Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Conservatives Uphold Family Values? Hardly.

Paul Krugman, in trying to show that not enough real libertarians exist to give Rand Paul a path to the presidency in 2016, ended up showing more than just the problems of a libertarian GOP candidate. Sure, the problem for Paul is that the more "libertarian" you are, the more like a social liberal you become, and there's nothing libertarian about the GOP yearning for the next war. What's more, the more libertarian you are, the less likely you are to vote.

What Krugman ended up also pointing to was the strange way issue support has become polarized. I had accepted that reality, but I hadn't looked at it this way:

 Krugman starts out with this graphic.

Krugman then goes on to say:
There’s also a corresponding empty box on the other side, which is maybe even emptier; I don’t even know a good catchphrase for it. (Suggestions?) I’m putting in “hardhats” to show my age, because I remember the good old days when rampaging union workers — who presumably supported pro-labor policies, unemployment benefits, and Medicare — liked to beat up dirty hippies. But it’s hard to find anyone like that in today’s political scene.
So why are these boxes empty? Why is American politics essentially one-dimensional, so that supporters of gay marriage are also supporters of guaranteed health insurance and vice versa? (And positions on foreign affairs — bomb or talk? — are pretty much perfectly aligned too).
...It’s fundamentally about challenging or sustaining traditional hierarchy. The actual lineup of positions on social and economic issues doesn’t make sense if you assume that conservatives are, as they claim, defenders of personal liberty on all fronts. But it makes perfect sense if you suppose that conservatism is instead about preserving traditional forms of authority: employers over workers, patriarchs over families. A strong social safety net undermines the first, because it empowers workers to demand more or quit; permissive social policy undermines the second in obvious ways.
And I suppose that you have to say that modern liberalism is in some sense the obverse — it is about creating a society that is more fluid as well as fairer. We all like to laugh at the war-on-Christmas types, right-wing blowhards who fulminate about the liberal plot to destroy family values. We like to point out that a country like France, with maternity leave, aid to new mothers, and more, is a lot more family-friendly than rat-race America. But if “family values” actually means traditional structures of authority, then there’s a grain of truth in the accusation. Both social insurance and civil rights are solvents that dissolve some of the restraints that hold people in place, be they unhappy workers or unhappy spouses. And that’s part of why people like me support them.
It makes no sense that a "party of family values," as the Republicans claim to be, would be against maternity leave, single-payer health care, better pay for women, higher pay for workers, free preschool, free universal public education including college, or anything in general that would be good for the family and enhance the health and happiness of the family.

But that's what we find: the conservative Republican Party is against all these things. Why? Oddly it's because they would have to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for them. Wait, of course that's why. But there's another reason: As the party of paternal authority, strict discipline is the order of the day. The nasty children must know the rod. So the Bible says. No dessert -- or sex -- for you, unless it's to make more good Christians.

Yes, we've changed as a nation. We did use to be a country with a "hardhat" middle class that would strike for higher wages and benefits, fight to keep unions strong, and still beat up a hippie for being against the Vietnam War. I remember it well because I was one of those hippies against war, and hardhat, union-card-carrying, muscle-bound, pickup-truck-driving guys would look at me with utter contempt and a threatening glare.

Those hardhats are still around, but the difference is their wages are shot, their opportunity for mobility is gone, and they think people in favor of government regulation, government-mandated health insurance and the like is just one more socialist plot aimed at raising their taxes and enslaving them. Yes, they still like war and still believe in family values.

And they think that if they can get taxes low enough, they'll get what their fathers and mothers had. But those days are rapidly vanishing, and they completely miss that what's killing the dream are the policies that lead to fewer services, lower wages, and higher income inequality. Yet the Reagan Democrats are now the tea-party Republicans screaming for policies that hurt their own interests.

Are they Ready for Rand? Maybe. Rand's for liberty!

I feel for them because they go to the polls every couple of years and vote against themselves. Fifty years ago, they voted for LBJ. Thirty years ago, they voted for Ronald Reagan. Fifteen years ago, they voted for George W. Today they're going to vote for Rand Paul?

Probably not, and mostly because they won't be able to figure out what he stands for. Libertarianism? What the hell is that? Sounds French or something.

Lyndon Johnson signing the Medicare bill with Harry Truman by his side.
Plenty of hardhats retired on Social Security and Medicare since then. I
wonder if they knew what Ronald Reagan though of it. Well, here he is.

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