative leadership in this country. After all, the Conservative leadership was nearly unanimous in opposing President Obama’s efforts to craft a bi-partisan stimulus package. Perhaps the leadership opposed the bill more for political reasons than because they actually look down on people who are worse off than them, but their opposition was nevertheless a pretty callous act in a time when more and more people and families are becoming financially desperate.
I know someone whose politics I find disturbing because she’s one of those Liberals who doesn’t love anyone. Instead, she only loves what she thinks people should be — not what they are. To me, she’s more in love with causes — such as “improving humanity” — than she is with real people. And that disturbs me because, in my experience, “improving humanity” is among the very best ways to mess things up for humanity. Yet, no matter how disturbing I find her politics, she once said something memorable to me.
She described the difference between Conservatives and Liberals as a difference between those of us who love and care for the folks we have actual contact with (i.e. Conservatives) and those of us who love and care for folks in the abstract (i.e. Liberals). I don’t know how much truth there is to her notion, but it struck me as having some truth to it. For instance, some Conservatives I’ve known have been quite generous towards people they knew but stingy towards people they didn’t know.
There are many ways in which that’s a good thing. But when you are faced with an economic crisis of huge proportions, affecting billions of people worldwide, you cannot solve that crisis simply by helping out your immediate neighbors. Moreover, any tendency to knee-jerk oppose large-scale efforts to help out people you don’t know and don’t care about can easily become economic folly. In other words, if my friend is right, and Conservatives have an instinct to care only for the well-being of the people they come in contact with, then that instinct does not serve Conservatives well in times of great crisis.