Thursday, July 23, 2009

Would Conservative Icon Edmund Burke Have Been A Blue Dog Today?


Mike Lux's book, The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be is so inspiring and so celebratory and positive that you may have noticed I've been letting Mike's ideas infuse into a lot of posts in the last few days. This will be one of those, a look at how the American conservative movement hasn't changed-- at least not ideologically-- since its earliest days of violently opposing the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolutionary War. Their supine, kiss ass orientation towards wealth, privilege, elites and the status quo sounds the same-- if more polished two and a half centuries ago-- reading the treatises of reactionary Irish shill for the English aristocracy Edmund Burke or the talking point tweets of shallow, knee jerk rightists like obstructionist congressmen Paul Ryan and Mike Pence.

Burke, often called the father of modern conservative theory, was a member of the British Parliament, starting as a pet designee of Lord Fermanagh (the 2nd Earl Verney) in a pocket borough. He was briefly elected to represent a real constituency, lost his seat and was given another pocket borough for the rest of his career. But Burke was a Whig, not a Conservative (Tory). In fact he was the leader of the "Old Whigs," the conservative lot who championed tradition and vehemently opposed the premises-- Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité-- of the French Revolution. He was a kind of a DLC scumbag or Blue Dog Democrat of his day. (He can't really and truly be claimed by today's Republican Party, although the ones who get into stuff like reading try, because he opposed imperialism, supported Catholic emancipation and the end of capital punishment and, in 1780, he condemned the use of the pillory for two men convicted for attempting to practice sodomy. Yes, the father of modern conservative thought wasn't homophobic enough to get him past today's GOP primary base!)

And what a base it is; aside from the racists and self-absorbed, selfish multimillionaires all the GOP has left are the cluelessly and perpetually deluded: self-righteous consumers of the right-wing media owned and operated by those self-absorbed, selfish multimillionaires. They know what they want-- no taxes for the wealthy-- and they'll do whatever they have to do to get it.

And just as Edmund Burke was a political creature of his wealthy sponsors, conservative political hacks like Blanche Lincoln, Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Arlen Specter, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and the entire Republican Party congressional caucus are owned-- lock, stock and barrel-- by the special interests who finance their very lucrative political careers, and of course their post-congressional careers. Listen to conservative hack Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) completely distorting the health care debate to mislead the needy elderly into thinking that suddenly-- it would certainly be the first time in history-- conservatives are their friends and protectors. While fanatic partisan warriors like Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) make no bones about anything other than Rush Limbaugh's early diktat to do whatever is needed to make Obama fail, it falls on lesser lights-- like Brown-Waite, Pence, Ryan and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and their conservative Blue Dog and DLC allies-- to try to put forward some kind of Republican counter to America's next great progressive stride forward.

What is especially painful is how conservative Democrats, bought off by special interests, are willing to betray progressivism-- as well as their own constituents-- to keep the CEO, the PAC and the lobbyist money flowing. Yesterday the American Prospect exposed how 5 "moderates" are backing the GOP demands that women's health issues regarding choice not be included in the health care reform. Two-- Alabama reactionary Artur Davis and Florida tool Kendrick Meek-- are running for higher office.

There's a real struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party going on now. Will it continue to be a vehicle for progress and for American working families, or will it allow itself to be bought off by the forces of reaction and plutocracy? It could go either way. In the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections we find candidates like Jennifer Brunner in Ohio and Doug Tudor in Florida battling against tremendous odds as the special interests pour money into their opponents' coffers-- and not just Republican opponents, but so-called Democratic ones as well.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, often likened to a female Rahm Emanuel in the making, has always been a sleazy and disreputable character willing to deal with the devil for the sake of accumulating raw political power. Last year she tacitly backed Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the notorious gangster brothers the Diaz-Balarts, and Republican leader Adam "Howdy Doody" Putnam, rather than Democratic challengers-- despite the fact that she was the chair of the DCCC Red to Blue program! This year, while her protege Kendrick Meek betrays women's choice, she has funneled thousands of dollars into the campaign of far right Blue Dog Lori Edwards in the race for the seat being abandoned by Putnam-- despite, or maybe because, that seat is being contested by a grassroots progressive, Doug Tudor.

This morning we contacted Doug and asked him why he thought Wasserman Schultz was getting behind someone who opposes the Democratic Party agenda. “If Ms. Edwards is positioning herself as a candidate of the status quo," he told us, "she is gaining the right endorsements. The Blue Dogs are determined to represent the insurance industry, instead of the people, in the crucial healthcare debate. And, as we saw in Representative Wasserman Schultz’ tacit endorsement of Adam Putnam and the Diaz brothers in the last election, Debbie also isn’t interested in furthering a progressive agenda. Despite what many others are saying, I don’t believe DWS-PAC’s contribution to Ms. Edwards involves gender politics.  I just refuse to believe that.” 

Like Doug, Jennifer Brunner is continuing to battle for crucial progressive legislation, as she has throughout her career. Yesterday she was on HuffPo voicing very different concerns from anti-progressives like Meek and Davis.
The Obama administration is not pushing for true "single payer" health insurance, where there is just one health care payment system for the country. Instead, President Obama pragmatically recognizes that people should have the choice of the public option or private insurance, if they have or can obtain private insurance. There are, however, 50 million people without any health insurance, many of whom are ready to accept and embrace what is, as I urged Meredith, a basic human right. Giving them a choice and making the federal government directly accountable for that choice is what the public option means.

For the long-term economic health of our country, the public option will jettison costs from employers and from us as taxpayers, who pay the hidden costs of uninsured and underinsured Americans' health care now as it is. You don't cure a headache by beating your head against a wall, but that's what we've been doing-- and it's getting worse. Glenn Beck can scream all he wants about how leaders of other countries come to the U.S. for our excellent care, but he doesn't talk about how some desperate middle class Americans take enormous risks going to other countries to get health care, under whatever standards of care may prevail there, because they cannot get it here.

We are the United States of America. We are still, to so many here and abroad, that "shining city on the hill." We must step forward, recognize that the free market, by itself, as applied to health care doesn't make us free, but rather imprisons us in a vicious cycle of suffering, inequality, disparity and grief. The public option is the first step to stem the flood of loss and resulting damage.

You can donate-- and I hope you will-- to both Doug Tudor's and Jennifer Brunner's campaigns here at our ActBlue page. Even $5 and $10 donations go a long way towards fighting off the pervasive influence of those who spend thousands to elect candidates who will stand for their special interests rather than for working families. The alternative is a government run for and by the Big Money interests. That's what conservatism really boils down to and what it has always boiled down to. Conservatives opposed everything that has moved our country forward since before its founding. They were aghast over Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence. They fought against the Bill of Rights tooth and nail. They slimed Abraham Lincoln for the Gettysburg Address. They opposed Social Security, Medicare, rural electrification, the 8-hour workday, the right of workers to organize, the right of women and minorities to vote, as well as public education, consumer protections, the abolition of child labor, the minimum wage, civil rights... everything that has made America great. That's the conservative movement that today is fighting to wreck health care reform, and the Obama presidency.

For those looking for some more direct Mike Lux material, I found an apt passage while I was riding on the Bangkok Skytrain yesterday afternoon, conveniently tying together conservative dogma and corruption (often an integral part of conservative dogma!):
Conservatives from Hamilton's time until today have always viewed government as best used as an instrument to benefit business and wealthy elites. Unfortunately, this philosophy has bled over all too often into private interests using government for personal enrichment. Keeping our democracy from being overrun by corruption is always a challenge, but it has been made more difficult by the conservative Social Darwinist philosophy that views government as a tool to assist the already wealthy.

...In the post-Civil War Gilded Age, Social Darwinism supported the notion that corruption might even be a force for good: the dominant and wealthy would advance society and force the weak out of the way... Corporations were relatively open about their practice of bribing politicians... Widespread and well-documented stories told of congressional members receiving $5,000 for every important vote, stocks in companies, and free services like railroad tickets at any time upon request. Republican presidential candidate James Garfield [the first of the new breed to corrupt, corporate Republicans to follow Lincoln's ultra progressive Radical Republicans] took a $150,000 contribution from robber baron Jay Gould and, in exchange, promised to appoint whomever Gould wanted to the Supreme Court... [T]he ideology of priate interest over the public good has led to a historical pattern such that when conservatives have been in power, much more corruption tends to happen.

As Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. put it, "Private interest eras rest on the principle that the individual in promoting his own interests promotes the general interest... This priority of wealth over commonwealth naturally provides a propensity to corruption in government. When public purpose dominates, government tends to be idealistic. Idealists have many faults but they rarely steal... When private interests dominate, public morals are very different."

...When you look back at the trends in our nation's history, it is simply a fact that since the Gilded Age ushered big money and Social Darwinist ethics into our governmental system, when conservatives have dominated our government, corruption has also been at its peak. Conservatives have believed, as the conservative philosopher Bernard Mandeville put it, that private vices yield public benefits. But that kind of philosophy leads to stealing from the public coffers. And as the Bush-era conservatives have just shown us, that kind of avarice, combined with a blatant willingness to abuse power, leads to a level of corruption that is truly historic.

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At 11:14 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

So I guess you socialist progressives want to bring back the guillotine that the French used in the revolution that Burke opposed. I guess you would say: "Off with their heads!"

Maybe there was reason Burke went against the French revolution. Seems it fell into fear and killing just for the sake of fear and killing. Even Thomas Paine was imprisoned and slated to be executed.

"While in prison, Paine narrowly escaped execution. A guard walked through the prison placing a chalk mark on the doors of the prisoners who were due to be sent to the guillotine on the morrow. He placed a 4 on the door of Paine's cell, but Paine's door had been left open to let a breeze in, because Paine was seriously ill at the time. That night, his other three cell mates closed the door, thus hiding the mark inside the cell. The next day their cell was overlooked. "The Angel of Death" had passed over Paine. He kept his head and survived the few vital days needed to be spared by the fall of Robespierre." -- Wikipedia

At 7:02 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Interesting you would mention, Tom Paine, the most progressive of the Founding Father's-- and the one most hated and disdained by conservatives at the time (like Burke and Gouverneur Morris, who seems to have favored his execution) and into modern times.

At 7:38 PM, Blogger Lyle said...

First off, enjoy very much your blogs and amazed at how much you information you provide, how independent you are and how much you know. Thanks. Tweet you often.

I don't understand though why you support the Public Option against Single Payer. You know in Britain there is private health care alongside the National Health Service. You could be as Pragmatic about Single Payer as the Public Option and not have to exclude the poorest in society. The idea that the poor get a free ride under the current system is quite reactionary and held by many supposed progressives in the democratic party.

Obama lied when he said that under a Public Option people who would self-exclude holding no insurance would do it because they think they are indestructible. People will be excluded because they are unable to afford it.

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Lyle said...

Sorry I just re-read this blog ..maybe we agree? But you link off to Firedoglake and the Public Option campaign?? Is that the contradictions of living under capitalism?

At 1:23 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Lyle, both the DWT folks and the FDL folks support single payer. We tend to feel that under our current ineffectual and highly bribed national leadership-- both parties-- the public option is the best we can do. I suspect that it will also lead to single payer-- as do most conservatives which is why the oppose it so hysterically.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Single payer looks good on the surface, but it is rotten underneath.

When the government becomes in charge of paying for health care, it will demand more and more sacrifice from its people, which it will get via force and arms.

To control costs, it will demand that the elderly and the severely disabled die because their future contribution via taxes will be small compared to the costs of treatment.

If you disagree, tell me how costs will be contained.

Will the government outlaw foods that contribute to obesity? Then will there be controlled foods for a new generation of thugs to smuggle at the costs of lives?

Health care is not a right, it is a privilege.

Sadly, the progressive crowd doesn't care about individuals, only the masses.

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I brought up Thomas Paine because he is the progressive's poster boy who was nearly killed by the French whose revolution he supported and Burke opposed.

I believe it was called the Reign of Terror. Burke supported the American revolution, I believe.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

"I brought up Thomas Paine because he is the progressive's poster boy..."

You really don't read much, do you? Paine's widely disliked in whatever passes for our "progressive community." I won't even elaborate; you should check out his writings yourself, and see if you can't discover why many of us are disgusted with him. So do try to think these things through, instead of just throwing glittering generalities around as though they do anything more than give us all a good laugh.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I believe you will find that Thomas Paine has been fondly referred to or cited in this blog about 10 times.

But that doesn't make him a poster boy.

At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

"I believe you will find that Thomas Paine has been fondly referred to or cited in this blog about 10 times."

Which has zip to do with what you claimed--that he was "the progressive's poster boy"--and what I replied to.


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