The Republican Party is not now, never was and never will be a conservative party. It is what it has always been — a representative of the rich and of big business.
It might have become a conservative party in 1964, when Barry Goldwater was nominated as the presidential candidate. The Rockefeller wing of the party, to which the Bush family has always been a part, conducted the most vicious character assassination campaign against Goldwater in modern political history. The liberal Rockefellerites preferred a crook from Texas to a conservative.
The Rockefeller wing never lost control of the party again, co-opting Nixon, Ford and even Ronald Reagan, who was forced to take George Bush as his vice president. The Bush people, within two years, ran off nearly all of the original Reagan supporters.
There was a famous quote by James Baker, the first Bush's hatchet man. He was quoted as saying: "Who else are the conservatives going to vote for?"
Well, Mr. Baker discovered that the conservatives had three choices in 1992. They could stay at home, they could vote for Ross Perot, or they could vote for Bill Clinton. I hope he thought of that while he watched Clinton's inauguration.
The hard truth is that if you are a genuine political conservative, you don't have a party. The Democrats are practically socialists; the Republicans are closer to corporate fascists. Neither one offers conservatives anything but rhetoric.
But let's define our terms, because it is my belief that not many Americans today are really conservative. Political conservatism has nothing to do with such social issues as abortion or gay marriage. Those are moral and philosophical issues that properly belong to the state legislatures.
A true conservative recognizes that the Constitution is a binding contract that should be interpreted literally and in the context of the time at which it was written and ratified. A Constitution that means anything a judge says it means means nothing. Abraham Lincoln and his Republican Party were the first to violate it in a blatant manner. One of Lincoln's cronies referred to it as "a worthless piece of parchment."
A true conservative is fiscally responsible. Laying debt and interest payments on posterity is neither conservative nor liberal. It is just obscenely irresponsible.
A true conservative believes in noninterference in the affairs of other countries. Regime change is a policy favored by fascists or communists, but it has nothing to do with American conservatism. Americans have the right to govern only one country — their own. Americans have an obligation to defend only one country — their own.
A true conservative believes in a free economy and that beyond protecting the public from force and fraud, the government should not interfere in private affairs.
There are a lot of other things that define a genuine conservative, but suffice it to say that the Republican Party, with its imperialistic foreign policy, its disdain for the Constitution and the rule of law, its fiscal irresponsibility and its erosion of personal liberty, is not by any stretch of the imagination a conservative party.
It wouldn't be a bad idea for people to sit down with a pencil and paper and list what they actually believe. Clarifying their own political philosophy might make them less susceptible to the demagoguery and political propaganda that characterize our present age.
When the Founding Fathers laid the burden of self-government on us, they didn't do any favors for the ignorant and lazy-minded. Tom Jefferson observed that those who expect to be ignorant and free expect what never was and never will be.
October 28, 2006
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.