A lot of wind was taken out of my zealous sails the other day during a talk with my girlfriend on politics. She got me thinking about some of my positions and my initial gut reactions to them. I was furious about the healthcare bill because it was not liberal enough, but I guess she’s showed me that it was the best pragmatic solution possible. So perhaps I’m becoming more of a pragmatist. I don’t really have energy anymore for long, drawn out ideological fights over politics anymore.
With the progress on healthcare in mind, I wanted to sit down and examine my thoughts on where liberals and conservatives fall within the fight for progress.
For starters, I guess I should define what I think of as “liberal” and “conservative”. Conservatives, in my mind, are concerned with maintaining the status quo. This is to the benefit of their majority, or primarily White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Conservatives dream of the “good old days” of the past, and seek to return America to an idealistic version of the 50’s.
Liberals on the other hand are constantly fighting the status quo. The liberal base is made up of not just WASP, but of all types of minorities, be they racial, religious, or sexual minorities. This heterogeneous nature of liberals sometimes leads to in-fighting, and a lack of cohesion, which the conservatives exploit. For liberals, the “good old days” were only good if you were a WASP male. It was back then that only men could vote, women were excluded from the workplace and equal education, and racial minorities were brutally kept in their place with violence and Jim Crow laws. Liberals fight the “good old days” of total WASP male domination in an effort to make the country’s laws more just for all. (It will be interesting to see what happens in 2050 when WASP becomes the minority)
To this end, when I look at U.S. history I can get a sense of progress towards the liberal goal of a more just and equal world. Sure there have been setbacks before, but progress eventually steamrolls through the resistance. Progress usually comes slowly, it’s a generational thing. A black man would by lynched if he was seen holding a white woman’s hand in the 50’s. Today nobody thinks twice. Each generation is slowly more and more tolerant than their parents, and so progress continues.
But if this progress is inevitable, then conservatives only act to retard it. They might want to completely reverse all the progress made, but being unable to change the mindset of entire generations, they fail to do this. My question is, if the social change is inevitable, why fight it? You’re just going to lose, like you always have in the past.
“The world is not ready yet” is what I would expect in response, which leads into the idea that if we changed, society would collapse. This is ridiculous. Society is not going to collapse. The only time a society collapsed in US History was when the south lost the Civil War. Their society based on the enslavement of an entire race of people collapsed, and in turn was replaced by a new society that had to undergo the growing pains of the civil right’s movement.
Lets pretend for a moment that when we wake up tomorrow, all the liberal dreams for society come true. The economy would not crash because women were being paid equal money for equal work. Straight marriages would not be worthless and destroyed because Bob and Dan down the street got married and now receive the legal benefits of marriage. God would not come down and smite the country if the various racial and ethnic groups lived together in mutual respect. No, the conservative fears about liberal social progress are unfounded. It just means that WASP males would no longer have privilege above all others, they would be equal, just like the rest of us.
It just frustrates me when conservatives slow the inevitable, because while we’re here arguing, people are suffering in an unjust country.