What are ‘conservatives’ actually conserving?

Mary Boland
Mary Boland

Those who call themselves “conservative” should ask themselves what they are actually conserving apart from the status quo and the obscene profits of the 1 percent.

Look in any dictionary and you will find two primary meanings of the word. The first is being opposed to change. That, of course, is ridiculous since life is change and change will happen whether we want it or not.

The second meaning is wanting to preserve that which is worth preserving. Now this is a very worthwhile goal. And I submit to you that by this standard, I, along with Bernie Sanders, his supporters and the Green Party are the true conservatives.

In order to decide what, in an ever-changing world, we must do our best to preserve, we must ask ourselves what do we need, and then what do we want.

We need a biosphere that provides us with clean air and water, fertile soil and a reasonably stable climate. If we lose that, nothing else will matter because we will be gone. Something will remain, but nothing we would recognize as us.

So who is really fighting to protect the environment and prevent disastrous climate change? Only Bernie, his supporters and the Green Party. Hillary and the Democratic establishment are so far quite content with a party platform that doesn’t say enough about the climate threat. And Trump, that brilliant climate scientist, doesn’t think there’s anything to worry about.

Now I have some sympathy with those who dislike too much governmental regulation, whether for the environment or anything else. Sure, some regulations are burdensome, clumsy and/or ineffective. But a heavy tax on carbon emissions would involve none of that. And considering that the corpocracy excels at tax avoidance as much as anything, I bet heavy taxes on carbon emissions would result in all kinds of corporate adoption and further development of renewable energy technologies. What’s wrong with that?

We also need peace. War destroys everything and often accomplishes nothing. I take the conservative or cautious view that we should focus on our own business in this country and stop meddling in the affairs of other countries. The best way to win friends and influence people is to serve as a shining example here at home. Bernie has repeatedly said he does not favor “regime change” interventions as we never really know what the result will be.

And we need to restore our democracy, which means getting big money out of politics and government. And that means we must overturn Citizens United, the obscene Supreme Court decision that says corporations are people with the same free speech rights as people. Of course a new court could overturn that decision, but better yet would be a constitutional amendment stating once and for all that corporations are not people, but are creatures of the states, and have no constitutional rights.

Hillary Clinton has promised to introduce and push for such an amendment, as have the Green Party and Sen. Sanders.

Now we must ask ourselves what kind of a country do we want. Do we want a dog-eat-dog country where it’s every man for himself and the devil takes the hindmost? I don’t believe we have to live in a country where 90 percent of us are just one or two misfortunes from financial disaster. I believe we have the ability to make our country a kinder, more loving place.

I am confident that we could afford single-payer health care for all, just as every other industrialized nation does. All we need to do is cut back the obscenely wasteful and expensive military-industrial complex. (The one that famous conservative, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, warned us about.)

And I believe we can afford to offer free tuition at public colleges and universities, rebuild our infrastructure, and create and maintain an economy that guarantees full employment.

So when we ask what kind of a country do we want, I am a progressive, a conservative progressive. At the same time, I do not take that label, or any other label too seriously. I am always suspicious of labels because too often they are the refuge of those too mentally lazy to consider all the facts with an open mind.

I believe we can make good progress toward a better country for all of us — but only if we stop calling each other names, thoughtlessly using labels we scarcely understand. Instead we must take the trouble to learn the facts, and consider our situation and possibilities intelligently and civilly with respect for the opinions of others.

As to our current situation, I wish Bernie would accept the offer of the Green Party to put him at the head of their ticket. So far, he has refused for fear it might throw the election to Trump. So if we only have Hillary and Trump, we just have to get to work electing the right congresspeople and trying to drag Hillary away from her big business supporters.

Mary Boland’s column appears on the second Thursday of each month. She is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother and a longtime resident of Carbondale.

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