Sunday, February 18, 2007

Op-Ed: The Elephant in the Room

A Republican at Lang Speaks Out

By Lauren Cuscuna

Today, the differences between a conservative and a liberal and between a Democrat and a Republican are pretty clear-cut in most people’s minds. However, all of the policy positions attributed to these ideologies are victims of context.

No current issue is ever analyzed to confirm that it actually follows liberal, conservative, democratic or republican thought. To express this point, I started a club last semester called “Republican Roots.” Creating it elicited gawking eyes and dropped jaws. Only a few open-minded students approached me to learn the intentions of my club: to re-evaluate the meaning and history of the words “republican” and “conservative.”

Historical figures from Machiavelli to Lincoln have painted the picture of republican ideology for ages and it has always been the rejection of a monarchy. Republicanism was founded on liberal values, advocating less government involvement, with personal freedoms of the highest priority and sweeping citizen participation at the highest necessity.

Now the Republican Party is all too democratic with social issues, supporting and attempting to enforce the majority opinion. While controlling congress, this party has allowed for more corruption than ever before in American history, offered dangerously extensive executive power, blunted alternative viewpoints, and invented a totally new kind of election process where citizen participation is completely obsolete. In short, they defecated on the ideology from which their convictions came.

Conservatism, the preservation of tradition and community, is another misrepresented word. Richard Hooker, an Anglican theologist, was the most articulate in explaining the rationale of conservatism: the traditions of the past were traditions of working countries, ergo, conservative thought will ultimately maintain the wellbeing of a society. Edmund Burke, the godfather of conservatism, clearly stated that the main law of this ideology was that there cannot be a concrete idea of right and wrong, and the traditions preserved must adhere to the needs of the present.

Liberalism is the support of individual rights. So a liberal argument would claim that abortion should be legal because a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body. A conservative argument would claim that the prohibition of abortion has proved ineffective in the past, and that it created more unwanted children, higher crime rates, worse public schools and overcrowded hospitals. Ultimately, it has been detrimental to the entire community.

It is easy to see why conservatism has become what it is today. Conservatives argue for the preservation of democracy, the institution of marriage, and unity in the church. However, these conclusions are reached illogically and ignore Burke’s number one rule, by choosing which components of the past to preserve before the needs of the present have been addressed.

The inequality in the distribution of wealth and the anticipation of an economic crisis calls for the Keynesian policies introduced during FDR’s New Deal era. Our country calls for action toward equal rights, as it did in the early twentieth century for women and the mid-century for African-Americans. We need to restore what this country was founded on and founded for: checks and balances and a voice for everyone. These are conservative values.

The Republican Party has maintained power for the past six years not because they have honed their convictions, but because they have mastered one technique: language. Support the troops means support the war, values means their values, conservatism means preserving traditions they idealized, and Republican means plutocrat. To so comfortably accept this abuse of language is only to aid in their corruption.

Widespread participation is required to repair the damage they have wrought on American democracy.

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