*Not that it’s totally their fault, but conservatives fight an uphill battle.
When I teach my history course I generally define conservatives as those who want appreciated the way society worked in years past. Conservatives would like to stop the changes taking place in United States or change things back to former versions of our country. Hence Conservatives frequently reference the founding fathers and the original intent of the Constitution.
The problem with this mindset is that the way the United States was initially set up to have a small percentage of the population prosper. In 1890, women, African-Americans, Africans, Native Americans, and non-Protestants were all on the periphery of the vision for this country. Even the success of white men who weren’t already wealthy was a sort of positive bonus of societal structure – not the point of the structure.
Liberals on the other hand have embraced all manner of changes to American society. Each time a group at the bottom rung of American society has attempted to move up liberal decision makers and power brokers have assisted. And each time a group was successful in moving up the ladder, each time a group gained more access to the privileges of citizenship in this country, history has correctly labeled it progress. The Civil War and the abolition of slavery: progress; the 19th Amendment and the extension of voting privileges to women: progress; non-discrimination laws to benefit religious minorities: progress.
Since the 1930s the Democratic party has been the liberal party in the United States. Republicans, in defining themselves as anti-Democratic, have been the conservative party. And therefore have allowed themselves to be defined as the party against progress, against the extension of citizenship privileges, as backward thinking, as against modernity.
To be truthful there probably are conservatives (read: Republican constituents) who are against racial/ethnic equality. But the Republican Party has done a good job not allowing that to be the dominant message people hear from them. Unfortunately while Republicans have distanced themselves from racial bias, they have embraced the religious right and issues championed by the religious right: sexual revolution, reproductive control, and immigration.
Democratic politicians also frequently profess their Christianity and make references to God and the Bible. So in embracing the religious right to the degree they have, Republicans have not differentiated themselves in the political realm. They have continued to alienate voters though.
As someone who self-identifies as a liberal, one of the things that I respected out of Mitt Romney and made him more of a threat to win the Presidency were his liberal stances on healthcare, and homosexual citizenship privileges, and his desire to make his economic philosophy the central point of his campaign. But during the primary season, Romney had to repeatedly support positions that weren’t important to him because he was pandering to particular parts of the Republican base. And now we are at a point where many of those former statements are becoming an issue in the general election. Indeed just the fact that he has switched positions so many times has become an issue.
This is what happens when you (Republican Party) frequently take stances as against progressive steps that collectively affect a majority of Americans and then have to try and get folks to vote for you. You can’t consistently walk against the forward march of progress, and then try to lead the masses every four years when the country chooses a President.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.