On the conservative movement

As I try to sort out for myself what the progressive movement means, it’s been interesting to watch the conservative movement go through its own gyrations. Here, here, here and here are some examples. Plenty more can be had.

The presidential primaries and caucuses have certainly thrown many conservative leaders and commentators into a tizzy, and they’ve exposed the fissures in the conservative movement that have long been papered over as they clawed their way to power.

All of that said, I think progressive liberals still need to keep in mind the fact that the conservative movement has an easy-to-memorize, easy-to-repeat list of basic values. I heard it again just the other day on NPR when one conservative supporter put it this way:

“Lower taxes, lower government, personal responsibility, the right to make decisions that are best for you and your family.”

I’ve been reading a lot of conservative commentary recently, and here are some others that come up all the time:

  • “Tough” foreign policy (“I’ve never met a problem I couldn’t blow up.”)
  • Ultra-nationalism (“My country, right or wrong!” which reminds me of this great quote.)
  • “Free” trade (“As long as the rules are tipped in my favor, of course…”)
  • Old-time religion (meaning anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-abortion, anti-gays)

Why do I bring this up? Why repeat the conservative talking points?

I’m concerned that, after years in the political wilderness, progressive liberals still don’t have a list like this that they could rattle off. That’s critical because having clarity of purpose is powerful.

I’d say this conservative message could even be boiled down further. Here’s my vulgar suggestion, but I think it gets the sentiment right:

“We only want enough taxes and government in order to create the most powerful military in the world that can beat the living shit out of anyone who threatens us, our families, or our property. On every other score, leave us the hell alone to believe and do whatever we want.”

What’s the progressive liberal retort to that?

Personally I still don’t have one. I’m more than willing to hear some suggestions. Feel free to post a comment.

As for today, I’m trying to console myself that “Know thy enemy” is an important maxim to keep in mind.


As I’ve done my research, it’s been amazing to see what various groups of people this simple message keeps together. Here’s my list:

  • Defense conservatives – military-industrial complex types, neocon-imperialist types
  • Small government conservatives
  • Leave-us-alone conservatives – gun owners, libertarians
  • Social conservatives – Bible-thumpers (anti-science, anti-abortion, anti-evolution, anti-gay rights, but it’s interesting how this now includes other biblical messages, like those advocating for the poor)
  • Economic conservatives – anti-tax advocates, pro-wealth and power types, corporate moneycons (as Kevin Drum calls them), free market moneycons

These folks don’t necessarily have a lot in common. But the central message I outlined above keeps them hanging together. That, plus their mutual reinforcement has been a great way to win power, which of course, is the entire point.


I thought of another, mathematical way of looking at the conservative movement:

Military might = right = power
Wealth = right = power
The Bible = right = power

I find all three of these to be repulsive.

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