A Consideration for Conservatives

Conservatism in America is potentially valuable if done correctly. Growing up, it had a reputation for being the pragmatic option. “If you’re not liberal when younger, you have no heart; if you’re not conservative when older, you have no brain,” the saying went. Instead of giving in to passionate ideology, it would be the coldly rational political alternative.

Lately though, it has fallen to a more heartless ideology itself. (It is easily arguable that this has been a gradual process slowly then rapidly growing over the last half century.) It has become dogma, almost a religion in and of itself. The party of Lincoln, Teddy, and Ike has become the party of Gingrich, Cruz, and Trump. The party of abolition has become the party of white nationalism.

It has a road returning to rational, restrained, respectable relevance, if its backers are bold enough. It needs to stop denying objective truths in areas like global warming and pandemic response, and stop embracing delusional conspiracy theories on vaccines and elections. We are seeing small but promising inroads on this in backlash to outgoing Trumpism, but these aren’t enough themselves and must be reinforced and amplified. Instead of denial and delusion, provide alternative solutions to problems based in such conservative principles as prioritizing markets over state-oriented economic actions.

These solutions similarly can’t be ideologically oriented. Lower taxes and spending and fewer regulations should be priorities, not overriding dogmatic roadblocks. For example, from a more centrist point of view, work to reduce redundancy and inefficiency in multitudinous bureaucratic layers, but remember the point of these rules to begin with. That useful rules exist in the first place is not an inefficiency. As a final note, don’t be so cynical in skepticism of government that you encourage incompetency and ineffective administration. If the bureaucracy is so bad, then work to make it better, not worse!

In like fashion, taxes and spending should be minimizedgiven that they may be needed to solve certain problems — not rejected altogether and so leaving real problems unsolved. The actually great Republican of the 20th century, Eisenhower not Reagan, was okay with high taxes on the wealthy (not the working class) to fund vast infrastructure improvements and investment including the interstate highways and the start of the space program.

Return to understanding America’s significant place on the world stage, and how “power” is as much in international influence as it is in military might, if not more so. Diplomacy and cooperation are valuable tools that build our nation up as we also help others, and should be embraced and encouraged, not dismissed and discounted.

Finally, abandon the culture wars. Traditional values are relevant and welcome if that’s what you and your family want to do for yourselves. Non-traditional values are relevant and welcome for other families if that’s what they want to do for themselves. People of all backgrounds should be welcome, as conservatism used to make clear as recently as George W Bush, and multiculturalism is as American a concept as it gets.

The evil stench of white nationalism within the right wing needs to be recognized if it is to be fought and thrown out, which I think is what many conservatives would want. The extremists feed off of irrationality and mistrust of the truth, and so the first step is take hard steps to promote the truth as well as rational thinking, and confront conspiracy theorists and sowers of discord. The return to reason is the first big step for conservatism to return to a respectable place in American discourse. I would love to see that happen.

P.S. Stop trying to steal elections. Looking at you, Pennsylvania GOP.

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Christopher Sharp

This effort has evolved to primarily be for clearly communicating technical subject matter to the public: largely my two passions astrophysics and space travel.