The death of an ideology
VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA –
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Winston Churchill, from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)
A less eloquent and witty way of expressing the same notion would be simply to point out that democracy is probably humanity’s greatest achievement in its billion-year climb from the primordial ooze. Nevertheless, it seems as though there is an inclination among some people here in the West to throw that magnificent achievement away with both hands as fast as they can. To see that dynamic in action, all one has to do is subscribe to a news forum, read the letters to the editors of newspapers, or simply click on the Comments section following articles in most news portals on the Internet.
There is a growing propensity for intolerance of divergent points of view that is manifested as cyberbullying, digital shouting down of others, and the gang flaming of anyone who expresses a viewpoint that differs, let alone contradicts, another poster’s. This inclination is most evident on the easy-to-access sites like Yahoo News forums, suggesting that the most vocal flamers are not inclined to take the extra thought and effort required to access more sophisticated forums. Interestingly, an admittedly non-scientific survey I have undertaken clearly indicates that the most vicious of the cyberbullies come from the right of the political spectrum; hardly surprising, given the proliferation of scientific studies that show the average intelligence of conservatives to be less than that of professed liberals.
What I find curious and somewhat frightening is that the conservative perspective today seems to be fundamentally anti-democratic. If we take the US Republican Party to be reflective of the current Western conservative political ideology, we can see that there is an almost religious conviction that their political views are so absolutely correct that bypassing or subverting the democratic process to impose their policies is an acceptable course of action. For them, the institution of policies supporting their ideology is of a higher priority than the preservation of democracy…the very system that permits them to express their ideas.
Among the courses of action employed by the conservative movement in the US has been the systematic enactment of self-admittedly restrictive voter suppression laws. One by one, the red states are passing laws that are intended to suppress that segment of the demographic that is most likely to vote Democratic in any election. The strategy is clear: if their ideology doesn’t please a citizen, eliminate the right to vote for a candidate who supports a different one. Along with their disdain for liberal ideas comes a disdain for democracy itself. So confident are the conservatives of the superiority of their ideas, they would not permit any opposition if they had their way.
But perhaps every bit as disturbing is the polarisation that is taking place in the real world, the world away from the halls of legislation.
While I acknowledge that this a general and not a universal observation, it seems that the grassroots conservatives have started to entertain a suspicion that they are wrong, that their ideology is flawed, and that their politics are obsolete and are reacting by circling the wagons to defend their entrenched views. In fact, they want to stifle rational discussion because they simply don’t want to consider or discuss alternative viewpoints since – at some level – they know that they could not prevail in a rational debate of policy and political philosophy. They know unconsciously that the conservative mantra of “If it was good enough for Grandpa, it’s good enough for kids today” is fundamentally flawed; it wasn’t really good enough for Grandpa…that’s why it needs to change.
The result is that they wrap themselves in a faux patriotic mantle and cyberscream at anyone they suspect of not cleaving to extreme right wing dogma and call them “libertards”. They commonly refer to the US president as “Obammy”, and start from the position that all those who make a comment that sounds like it came from the left of Mussolini are effete communist homosexual welfare recipients. It’s not enough to disagree with a distinctly centrist president, he must be accused of treason; they must call for his impeachment or even a good old-fashioned lynching. The fact is that, despite two decisive wins in two consecutive general elections, the vocal conservative faction doesn’t see the American president as legitimate; he wasn’t their choice, so the democratic choice doesn’t count. Democracy, for today’s conservative, is something to which lip service ought to be paid if, and only if, they agree with the majority.
The conservative movement in its current incarnation is mortally wounded; its soft underbelly has been exposed and it has torn itself apart with its inherent hatred and mean-spiritedness. But, as a wounded animal, it is most dangerous just before it rolls over and dies. It lashes out at everything and its venom is undiminished in its lethality. But like a wounded venomous reptile, it needs to be killed once and for all; once it is finally and certainly dead, the rest of us can get on once again with pushing the democratic principles to their limits and work toward the betterment of mankind…something that conservatives see as insignificant compared to the betterment of themselves as individuals.