This could take a while.
You might want to get a sandwich.
While I could probably fill a tome with my reasons for being neither conservative nor Republican, my aim today is to call into question some of the claims made by Gabe Crawford in his NonDoc piece, Why I’m a conservative Republican.
First, let me say I do agree with Mr. Crawford in that I think it is foolish and ignorant to make sweeping generalizations about a group of people. It is not my intent to paint all Republicans as sexists, bigots or any of the other negative stereotypes decried by Mr. Crawford. However, the fact remains that Republican elected officials have enjoyed electoral success largely on the basis of policies and rhetoric characterized by sexism, bigotry and warmongering.
The bootstrap myth
Anybody can pull him or herself up by his or her own bootstraps; it has been proven.
Has it though? The only evidence he provides for this claim is a short list of famous politicians who are not white men. This is far from proof that anybody can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. For every name he lists, how many countless thousands struggle in abject poverty?
The Republican “bootstrap” notion is inherently absurd and demonstrates the lack of perspective that informs their attitudes on poverty. Citing a handful of non-white or non-male politicians as proof that anyone can do anything is tantamount to listing a handful of professional athletes as evidence than anyone can win the Super Bowl. It is a gross oversimplification that fails to take into account socioeconomic factors that contribute to poverty.
These sorts of Horatio Alger scenarios, while certainly a noble notion, are not firmly grounded in any sort of reality. John Swansburg addresses the myth in an article, The Self-Made Man: The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth. According to Swansburg:
… research has demonstrated that it is exceedingly rare for Americans to go from rags to riches, and that more modest movement from the bottom of the economic ladder isn’t common either.
Additionally, Swansburg describes the idiom as “a quixotic attempt to achieve an impossibility, not a feat of self-reliance.” This original meaning of the phrase traces back to “a sarcastic 1834 account of a crackpot inventor’s attempt to build a perpetual motion machine.”
The irony is palpable.
Planned Parenthood comments contradict reality
Mr. Crawford makes some interesting claims about Planned Parenthood and abortion that contradict reality. First of all, let us address the Planned Parenthood controversy. The videos, which have caused such an uproar among conservatives, are a documented hoax. This hasn’t stopped congressional Republicans from attempting to defund Planned Parenthood on the basis of the alleged sale of “baby parts.”
According to Laura Bassett:
The videos, even in their heavily edited form, do not show Planned Parenthood harvesting and selling body parts. What they do show is Planned Parenthood doctors having frank, technical conversations about abortion procedures with actors that are posing as fetal tissue procurement technicians.
To continue to propagate such lies is grossly irresponsible. We have already seen how this falsehood has directly been responsible for inciting violence that resulted in the deaths of several innocent people.
“Why I’m a conservative Republican” by Gabe Crawford
The Republican stance on abortion also brings up one of the biggest ideological incongruities of the modern conservative. How can a party espouse the merits of small government while simultaneously enacting legislation that invades women’s most basic rights to privacy and self-determination?
One would be hard pressed to think of a better example of government overreach. Take, for instance, Wisconsin’s recent abortion legislation, which forces a woman to undergo either a transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound as a requisite for the procedure. Oklahoma has similar laws on the books. How is this small government? Furthermore, how is this not sexist? Should congressional Republicans really dictate what we can and can’t do with our own genitalia?
Such abortion restrictions are inherently sexist. Has anyone ever even entertained placing legal restrictions on the reproductive rights of males?
Last, it’s worth noting that, according to the CDC, abortion rates are at a record low. If abortion were truly used as birth control as Mr. Crawford contends, it would logically follow that these numbers would be rising, not falling.
War, what is it good for?
Crawford states “war is necessary,” and that “we live in a fallen world.” While the former may be true sometimes (I doubt any of us would question the necessity of World War II), the latter implies that the world is somehow more volatile and dangerous than it has been in previous eras. What does it mean to live in a fallen world? When did the world fall? At what point did humanity lose its way? Surely, any cursory reading of world history is bound to turn up examples of death and conflict on a scale that the modern world has never seen.
This is certainly a tricky topic to discuss, as it encompasses a great number of factors. Therefore, to imply that we as a society have only the options of “proactive security” or climbing “over dead bodies with reactive security” is undoubtedly denying this topic the nuance required for any sort of meaningful debate. In discussing this matter in such absolutist terms, Crawford is only furthering the warmongering stereotype he is attempting to refute.
Freedom from religion
While Crawford maintains he has no desire to push his religion on others, the same cannot be said for the party he defends. Take, for instance, the high-profile case of Kim Davis. By now we should all be familiar with this story of a Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in accordance with the law on the basis of her religious conviction.
If there were no basis to the claims that Republicans seek to push their religion on others, then it would logically follow that Republican candidates for president would take this opportunity to emphasize the need for unbiased administration of government functions. After all, equality before the law is one of the defining principles of Western democracy and American society. Instead, candidates such as Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz both “essentially declared Davis a martyr.”
Now, these are the actions of but two Republicans. It would be unfair to say this represents the attitudes of all Republicans. That is to say it would be unfair if the Republican electorate had expressed any degree of disapproval over the way in which this scandal was framed. Instead, it served as a rallying call for a segment of the Republican base that is absolutely certain their belief system is in imminent danger. Ted Cruz went so far as to say, “Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office.”
No one is making that argument. The argument being made by myself and others is that a government official cannot refuse someone his or her constitutional rights on the basis of a personal conviction. If someone such as Kim Davis cannot carry out the duties of their office without violating their conscience, then maybe she should pursue a career in the clergy and leave the governing to those who actually understand the meaning of the establishment clause. Freedom of religion means freedom from religion. This is, of course, but one example, but it is part of a pattern of religious zealotry prevalent in the modern Republican Party.
‘Deep vein of intolerance’
Arguably the most damning “misconception” that Crawford seeks to refute revolves around allegations that racism is still a potent element within the Republican Party. There is, however, a great deal of evidence suggesting the racist element of the Republican Party is alive and well.
Much to the chagrin of the Republican establishment, former Secretary of State Colin Powell has acknowledged this fact and has referred to a “deep vein of intolerance” within the GOP. Furthermore, Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff during his tenure at the State Department, has criticized racist elements of his own party. Wilkerson states:
The GOP has scores of racists. Under Richard Nixon’s blessing, the GOP took advantage of disgruntled Democrats in the South. They are still there and their children are there. This is very much known in our party. This was a conscious strategy.
Starting in the 1960s, the Republican Party capitalized on an influx of disillusioned southern Democrats who had been alienated by Lyndon Johnson’s support of civil rights legislation. If one had to pinpoint a moment when the Republican Party ceased to bear any resemblance to the Party of Lincoln, it would no doubt fall at some point during this realignment. One might argue that 50-year-old political machinations have no bearing today, but recent Republican efforts to enact voter ID laws have made it more difficult for minorities, particularly Hispanics, to vote.
Additionally, through pursuing such laws, some Republicans like Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott are attempting to dismantle the Voting Rights Act, which would effectively disenfranchise millions.
Ultimately, it is not my goal to make accusations against Mr. Crawford. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity or to assume the aforementioned negative aspects of the Republican Party in any way reflect on his personal character. It is, however, my goal to encourage Mr. Crawford and those who share his opinions to take a good hard look at the party they defend.
One can decry the “stereotypes” attributed to the modern Republican Party, but the fact remains that the negative attributes of sexism, bigotry, warmongering and religious oppression are often reflected in Republican rhetoric and policy. They are not wholesale fabrications perpetrated by liberals, as some conservatives would have us believe.
If the Republican Party is going to have continued relevance in the 21st Century as a major party, then young conservatives such as Mr. Crawford are going to have to acknowledge and address these issues rather than make excuses.