What happened to the conservatives?

For all the frustration we place at the feet of the Democrats (not ending the war, not turning the corner on health care, not pursing aggressive solutions to the climate crisis, etc.) lately I’ve started to wonder about Republicans. What happened to the conservative ethic? Wasn’t it one of their central themes?

Where are they when it comes to conserving our natural environment? Seems they’d rather sell it to the highest bidder. Perhaps any conservative instinct is overshadowed by a rigorous belief in the market.

John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute argued recently in a letter to the Free Press that he didn’t believe all the hype about global warming being the result of human activity. Who cares? Put aside the connection if you don’t accept it. At the end of the day, doesn’t the conservative in you believe we should use less energy? Isn’t it conservative to save people money on their energy bills? We can debate the root cause of our problem or we can simply use less energy and save money. Really, why are we arguing?

Health care is similar in that the solution we populists demand ought to appeal to conservative values. Shifting to a universal, tax-funded health care system that covers everyone is the only proven way to reduce spending on health care. Want to keep spending twice what other countries spend per person? Well then keep up the status quo.

And the war. I could fill pages yelling about the war. I’ll spare you, but I do have to ask – how does a real conservative feel about having already spent half a trillion dollars in Iraq – that’s $500,000,000,000.00 in case the visual helps. How in the world does that jibe with conservative principles? Is it justified because of our need for oil? If so, please see paragraph #2 – isn’t it more conservative just to use less oil and save more money in the first place?

Heading into an election year Progressives have a terrific opportunity in Vermont. We can take advantage of the disappointment many feel at the lackluster performance from Democrats in Montpelier and Washington. And, perhaps more important, we should be mindful of the deep betrayal Bush and Co. have handed Republicans.

By framing issues through the conservative lens populists can turn the political spectrum on it’s head. Progressives have always believed in spending money cautiously and effectively. We are a frugal group. I think it’s a natural for us to reach frustrated Republicans and Democrats alike. Don’t forget – even in Vermont where we do better than average, a lot of people don’t bother to vote. I’m willing to bet an effective campaign could increase turnout and launch the beginning of a new era in political coalitions. Instead of ignoring tough questions and downplaying looming problems we have to get down to work – face to face with all sorts of opinions and hash out an agreement.

Waiting much longer isn’t a good option and I’m betting conservatives out there agree.

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