The One Good Thing you might say has come out of the last six dreadful years of all-out conservative rule is that having come out from under their usual cover and into the light, modern conservatives can at last be seen clearly and unambiguously for what they are – deeply un-American and profoundly anti-democratic. From the corporate elite that got Bush elected so he could turn over the Treasury to them to the theocratic movement that is hell-bent on replacing the Constitution with the Bible, virtually every segment of the conservative movement since Goldwater, fringe to mainstream, is obsessed with the authoritarian belief that they’re better than everybody else and ought to be calling the shots for all of us.
The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use “social issues” as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy.
In short, conservatives don’t want to live in a democracy as equals with the rest of us; they want to be the nobility in a monarchy. They don’t want a president, they want a king. They are American Tories, the descendants of people who fought George Washington, despised Sam Adams, thought Tom Paine was a terrorist, and remained loyal to King George III right up until the British got kicked out by the colonial “rabble”. The are alive and well, and the Republican party is their home even when they’re Democrats.A leading characteristic of both aristocrats and conservatives is that they refuse to accept being wrong. About anything. David Neiwert sums this up neatly in the first part of a new series on conservative eliminationism (the desire to eliminate, one way or another, all their perceived enemies):
White frat boys who long to enslave blacks, Texas ranchers who think hunting and shooting a Jew sounds like fun, and radio audiences who want to tattoo Muslims and lock them up in concentration camps — they all reflect the strands of the hard-wired right-wing desire to eliminate, by violent means if necessary, anyone deemed the Other, or the Enemy.
Today, the right’s rose-petaled enterprise has turned to shit, just as the “treasonous” bastards warned them it would — so of course, those same bastards are now to blame. This is the way it always works for the right, the people of the party of responsibility, who seem unable to accept any responsibility whatsoever for the disasters created at their own express behest, and instead blame those with the foresight to warn against them beforehand.
What distinguishes eliminationism — and particularly the rhetoric that precedes it and fuels it — is that it represents a kind of self-hatred, especially in an American culture which advertises itself as predicated on inclusiveness, egalitarianism, and equal opportunity, since it runs precisely counter to those ideals. Eliminationists, at heart, really hate the very idea of America.
Monarchical conservatives see the old idea of an egalitarian America as a dangerous attempt at mob rule. They would be much happier as members of the nobility in Imperial Rome. That so many educated conservatives, such as Karl Rove, spend so much time studying the Roman Empire and expressing fondness for its political structure and values is not an accident. It is simply an extension of their true focus and beliefs. They are rigidly class-conscious and spend oodles of money funding think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute that specialize in the creation of crack-addled theories about how poverty is the fault of the lazy poor and how much better the world situation would be if the planet was run by the World Bank instead of a mish-mosh of unstable govts and mob-ruled “democracies”.We need to understand that what we’re up against are nascent plutocrats and oligarchs just as the people of Rome were. Unlike the people of Rome, however, we have an important advantage: The Constitution. That makes them the Outsiders and us the Insiders. But before we can take advantage of our advantage, we have to understand the true nature of our Enemies: that they are enemies, not just “people who think differently than we do”. They are essentially out to destroy us. And if we don’t fight back, they will.