My Problem With Conservatives

January 20, 2013

“You need to friend yourself some conservative friends.”

This coming across the desk at me from someone who, acaphlegmicif the universe worked in such a manner, could be the spawn of Charles Bukowski and Jeff Lebowski.

I’d discovered Acaphlegmic at the computer this morning when I swung by the office. Before I could even ask him what he was doing, he’d quickly shut everything down, mumbling something about having a bone to pick with the Nobel judges. Under most other situations, this would be a cause for alarm with every reason to assume we would now be on some sort of watch list from some sort of authority somewhere. But I was pretty sure Acaphlegmic remained oblivious to the power of the interwebs, believing us always to be magically connected at the slightest push of any button on the keyboard in front of him.

“Friend myself?”

“You’re living too much inside the bubble. You need to diversify your thoughts, acquaint yourself with the Other. You’ve lost perspective, my friend. You’ve lost perspective.”

Again, this was a little rich coming from Acaphlegmic, the only actual real life hippie I know. A man with the Spirit of `68 tattooed across his shoulders. A man who, while frequently unable to remember your name during the course of a single conversation, could recite The Wave passage from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, word for word, in even the most stuporous of stupors.bukowski

Seriously. I need more conservative friends?

It was true. I am not feeling at my charitable best these days toward conservatives and conservative thought. (I submit these posts here and here as proof of that claim.) But I think I am hardly to blame in this dissatisfaction. Look around. Conservative ideology has devolved into a place of solace for the bitter and the deranged. In my day, the cranky old man schtick on the CBC was performed by the likes of Gordon Sinclair. Compare that with Kevin O’Leary and tell me which one of us has changed. Me or conservatism?

Leaning in toward Acaphlegmic, “Don’t tell me. Some of your best friends are conservative.”.

“You’d be surprised,” was his response. And as a matter of fact, I would be, yes.

thebiglebowski“Name me one reasonable conservative politician since Bill Clinton,” I asked him.

This seemed to throw him for moment but not for the reason I expected.

“Who said anything about conservatives being reasonable?” he responded. “I’m not saying you need to embrace their politics. You just need to befriend one or two. Pretend like you actually think anything they have to say on how the world is run makes a lick of sense. Fake it.”

“Why? If I’m not even going to try. Why bother?”

I mean, I’m sure there are conservatives out there who’d be engaging dinner party companions. A few you could go to a ball game with, talk sports shit. Hell, I imagine I could share a plate of oysters and a bottle of Cab with someone like Councillor John Parker, and then go take in a performance of Tom Stoppard’s – note to self: I’ve read somewhere that Stoppard is of a conservative bent. He’d be a conservative you could probably spend time with — Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Soulpepper (coming this February and March) and have a gay old time (in the Flintstones sense of the word rather than its more modern usage) of it.dontmentionthewar

But we would never talk politics.

It’s like that episode of Fawlty Towers when the Germans come to stay at the inn. “Don’t mention the war!” Basil implored before hitting his head on something or other and goose-stepping around the dining room. Don’t mention the war.

Just like you don’t mention politics if you want to have a civil conversation with a conservative.

They’re not up to it anymore.

Take the aforementioned Councillor Parker for example.

Seems perfectly congenial, with a dry sense of humour. We’ve talked often of the noticeable positive change in tone at council meetings when he assumes the speaker’s chair in place of the hyper-partisan, rabid oversight of Speaker Frances Nunziata. As a member of the TTC commission, Councillor Parker was front-and-centre in his very laid back manner in which he helped de-rail Mayor Ford’s pursuit of subways. johnparker“Goofy”, I believe his descriptor was of the burying of the Eglinton crosstown as it journeyed across the Don Valley.

But then Councillor Parker has not been above the eye-rolling antic of intoning ‘Greece’ as the economic path we’re going down if we don’t rein in our spending. That’s nonsense a crazy conservative like Doug Ford spouts when he’s run out of other empty platitudes not a supposed thoughtful conservative like John Parker. To try and draw parallels between Greece and Toronto in terms of fiscal problems is simply an open admission that you’re not to be considered a serious participant in our civic conversation.

“See? Right there,” Acaphlegmic interrupted my train of thought. “That kind of talk suggests you’re not really interested in understanding a conservative point of view.”

(Yes. I do realize a certain glaring gaffe just took place which, at closer inspection suggests Acaphlegmic must’ve been reading my mind. Indulge me that narrative tic, if you will.)

“But you just said conservatives weren’t reasonable and it wasn’t necessary to embrace their politics!”

“I did. But you have to be open-minded and make the appearance of listening and considering.”

Aside from the fact it was a stance Acaphlegmic would never take, I am of the opinion we are bombarded by conservative political views, monotonously and regularly. It’s not like we have to actively seek it out. After 30 years or so of indoctrination through our mainstream media, we can rhyme the rhetoric off by rote. fingerscrossedSmall government, yes. Big business, yes. Unions, bad. Free markets, free of regulation. Low taxes, big profits. Trickle down. All boats lifted.

And frankly, if conservatives would just be honest with their political ideology, I’d be much more conducive to having a conversation with them. But they’re not. They hide behind the pseudo-science of economic theories, pretending it’s all about fiscal ‘discipline’ I believe they call it when we’ve seen it’s anything but.

Pre-mayor Rob Ford was a conservative politician who put it all out there. He hated the idea of paying taxes and the notion of government spending on anything other than public safety and the ease of car travel. He frequently listed off the businesses government shouldn’t be in the business of but then, something happened.

No service cuts, guaranteed.

He or someone smarter than he was on the campaign team knew that the councillor’s true conservative politics would never fly with a plurality of the electorate. Want to see Ford Nation shrivel up and blow away? Be upfront with the implications of conservative ideology. Of course, there’s going to be slashing and burning of services and programs. How else do you think we’re going to balance the books without raising taxes? You want something? You pay for it.

That’s not a winnable mandate. thesuddenlyConservatives know that, so they lie about their intentions. It’s government by euphemism.

So here in Toronto, conservative councillors wrap themselves in a cloak of debt fear in order to siphon off operating funds to unnecessarily pay down chunks of capital expenses to avoid the impending financial cataclysm only they can see. Deceitful disingenuousness or a monumental lack of understanding of how municipal financing works? Hardly matters. It’s bad enough having such wrong-thinking politicians at the levers of power let alone contemplating hanging out with any of them socially.

“Did you hear what I was just thinking, Acaphlegmic?”

But I’d lost him. He’d nodded off during my last internal tirade as, I fear, many of you have.

So let me just wrap up. It’s not the conservative politics I dislike so much. It’s the shady, under-handed way the beast is propagated that I can’t abide. Who wants to be friends with anyone so untrustworthy?

up frontly submitted by Cityslikr