I have tried at various times to explain why conservatives think the way they do and why we as a nation seem to be moving backward. But it all comes down to a fairly simple concept, fear. Conservatives are fearful people and their whole approach to everything centers around that fear.
Let’s look at their approach to immigration. They are afraid of it. They will steal our jobs. They bring in disease. They are criminals. They steal our tax dollars by using up our social services. They overwhelm our schools and hospitals. Now all of this is demonstrably false for the aggregate (there are of course anecdotal cases), but conservatives see only the fear and focus on the anedotal.
The fact that we are all immigrants and all studies show that immigration is what oils our economy is lost on them. So their approach to immigration is no approach. Stop it, be afraid. In other words they have no plan but defend our borders.
Look at their approach to healthcare. Repeal Obamacare. That is it. They are terrified of big government taking away their rights and are oblivious to the fact that big government is the only one who will insure them when they are 65 (Medicare). Let the market place work, except for profit medicine weighs heavily against sick people.
The business model of healthcare is fairly simple, insure healthy people and deny benefits to the sick. Obamacare put an end to that so the conservatives are terrified of big government and death panels, but what then replaces it? The old system that failed us? They have no plan, only fear of the existing one.
Look at their approach to Ebola. Quarantine Africa. Throw all medical workers exposed to the disease in the slammer for 21 days. Don’t touch a bowling ball or ride the subway. Reactions born out of fear that are counterproductive to treating and stopping Ebola.
Even Global Warming and their denial of it is based upon fear, in this case the fear of fear. It is God’s plan and we need not do anything is basically a giant denial that we are facing a real threat and we need to take proactive steps. It is the fear of fear that denies reality and drives their lack of action.
Where do you think our policy of lock up every evil doer and throw away the key came from? Three strikes has turned out to be a national disgrace and one we can no longer afford because we are afraid of bad people. The fear blinds us to the complexity of crime and who is really a threat and who isn’t.
The whole gun thing is about fear. I need my AK47 and my rocket launcher to protect me from the thundering hordes. Reasonable background checks to make us all safer will just allow government to take our weapons and we will be powerless. That fear blinds us to the real damage that gun violence does in our society.
Why do you think most conservatives are such hawks? They are terrified and their answer to that terror is a bigger and ever more powerful military. Their answer to everything is hit it with a bigger stick. See John McCain on ISIS, Ukraine, Syria, Iran, just about everywhere. Again the complexities of local politics and their social development is lost on shock and awe.
Probably the one fear that is hurting our nation the most is their fear of debt. Paul Krugman writes this morning about how in a liquidity crisis (zero interest and no demand) the rules of the economy invert. Debt and spending are good. It is basic Econ 101 and evidenced by tons of data from our own depression, Europe’s present predicament, and the last 20 years in Japan. Yet we can’t get away from the home budget analogy and cut all spending until things get better. But in this economy your spending is my earnings and vice versa.
So instead of creating demand by taking on debt at zero interest rates and investing in our infrastructure, providing good jobs, and getting our economy moving again, we are doing just the opposite because debt is scary and everyone knows in bad times you must be prudent. No amount of data is going to shake that belief because it is cemented in place by fear.
With conservatives now in charge of two out of the branches of government, fear politics reigns. Fear Obamacare, fear Hillary, fear President Obama, fear fear. But Progressive could learn from this. Think about some of the really big things this country has done. Many of our great infrastructure achievements were done in the Great Depression because of the fear of starvation and homelessness.
The interstate highway system was built in the 50’s because of our fear of the Red Menace in the Far East and the need to build logistics supply routes to the West Coast. The Man on the Moon was the result of our fear of the Soviet’s domination in space. Apparently the only time we can get a consensus to do the really big things, is when we can scare conservatives into it. China will bury us if we don’t upgrade our infrastructure. Without a vibrant young and upwardly mobile workforce capitalism will fail so liberalize immigration. Etc.
But in the meantime, the next time a Republican launches on some policy ask yourself, or better yet ask them, what are you really afraid of? Is that fear blinding you to data and facts?