I try as hard as I possibly can to see every issue, every discussion, and every disagreement from both sides before making a judgment or forming a decisive opinion. On everything from gay marriage to foreign policy, from taxes to education, I break down the reasoning behind the respective stances of the left and the right. Why do Democrats support higher taxes on the wealthy? Why do Republicans want to stay in Afghanistan longer? These are the types of questions that I ask myself before speaking about anything with political or governmental weight. But I’ve come to realize over the past month or two that for many issues, conservatives tend to revert back to one frame of mind. This mindset is vast and elaborate, but it all boils down to one word: “traditional.”
It took me awhile to realize where Republicans derive their ideology. I’ve seen countless Tea Baggers talk about “the good old days,” and a recent Facebook post got me riled up enough to put my thoughts into this coherent piece of literary chagrin that you’re reading. If you follow our blog’s Facebook page (shameless plug), you might have seen a recent post that discussed life now vs life in 1957. A friend shared the original post, which gave a bunch of ridiculous scenarios and comparative reactions to each one, as they would have occurred back in ’57 and in today’s society. I could go on and on about this particular issue, but you can read my thoughts in the post, as linked above.
The point that I’m making here is that, while some things in the past were nice, we have to grow and progress as a nation. We have been doing this since our country’s inception, with things like the Emancipation Proclamation, the New Deal, women’s suffrage, and of course the historic Civil Rights Movement. With the exception of the New Deal (which many still debate to this day), these things are all no-brainers to us now. Things like desegregation and giving women the right to vote aren’t being disputed, because we recognize that they’re basic things that every individual deserves.
The average American would say, “of course we had to end slavery, it’s wrong.” Nobody today would think about bringing back slavery, because we know that it is an evil, and we can’t subject people of different races to such inhumane treatment. But at the time of the Civil War, abolishing slavery would’ve been called a “progressive” idea. It’s something that many people (particularly in the South) looked at as a radical change that couldn’t happen, or else the country would fall apart. The same can be said for the Civil Rights Movement, the fight for women’s voting rights, and more recent developments like the Lilly Ledbetter Act. But the fact is, none of those things made this country fall apart. Despite the ease with which conservatives have said, “[insert policy change here] would destroy the nation,” it didn’t happen. Equality isn’t going to destroy America, it’s going to solidify our creed that all men are created equal, which makes us stronger than we ever have been.
In fifty years, our children and grandchildren are going to look back at the issues of today, and question why we ever denied women equal pay based on their gender. That will be an unspoken, obvious wrong, in the same way that fifty years after the marches in Selma, segregation is an unspoken and obvious wrong in our society. In half a century, gay marriage won’t be an issue. People will see the Supreme Court rulings, and know that we were wrong to deny loving same-gender couples the right to have their relationships equally recognized by the law. What many now see as part of a liberal, progressive agenda, will be seen by future generations as something that we had to do in the name of freedom and equality.
So when we look at “traditional” ideas, they all rest on how things were before a particular movement or event. Traditionally, things were nice in the South for white farmers before Abraham Lincoln freed slaves. Traditionally, white men had more power before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, giving women the right to vote. And traditionally, the restaurant on the corner run by conservative white men could deny service to black people. That is, before Martin Luther King Jr. had that famous dream. The real unifying factor among all these things is that white men had to treat others equally, and with dignity and respect. Naturally, they didn’t like that. And this, my friends, is what I believe is wrong with traditional conservative viewpoints.
Now, I’m not saying that all conservatives are white, racist, or sexist men. But I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a moment, and explore the logic behind the flawed traditional mindset. So in each instance, someone else gained rights. African-American slaves gained freedom, women gained the right to vote, and again African-Americans gained protection from discrimination. But notice that in the latter two cases, white men didn’t lose anything. Women gaining voting rights didn’t take away voting rights from white men, and the same goes for black Americans and desegregation. Despite this fact, white male Tea Baggers of today are constantly afraid of losing their rights when we grant equality to a set of citizens that rightfully deserves it. Why do they feel this way? I have a theory.
Bear with me, I know it’s been a long road to get to this point. In essence, heavily conservative men put all their faith in the Founding Fathers. We can see this in things like the protests against Obamacare in 2010, which featured loud, prominently Christian Tea Baggers dressed as Founding Fathers. Ironically enough, I don’t doubt that some of them dressed as James Madison, who would basically be the equivalent of an atheist in today’s society. That notwithstanding, the Founders were brilliant men, and the Constitution is a masterpiece. We are still learning from their expertise to this day, both in governance and in morality. But I tell you in the same breath that they were not perfect. Thomas Jefferson had slaves, as did many of the other Founders. They denied women basic rights, oppressed an entire race, and worst of all, they rarely bathed.
Conservatives cling to the Founders as if they knew more than anyone will ever know in history. But the fact is, they were limited by their time. They couldn’t have predicted what was to come in the next 200 years. So in that knowledge, we can’t look at them as the end-all, be-all of civil and ethical responsibility. And the problem is that conservatives do this with nearly every issue. If all else fails, you can’t just ask “what would the Founding Fathers do?” Because the Founding Fathers would have executed a black man for even thinking about running for President. They would have beaten a woman for claiming that she has the right to equal pay. I don’t think their opinions really apply to that many issues in modern society.
Finally, I’m sure this post isn’t going to make many conservatives happy. But my suggestion isn’t just based on a dislike for conservatism or a grudge that I have against Republicans. If you want proof, just look at the 2012 election results. Conservatives lost the African-American vote by 86%. Need more? Obama won the female vote 55% to 44%. He also captured 71% of the Latino vote and 73% of the Asian vote. Just for shits and giggles, he grabbed 76% of the LGBT vote. Mitt Romney was considered to be the conservative hero who clung to traditional beliefs as if they were a volleyball, and he was Tom Hanks stranded on an island. Unsurprisingly, President Obama took 96% of the female African-American vote.
That last statistic really drives home my point. Not only did the Founders demean and oppress women, they didn’t think twice about owning slaves. And when you derive your entire ideology from that group of people, you are going to quickly alienate women and African-Americans. So, the black female vote is going to really screw you when election day arrives. The fact is that traditional viewpoints are a dying breed, because there is no basis in morality for racial or gender discrimination. There is no basis in equality for homophobia, and conservatives are slowly beginning to realize this. I’m not sure how they’re going to adapt, or if they even will. But in the end, thank God they don’t adhere to the Founding Fathers’ ideas on hygiene.