Conservatism on life support

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By Rick Howell

Wherever you look in politics and government, you see trends that reflect liberal and progressive goals and a rejection of conservative ideas.
    First and foremost is the result of the November, 2012 election. Republicans ran against Barack Obama by branding him as a big-government extremist, with many even calling him a socialist.
    Basically, right-wingers threw everything they had at the president and they were defeated. All the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Karl Rove and others could not beat this president and his agenda.
    And what is that agenda? It’s one that is the most insistently progressive than any president has presented in modern times: health care reform; immigration reform; the rich paying more taxes; seriously addressing climate change, and a commitment to preserving the domestic programs that make up our social safety net.
    You can’t state it too many times: Voters chose this president and that agenda over the conservative Republican alternative.
    No, those choices don’t just represent a popularity contest. A variety of polls show that most Americans support what the president would like to achieve; They’re in favor of the changes he wants.
    So, clearly, this represents not just electoral losses for the Republican party, but a rejection of the conservative philosophy that owns it.
    The argument between liberals and conservatives has always been about the role of the government in public life, so, it’s a given that liberals are now winning that argument.
    You can see it in the new demographics of the 21st century. Dismiss it as “identity politics” if you wish, but the growing non-white population is obviously more disposed toward the Democratic Party and liberalism. That’s the way it keeps voting.
This prompted political comedian Stephen Colbert to quip that the GOP is doomed “unless Latino women can somehow find a way to give birth to old white guys.”
    Indeed, conservatives have some tough choices to make. Many of them will just say, “well, we didn’t get our message out.” But that would be a vast illusion. Their message was soundly rejected, again.
    They have to face that they have gone too far, that they have moved out of the mainstream of American political thought. An extreme, knee-jerk “government is the enemy” attitude just won’t cut it with voters anymore.
    Also, voters have seen past the hypocrisy of the rejection of government solutions for everything except your “social issue” obsessions.
    Most conservatives don’t want to use government to ease economic and social ills, but too many of them want it to enforce their own personal “moral agenda.” Voters don’t support the contradiction anymore, and the religious right is all but dead, anyway.
    During the primaries, the extremism of the Republican voter was seen in the skepticism about Mitt Romney, and the attraction to such extremists as Newt Gingrich and, especially, Rick Santorum. Neither one of them, nor that pretentious Herman Cain, could possibly have won the election.
    Romney would have been better off – and might have actually had a chance to win – had he defended his past moderate views and denounced extreme conservatism. He made another choice, and it helped to ensure his defeat.
    A few conservatives have, to some degree, shown that they are willing to make some adjustments. For example, Sen. John McCain has been vocal about the need to adopt immigration reform that allows a path to citizenship for law-abiding illegals who work and pay taxes.
    He’s said blatantly that Republicans can’t expect to win Hispanic votes if they don’t move away from intolerant policies on immigration.
    Conservatism may not be dead, but it is obviously on life support. If it wants to survive, it’s going to have to change.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.