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Gary Horton: Hidden conservatives in ourselves

Posted: September 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.

There’s a dirty little secret hidden deep inside Full Speed to Port:

I honestly think that most Americans are conservative by their nature and would prefer to vote “conservative,” as well. “Conservatism,” as historically defined, reflects our nature, our strengths and to the things that, more often than not, make us individually, and nationally, great.

A realization of America’s predisposition toward conservatism should cause John Boehner’s and Grover Norquist’s conservative hearts to jump for joy. But instead, their hearts aren’t jumping — rather, they are arresting, because their presidential candidate, and perhaps they themselves, aren’t really conservative after all. Not in fact, anyway.

Heresy! Nope, just reality talking.

It’s interesting how words and meanings change over time. Remember when things were “out of sight?” How about when they were groovy? That’s heavy, man. Today, grooves are on ruffled potato chips and Mitt Romney’s tax returns are out of sight. The meaning of “conservative” has undergone a similarly dramatic shift to the point where many main stream, red blooded Americans can no longer line up behind the current “conservative” rallying flag.

What went wrong when so much of the “conservative” election narrative was going so right? After all, the economy continues to flounder, with two steps forward, 1.5 steps back; angry Arabs assault embassies; gas is peaking and pocketbooks are strained. Yet poll numbers won’t budge, and Mitt Romney looks to remain titled “Gov. Romney” for likely the balance of whatever political career the admitted abandoner of 47 percent of us has left.

Still, I believe most would prefer to vote under the conservative label but a majority of them won’t. And that’s because the label, “conservative” doesn’t always imply conservatism anymore, and strangely, the “Obama” liberal brand often does.

Has the world gone mad? Is everything turned upside down?

No. It’s just that too many of those previously conservative leaders, pushed by legions of special interest forces, marched so far right of the conservative scale they fell into a political “no man’s land” where scarce conservative ground remains underfoot. The “conservatives’ running for office today are neither conservative nor much else we would traditionally recognize. They are position talkers, bullet point pushers who are backed by personal position payers. Today, a majority of American voters sense this coup against conservative values, and they’re simply not going for it anymore. Not again. Too many wars, too much decline and waste, too much extremism and too much divergence of wealth. The memory of George W. Bush’s false conservatism — even after four years of hard time recovering from it, remains too painful for reconsideration.

True conservatives reflect “conservation.” They conserve and protect individual freedoms. They conserve and protect our nation’s skilled work force and educational systems. They conserve our nation’s energy through conservation of existing resources and development of additional sources of energy. They conserve our natural resources. They conserve and respect people’s rights over their bodies and lives. They are conservative in military deployment. And importantly, they conserve and protect a fair and level playing field in America for all classes of its citizens. In the end, real “conservatives” protect and conserve all the varied and many “bootstraps” by which we all pull ourselves up.

I enjoyed lunch the other day with a thoughtful conservative friend. He lamented the duplicitous speech and politics that has come to define both parties. But he held particular disdain for what’s become of the right.

“How can a “conservative” tell us he’s protecting individual freedoms and then tells women what they can or cannot do regarding reproductive rights? Why would a real conservative tell you or me we must adhere to their opinion on personal matters and not our own?

“How can a “conservative” leader argue for more military spending when we already spend what the next 16 countries combined spend? And this, when we have huge deficits and need to conserve our money in every category to solve our nation’s problems?

“Or how can ‘conservatives’ talk of increased cutbacks to senior care or schooling for young children when America’s human capital which is our most precious asset, which must be shepherded and promoted over all other concerns?

“Today’s conservatism,” he concluded, “has become about conserving the interests of the very wealthy. It’s as though an entire political party has been hijacked by a controlling interest, most interested in conserving their money and power. This is not a party or an ideology anymore.

“Conservatism has simply become a name for a marketing strategy for the business of protecting wealth.”

Therein is the strange twist of our times. Real conservationists, the real conservatives, see more conservation spirit in the modern Democratic party than they’re seeing in what’s become of our Republican leadership. This strange morphing, combined with the still much to tender pain of the recent Bush experience, will likely give the nod to a “liberal” president the “conservatives” have tried to label an “extremist socialist” with their very best efforts.

So, as words have changed their meaning with the passage of time, it seems America has either become a nation with a majority of extremist socialists, or rather, “liberal” means what “conservative” used to, as liberals take the word back from the extremists who ran away with it.

Far out.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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