Author Topic: Must GOP mean "conservative"?  (Read 7961 times)

Fenring

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Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« on: January 08, 2016, 12:19:39 PM »
An article I just came across involved one of Jeb's recurring weak strategies to combat Trump's popularity, which is to that Trump isn't a 'real conservative.' Here's a Time article on the latest from Jeb's campaign trail:

http://time.com/4172287/jeb-bush-donald-trump-conservative/

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For months, Bush has cast Trump’s bombast as disqualifying, his bluster dangerous and his foreign policy a folly. Now, Bush is going another route, arguing that Trump is insufficiently conservative and, maybe, a closet Democrat.

“If people think Donald Trump is a conservative, prove it to me. I mean, really,” Bush said during a town hall in the iconic town hall in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

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“A conservative party should nominate a conservative candidate, not someone who has been all over the map,” Bush said.

Here's my question: why is Jeb treating as gospel the fact that a GOP candidate must be "conservative" based on some arbitrary definition of the word? As I understand it the GOP traditionally believes in certain principles such as small government, corporate spending to boost GDP, strong military, the 2nd Amendment, family/Christian values (this one is debatable), low taxes, and hard work rather than welfare. We can quibble about whether some Republicans have been hypocritical on some of these subjects over the years, but the party at least claims to care about these issues. Historically these GOP issues pretty well go back to the Civil War era, and so in that sense one could claim that retaining these values makes them "conservative." And yet doesn't 'conservative' mean conserving the status quo and trying to forestall making progressive changes? Isn't it a requirement of this scenario that the status quo actually reflects those values in order for being a conservative to mean you're trying to conserve them?

It seems to me that if culture and government have changed enough that the core conservative values are no longer the norm, or have even strayed quite far away from that point, then if someone wants to reclaim those lost values one isn't a conservative but is actually a progressive. The key error I think a lot of self-proclaimed progressives make is to think the progress can only be in one direction and that the 'direction of progress' leads inevitably towards some sort of particular utopian ideal as they see it. They don't tend to think that progress can occur in all sorts of directions and that not everyone might agree on what the ideal actually should be. Based on this error language in America tends to reflect the notion that if you're a progressive that means you subscribe to a very particular agenda (which is sometimes derisively called a leftist agenda), and omits the reality that any attempt to shift away from the status quo should properly be seen as progressive. Think of some future society, for instance, with no family structure, no marriage, where no one works and machines do everything, where everyone looks the same and acts the same, and so forth. The culture in Brave New World, for instance. If someone in that culture came along and said "I think people would be better if they worked a little, and if they embraced differences rather than trying to eliminate them, and if we had tight-knit families rather than community rearing" - such a person would not be a conservative in any rational use of the word, but rather would be a radical progressive. Someone who viewed his opinions dimly might called him a "regressive" instead if they viewed the current state of affairs as being some supreme achievement, but the word "regressive" isn't much more than a way of dismissing an idea because it's something that someone in the past tried or believed in, and some so-called progressives seem to innately believe that everything from the past is inferior by definition, including written wisdom.

So tell me - why is it correct for Jeb to say that the GOP should have a real 'conservative candidate' and that Trump isn't it? If one looks at what the Tea Party believes, I can't think of a term for them other than radical progressives; they certainly aren't interested in maintaining the status quo, or necessarily even reverting the U.S. back to an earlier state of organization that they view as having been much better. In fact since technology has changed drastically recently it wouldn't even be possible to revert the U.S. back to a significantly earlier state in any intelligible sense. So what's a conservative politician, then, other than someone who doesn't want things to change much from how they are now? Just as a matter of nomenclature I'm referring here to conservative politics and not to conservative social values a citizen might espouse. The former implies a sort of correlation between conservative = GOP, and the latter is more a question of a person living with the traditions their family has passed down. But based on how I'm thinking the term "conservative" should be used, it seems to me that Jeb and Hillary are both conservatives, as are several of the GOP candidates, while Bernie and Rand Paul (and maybe Carson?) would be progressive candidates in this sense.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 12:25:59 PM by Fenring »

D.W.

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2016, 12:40:43 PM »
Can you rephrase your question so that it is NOT a discussion on semantics?  I agree that we stretch and abuse our political labels but it will do little but confuse your question when you link it with this critique of language use. 

Unless you don't care about Jeb's point and would rather discuss the semantics? 
Attempting both at once will just be a mess.

Seriati

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2016, 12:50:39 PM »
Not sure I follow your question.  The way we use the words in politics doesn't match with their literal meanings, we still understand them.  Both parties have positions that are wrongly described based on those kind of definitions.

As to whether there should be a (politically) conservative candidate for the GOP, generally yes, but I for one would prefer one that includes more liberal and progressive policies on certain social issues.  I mean honestly, there should not be a major party that is opposed in a material way to supporting gay rights.  They don't have to support a one size fits all solution, like supporting gay marriage, but there is no excuse for not supporting the individual rights that are included in gay marriage in sensible ways (spousal visitation, inheritance, dealing with children upon divorce or death of a parent, etc.).

NobleHunter

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2016, 01:35:02 PM »
The idea of a conservative GOP vs liberal Democratic Party is a false binary intended to combine a host of more or less unrelated and occasionally contradictory issues into neat groups. This makes it easier to exclude disruptive ideas (see the co-opting of the Tea Party and the rise and fall of Occupy) and maintain a monopoly on control of the political discourse. It's also a useful bulwark against political weakness since disillusioned supporters are less likely to switch parties.

Fenring

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2016, 02:33:00 PM »
D.W. and Seriati,

I see how it may have sounded like I was making a semantical quibble, so as requested I'll try to rephrase my question to make it fit what I'm trying to get out of the topic. Here's my attempt:

Is there any credibility to Jeb's seemingly No True Scotsman claim about Trump? Is there such a thing as a GOP candidate who 'isn't conservative enough' or not in the right way? After all, people appear to be supporting Trump, so what is a GOP candidate other than that which the people will elect? Let's say Trump wins, for argument's sake: does that mean the people see him as being what a conservative actually should be, implying it was the other candidates who weren't 'conservative enough'? Does it mean they don't care if they elect a conservative or not but just want to elect someone who's best for the job? Does the RNC, a political party, get to decide what being a conservative is and effectively dictate to the public who is or isn't conservative by some standard they make up?

In short, do you think Jeb may be on to something when he makes this criticism of Trump, or is he just blowing smoke and using the term "conservative" to mean whatever the heck he wants it to in order to make Trump look bad? If he's on to something, does that mean that only people from a certain cookie-cutter mold are really eligible to run as a GOP candidate?




D.W.

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2016, 02:45:46 PM »
I genuinely believe that the GOP gets people to vote against their own interest by shrewdly combining different ideals into a "brand".  Democrats do suffer somewhat to the "toe the line" mentality but (probably mostly because I see myself as a Democrat) I feel the party is more ideologically consistent.

In that regard, I think Jeb is absolutely on to something.  To me the question becomes, are we seeing the natural result of "branding" less than compatible ideals into a whole?  Is this a continuation of the Tea Party fracturing?  Is Trump a "bad" candidate for the party because he has tapped into motivational forces that can drive his popularity?  Does whoever can get the votes get to drive the bus within the party and the differing and sometimes contentious factions prescribe to an "all boats rise with the tide" mentality?  Is the "real conservative" ship going to be torpedoed by Trump while the rest rise?

The way I see it, the "real conservative" Jeb is and is claiming Trump is not, has not in recent history been a viable candidate.  They may ALSO be, or REALLY be, this "real conservative" but it's appealing to other motivations within the party that gets them into the White House.  So ya, he can be pissed off someone who doesn't pay enough lip service to those ideals is ahead in the polls.  He may even be right to fear Trump may actually oppose some of those ideals.  The truth (at least my version of it) is that it doesn't matter.  Winning on those ideals alone is not possible.  It may have been in the past the core, or REAL, party identity, but it's not what gets the average American to vote Republican.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 02:55:39 PM by D.W. »

D.W.

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2016, 03:06:34 PM »
Too late to edit...
"Is Trump a "bad" candidate for the party because he has tapped into motivational forces that can drive his popularity?"

I think what I was trying to get at is;  Is Trump a bad candidate because he tapped into the "wrong" ideals, or elevated them above other ideals (or worse rejects the ideals of a "real conservative") the ones that are typically just paid lip service to but no REAL candidate actually believes...

Still reads like a mess, hope you all can parse out what I'm trying to say there.

Seriati

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2016, 04:17:18 PM »
Is there any credibility to Jeb's seemingly No True Scotsman claim about Trump? Is there such a thing as a GOP candidate who 'isn't conservative enough' or not in the right way?
Not exactly, you have to remember that there are conservative wings in both parties, take a trip to West Virginia for instance and you'll find plenty of extreme religious, anti-gay, racist, ultra conservative life long democrats.  However, in the Republican party generally that's a bigger percentage, and includes both religious conservatives and other types of conservatives.  There's not necessary much in common between different flavors of conservatives (anymore than there is between most white blue collar union democrats and ivory tower college professor liberals).  I don't think for instance, Huckabee represents a majority of the Republican party, but he probably represents 90% or more of the religious conservative position (barring purely theological differences that keep religious conservatives from supporting each other).  He'd win a "most conservative" accolade, but be absolutely non-representative of the majority of Republicans.
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After all, people appear to be supporting Trump, so what is a GOP candidate other than that which the people will elect?
I hate to say it, but this is as true as the sports comment, "I think the team that scores the most points is going to work."  It's so basic a truth that it sounds stupid to even say it.
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Let's say Trump wins, for argument's sake: does that mean the people see him as being what a conservative actually should be, implying it was the other candidates who weren't 'conservative enough'?
No, it just demonstrates that the Republican party is much more inclusive than a "conservative" party would be.  Don't let the media fool you, there's no truth to the idea that the Republican party is not welcoming to more than just the religious right.
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Does it mean they don't care if they elect a conservative or not but just want to elect someone who's best for the job? Does the RNC, a political party, get to decide what being a conservative is and effectively dictate to the public who is or isn't conservative by some standard they make up?
I think you're tying yourself into knots trying to fit a round peg into a square whole.  Republican is not the same thing as conservative, and you should be able to look at the stage on the debate and see the truth of that.  Chris Christie, and Pataki before he exited, both won elections as Republicans in overwhelming blue states not because they were fake Republicans, but because they weren't extreme conservatives.

It's why the term "RINO" drives me crazy.  It's a term the extremist minority uses to try and discredit the mainstream Republican candidates.
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In short, do you think Jeb may be on to something when he makes this criticism of Trump, or is he just blowing smoke and using the term "conservative" to mean whatever the heck he wants it to in order to make Trump look bad? If he's on to something, does that mean that only people from a certain cookie-cutter mold are really eligible to run as a GOP candidate?
It means Jeb is trying to save his candidacy by pandering to the hard right extreme in the belief that they are more likely to vote, nothing more.  Ultimately its a short cited strategy, because taking a hard turn into the arms of the religious right will cause you too much damage in a general election.

On a personal note, I don't think I could vote for Bush.  I don't see any plausible explanation for why we've had 5 candidates (3 elected to date) from just two nuclear families in the last 28 years.  Honestly, 3 out of 4 Presidents from two nuclear families, with the Democrats all but certain to put forward another member as their candidate.  No one on earth is going to convince me that there are not enough qualified people out there that this should occur.

Pete at Home

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2016, 03:32:33 PM »
Conservative does not mean extreme right, and its current set of candidates suggests that the term conservative is too large a tent, not too small, for its current leadership.

For Bush to talk of conservatism as a guiding light places him at the leftward end of the current GOP presidential candidates

Fenring

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2016, 04:09:25 PM »
The whole conservative vs GOP thing strikes me as funny. Ever since their inception the GOP has been pro-big military and pro-big business. Their position in other areas has shifted, but originally they were anything but the conservative party. They were trying to actively change the nation from its agrarian roots as exemplified in the South, and wanted the nation armed for bear to compete with the great Empires. The GOP position on some issues may have shifted over the years, especially during the great swap with the Democrats in the civil rights era over the Southern and non-urban vote, but some core issues remain quite stable for them such as military and big business. I find it farcical to think that a party calling itself conservative can also consist largely of war-hawks and corporate partners. That's not to say that Democrats don't also do similar things, but huge military spending and pushing megacorps can hardly be seen as conserving the traditions of the founders.

Despite rhetoric about small government and fiscal prudence, look at the result of the last Bush in office: massive government authoritarian bureaucracy, unprecedented military spending, two wars, and huge boons for oil and weapons companies. How is this conservative? Obviously it was in the wake of an attack, but do note he wanted to do these things either way and would have likely attacked Iraq with or without 9/11. Without intending to criticize Bush's actions as such, I certainly can't see them as being conservative in any sense, and listening to most of the GOP candidates now they sound like they'll be following in Bush's footsteps. They spoke during the first debate about admiring Reagan, but they don't sound to me like Reaganites.

I guess I'm just not sure where Bush gets off calling himself a real conservative and Trump a fake conservative when as far as I'm concerned Bush isn't a real conservative either. He may talk about religion and traditional family values, I guess, and this figures in to what some of you are saying about how the definition at this point may be so broad that it means nothing while at the same time being so narrow that none of the candidates really fit it. But when I think of conservative I don't think of people who wave swords around trying to sound tough and believe in dispensation of authoritarian government powers.

Pete at Home

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2016, 05:30:24 PM »
I don't know enough about Her to say if you are right.  I certainly agree that Bush I and II were no more conservative than Clinton was liberal.

But the terms conservative and liberal have themselves undergone considerable revision.  Not sure how a ban on flag burning is conservative while a ban on gun rights is liberal.

AI Wessex

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2016, 08:11:32 AM »
I mostly agree with Fenring's comments above.  I think "conservative" means preserving an ongoing set of policies and practices, aka "consistent".  The Tea Party is radical by that definition, but Democrats could also be called conservative.  The problem with American political conservatism is that it by preserving the old order it deprecates an evolving new order.  That can lead to what we would call a fundamentalist stance.  That bridges to religious fundamentalism, which is another kind of radicalism.  The Democrats are seen as liberal, which is a bit of a stretch, because they are neither fundamentalist nor religious in their self-definition, but I see Hillary as a progressive conservative and Sanders as a liberal progressive.  He's far from a socialist.  There ought to be a refrigerator magnet set of political adjectives.  We could arrange them so that everybody is whatever we want to say they are.  Then we can sneer or smile as we say the words. 

Pete at Home

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2016, 03:17:28 PM »
Hillary the progressive conservative?  That's a giggle. 

D.W.

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2016, 03:30:17 PM »
Maybe repealing Obamacare is progressive and maintaining it is conservative.  :)

Fenring

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2016, 03:34:49 PM »
Hillary the progressive conservative?  That's a giggle.

I agree that she's effectively a conservative (100% for status quo) and I suppose she could be called progressive insofar as she does want change in the few arenas she cares about (such as women's rights). Maybe Al's choice of words here has something to it after all.

Pete at Home

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2016, 03:40:35 PM »
Maybe .conservative, liberal, progressive, like assault weapon, have become blank terms that mean whatever the people in power want them to mean

D.W.

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2016, 03:44:15 PM »
I suppose the words being meaningless is a step up from them being either a badge of honor if you toe the party line or a slur if you are referring to the opposition.

Fenring

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2016, 03:52:37 PM »
Maybe .conservative, liberal, progressive, like assault weapon, have become blank terms that mean whatever the people in power want them to mean

Terms like this have been made meaningless by design, to prevent debate or even thought on certain topics. The inconsistent use of terminology, coupled with doggedly employing it with religious determination, is the recipe to achieve partisan hackery devoid of constructive resolution. It's a control mechanism, but I was approaching the topic with the mind to figure out what the term conservative properly ought to mean, even if it's thrown about now in various conflicting ways.

D.W. was joking, but after some period of time I do think it would be sensible to say that keeping Obamacare around should be called a conservative position while repealing it would be progressive or even radical. It all depends on context, and that's ok so long we're able to keep our minds moving along with reality. But partisan turf lines require stability and rigid maintenance of the no-man's land which is...everything else. I feel like the lack of mobility of context for these terms (e.g. what is it to be a conservative now, versus 50 years ago) is a sign of their degradation. But rather than have the term follow reality, instead politicians define reality based on how they want to use the term. The result is meaningless battle lines as Pete said.

I do think there are principles that can be fixed over long periods of time, but the question is not whether these principles should change but rather how they can be fought for as time progresses and conditions are different. A libertarian has certain core beliefs, for instance, but is it necessarily true that fighting for a libertarian ideal now should in any way resemble how it was fought for 100 years ago?

D.W.

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2016, 04:02:33 PM »
And here I thought that was what made it a joke...

Fenring

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2016, 04:24:22 PM »
And here I thought that was what made it a joke...

Are you joking?

D.W.

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #20 on: January 15, 2016, 04:48:03 PM »
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D.W. was joking, but
then you explain exactly the context (which I think at least among this crowd can safely be considered obvious) which makes it a joke.

Unless you thought I was just being absurd and calling up down or black white in some sort of toddler form of humor.

Thanks to both you and Pete for making it clear today I should not quit my day job to become a comedy writer or do stand up.

Fenring

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #21 on: January 15, 2016, 04:54:30 PM »
My last post was a joke too. Looks like we're a bunch of joke makers. I knew you were making a joke, but wasn't sure if you meant it merely to ironically refer to my thoughts on the subject or if you in some sense also agreed that the term conservative could be meant in this way.

Pete at Home

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #22 on: January 15, 2016, 05:05:58 PM »
Maybe repealing Obamacare is progressive and maintaining it is conservative.  :)

I did smile at that, which on my third week of coffee withdrawal, is a lot for me. 

AI Wessex

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Re: Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2016, 10:18:24 AM »
Maybe .conservative, liberal, progressive, like assault weapon, have become blank terms that mean whatever the people in power want them to mean
At this point they are more for branding than anything else, like so much else national politicians espouse.  The joke is on us.