Republican “conservatives” are tearing themselves to shreds lately. Have you seen the reports? Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter saying they would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than John McCain. James Dobson saying he would rather sit out the election than support McCain.
What is going on?
Or maybe a better question is, what is a “conservative”?
There seems to be four, largely inconsistent, very disperse ideologies that people variously call “conservative”:
(1) The government which governs best governs least group. These people are for lower taxes, less government regulation and generally support the idea of government staying as much out of people’s lives as possible. This group would also include those who think the job of the U.S. is to mind it’s own business and stay out of policing the world. Back at home they would have the government build roads and enforce contracts and that’s about it. They are the “libertarian” conservatives.
(2) The America-rules-the-world-through-projected-strength group. These people are for military buildups and strong military presence throughout the world, and even go so far as to impose the U.S. ideas of government and policy on other countries through military strength and adventurism. This group includes the “neocons” that George Bush aligned himself with.
(3) The social morality group. These people are basically far right, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who have never been really content with a separation of church and state and want to impose their ideas of religious morality on a secular society. This group tends to also be anti-science when they feel it contradicts their religious doctrines.
(4) The club for growth group. These people are basically supporters of big business and believers in trickle-down economics. They are of the “what’s good for General Motors is good for the USA” philosophy. They are often so extreme in their views that they will disbelieve in global warming because they are afraid that taking even moderate pro-environmental action would depress the GDP. To confuse things, this group often pretends they are in group (1), but they give themselves away by hypocritically supporting government largesse and overseas adventures when it supports big business.
The problem is that these four ideological groups are not necessarily mutually consistent. In fact they don’t really co-exist with each other well at all.
And sometimes they really confuse themselves with the strangest ideas, such as when the social morality group takes positions against environmental protection or social programs. As though Jesus would be against programs for the poor?
This year the strain is particularly showing as the conservative pundits are demanding 100% orthodoxy across all four ideologies in their candidate for president. But it strains credulity to imagine a thinking person actually holding all four ideologies at the same time.