The era of conservative discontent


It takes very little political savvy to see the discontent that roams the right in the American political scene. A conservative House of Representatives is dysfunctional – with Speaker Boehner unable to coalesce his troops. The popularity of GOP presidential candidates changes monthly, with half already dropping from the race.  The voices of the Tea Party are surprisingly quiet. And privately, Republican stalwarts confess unhappiness with the candidates still in play.

Of even more interest regarding this discontent, is the way it morphs from issue to issue, so it is never really quite “anchored” in a coherent fashion. The economy is moving ahead, our foreign policy is solving problems as well as can be expected, and conservatives have conceded a bit on debt and deficits.  Given that, the only haven for the right is now on moral and “values” issues – particularly ones the general public has only modest interest in. Today, it is abortion, contraception and religious zeal that fuels right wing discontent.  But underlying this, is an even larger but unspoken dynamic.

A more cogent explanation and underlying cause of this phenomena, is the “face”, the trend, and the direction America has been moving in for many years now, though it is almost never articulated or admitted by the right. Conservatives spend a lot of time harking back to our Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the nostalgia of times past.  If you take this same macro view of America, at its founding we were essentially a country of English descent; blacks were slaves; women did not vote and the country was relatively homogeneous. Today, of course, none of these attributes exist; moreover, the pace of change in recent history has been especially rapid in both speed and direction. Thus the discomfort and dislocation of values for those who seek a country as it once was.

The facts of this change speak volumes. The country is slowly but inexorably changing its “face” and becoming one of color (by 2050 it is estimated that whites will be a minority). In fact interracial marriage is so common now that 1 in 6 marriages are between different races. Gays are out of the closet. We seem to be more secularized.Americais less preeminent than it once was, in a world that now is flat. How disconcerting all this must be.

Then there is President Barack Obama – one of the few things conservatives agree on. There is a raging dislike for our president by the right, and a powerful desire to see him defeated. No wonder. Again, he is far outside the image they want America to be. A man of mixed race…with a funny name…a black family…and far from the image of what a president ofAmericashould be. He and his family do not look like a Bush, a Reagan, or a Nixon etc. He is not a war hero like Washington, Kennedy or George H.W. Bush. And his name is not like Lincoln, Jackson, Jefferson, Adams — or Johnson, Carter, and Clinton for that matter. They “say” it is not these qualities that they object to; however, in reality, most of his policies are Teflon now, and as previously noted, the right is getting little traction in complaining about them.

Truth be told – no matter how effectively Obama might govern – nothing will satisfy this group of detractors. The dislike goes well beyond governance

If this analysis is correct, I would give the following advice to my conservative friends. Relax! American has been like this before, in fact, it is the process that made us what we are. We have always had immigration…been multilingual…had new faces arriving…faced tough economic times…and change. That is what America is. Our Founding Fathers were creative, courageous and wonderful. They are in our rear view mirror now. We are a different nation now, and we will be just fine as we evolve into our new look, new values…and a new world.

As an aside, why would an acknowledged liberal even bother to give advice (likely not taken and probably not appreciated) to his conservative peer group? Very simply, America works best when we have an intelligent dialog on our future and introduction of positive ideas.  That does not exist now, with the Republican Party – they have all clustered into a corner on the far right trying to outdo themselves in proving their fidelity to causes that do not matter much to a better America.  Far too much time and effort on the right is spent on tilting at windmills. Rational, centrist conservative voices have been muted, stifled, and intimidated. They are missed. This is not healthy, nor does it push our country confidentially into the future.

One thing liberals and conservatives can agree on, the challenges we face today are vast,  complex, and intertwined globally as never before. ButAmericahas never shied away from challenge, and virtually always we are successful. We will be again – but we need the sound, solid, rational voices of all political stripes to make it happen.