“Conservative” Stupidity and Hypocrisy

It’s impossible to be both a good conservative and a good American. Poor Kellyanne Conway, who understands so little, illustrated this point recently.

Speaking on national television about the so called President’s decision to fire the director of the FBI when that agency was busy investigating possible crimes by the Donald and his allies that have a lot of people making comparisons to the uber American political scandal, Watergate, Conway stated that it is “inappropriate” for reporters to ask questions about the timing of the Donald’s decision.

As we have noted repeatedly, the slightly absurd reduction of political options to two, “conservative” and “liberal,” in Anglo-American politics, dates to the Glorious Revolution in late 17th century England, when the English decided to chase off King James II for being Catholic in favor of the Protestant William and Mary. This was a huge controversy at the time because the English had a tradition of monarchs dating at least back to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 in historical terms, and to the misty reaches of mythical time with the King Arthur tales of the effectively prehistoric early medieval period. They had beheaded a king, Charles I, earlier in the century, then endured roughly ten years without a monarch at all, but then restored the monarchy with Charles II, yet the nagging question of whether they could accept a Catholic monarch after Henry VIII made England notionally Protestant remained unresolved when the next heir to the throne was the Catholic James II.

Because ideas are what really motivate humans, the battle over James II’s accession to the throne precipitated a very public discussion of political philosophy, with conservatives defending the idea of the divine right of kings, that the king derived his power from a genetic descent from Adam, the original human male, such that to question the king was the same as questioning god, which horrified a much larger percentage of the English population then than it would now, and horrified them likely even more than it would Christian conservatives now, preceding as these events did such developments as the theory of evolution and modern technological developments that have placed the existence of a Christian god into debate in a way that conservatives deplore, but cannot stop.

Opposing the conservative position was what we now call the “liberal” position, although they did not use that term at the time. The chief exponent of that position was John Locke, a very prominent philosopher who lived part of his life in exile because of his opposition to King James II. Locke argued that the conservative position was nonsense. Locke had already articulated the epistemological theory we now call “empiricism,” or the idea that the best way for humans to gather information and knowledge about how the world works is to rely on their five senses. No sane person now disputes this theory of human knowledge.

Instead of deriving from some wildly implausible genetic descent from Adam, legitimate political authority derived, on Locke’s view, from the governed, who have natural rights and create government as a practical way to improve dramatically the protection of those rights over a hypothetical state of nature, before the creation of government, when complete freedom meant complete freedom to infringe on the rights of others. Thus, all government is always subordinate to the imperative to protect natural rights, and only the governed can decide if their government serves that end adequately, and retain always the power to change the government, as fundamentally as necessary, to ensure that it serves its purpose.

This theory justified the American Revolution, in which mostly English colonists in North America decided to remove themselves from the government of the King of England and create a government of their own. Real conservatives in the American colonies at the time found this idea horrifying and mostly decamped for Canada or back to England if they could. It helps to explain why the United States can seem hard to govern at times. It also creates a real dilemma for U.S. “conservatives” in the post World War II world.

Various groups in the modern U.S. have drawn, more or less explicitly, on this history to demand changes that “conservatives” oppose vehemently. African Americans pointed to the very Lockean assertion of the natural equality of all people in the Declaration of Independence to buttress their demands for an end to racial segregation, eventually winning that battle, at least in terms of formal policy, if not entirely. Whether appealing explicitly to the philosophical proposition or not, this is a basic attitude among U.S. citizens, that they always retain the right to evaluate their government and criticize it as fulsomely as they choose. So opponents of the Vietnam War chanted at President Lyndon Johnson, “hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Women’s rights activists launched second wave feminism in the late 1960s, achieving a number of important changes in laws dealing with rape and family issues. The forerunner to the modern LGBT civil rights movement emerged at around the same time.

So now “conservatives” are stuck. In the United States, the best thing for them to hang their “conservatism” on is the historical traditions and practices of the United States, but those are distinctively liberal and oppositional. Less intelligent “conservatives,” like Kellyanne Conway, display a vast ignorance of this whole issue and just try to whip out bizarrely conservative claims, such as saying it is “inappropriate” to question the President’s decisions.

Um, no, Kelly, you’re wrong. One wonders where Ms. Conway was when the Donald was busy hurling all manner of criticisms at President Obama. The hypocrisy only grows when one notices that the Donald is now doing many of the things he once criticized Obama for.

The only thing greater in Ms. Conway’s claim than the stupidity is the hypocrisy.

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