This has cropped up in conversation several times in the past few weeks, so I am finally getting around to laying it down on the blog here. A fairly simple question, one I’m very curious about answers to all across the political spectrum.
What has conservatism gotten right?
Even the most casual accounting will show that conservatives have been wrong, usually destructively so, on a whole range of now-settled issues throughout American history. For example, slavery, Jim Crow, interracial marriage and Civil Rights. Female suffrage, no-fault divorce, and women’s rights. Child labor, wage-and-hour rules, the forty-hour work week, workplace safety and every minimum wage increase ever passed. Environmental quality, pollution control, energy conservation, automobile safety and efficiency. Conservatives opposed our entry into WWII, conservative economic and de-regulation policies brought about the Great Depression, gave us the laughable fraud of supply-side economics and may have brought about the Bush Depression. Conservatives brought us Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. The list is nigh endless.
Things that conservatives are patently wrong about today which will almost certainly be judged harshly by history include global warming, stem cell research, reproductive freedom, Creationism/ID in education, the Iraq War, gay marriage, and Bush-era science policy, Civil Liberties practices and terrorism policy.
I’ve long averred that conservatism is fundamentally a philosophy of fear — fear of change, fear of inequity, fear that someone somewhere might be benefiting unjustly, fear that Bad People will come to your door and take away what you love most. Looking at the above list, you can see where I get that idea from. So what has the conservative movement gotten right? And why is it trusted by millions of Americans today?