(NOTE: This is Part II of this article. Read Part I, here.)
The social and economic issues that people are concerned about in the United States of America don’t necessarily fall along party lines. Some issues, like immigration and applying religion to public policy, have a distinct political division; however, many other issues cross the lines of the ideologies.
In conversations with conservatives I learned that the deep division between conservatives and liberals can be traced back 37 years, to when Republicans managed to break the hold of Democratic leadership of our country in 1980. For 37 years, conservatives have been able to maintain control of our country by singing one anthem, ‘Everything is the government’s fault, and business is the solution.’
Ronald Reagan: Founder of the Cult of Conservatism
Ronald Reagan was elected on the idea that Democrats had failed the country. It was an easy story to sell for one reason. The Iran Hostage Crisis. Every night the news reminded our country of how many days our citizens had been held and humiliated by a group of Iranian students. Most in the United States did not understand the complexities of the situation, and were angry that we didn’t go to war with Iran.
The result was to give Republicans an early opportunity to erase the shame caused by Richard Nixon’s illegal involvement in fixing the 1972 presidential elections during the Watergate affair. The Hostage Crisis ended at the exact hour that Reagan was sworn in as President, a coincidence that causes questions of Republican collusion with the Iranian government during the crisis. Suspicions of collusion were raised again when Reagan’s administration worked a bizarre deal to sell arms to Iran several years later during the Iran/Contra Affair.
The Big Lie
Reagan is famously quoted in his first Inaugural speech when he said:
….government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem…”
Ronald Reagan, January 1981
The demonization of government was necessary for conservatives to achieve their goals. Government is the ethical referee that prevents business from underpaying employees, polluting for profit, abusing and endangering the customer, engaging in banking practices that protect the account holder, etc. Government oversight and regulation keeps business from devouring itself in greed.
Additionally, government collects business taxes for the privilege of having access to our country’s rich consumer markets. By eliminating these taxes, business could keep more of the spoils of capitalism and drain revenues from the entity that kept business fair and ethical.
The other shoe dropped by conservatives was to preach that the solution to our problems was business. In the holy corporate world, business was the shining light on the hill for all to worship.
37 Years Later: The Cult of Conservatism
In my conversation with average conservatives I have discovered that conservatism has now become a cult. The code word for a conservative is ‘fiscal conservatism.’ Ask anyone who votes for a Republican candidate why they vote for the party they will automatically answer, “I believe in fiscal conservatism.” They don’t even pause.
For conservatives, issues are caused by government and solved by business. Among the issues discussed with conservatives I learned the following:
Finance regulation: Conservatives believe that the government is at fault and less regulation will solve the problem, even though a lack of regulation and business greed caused the 2007-8 financial/bank crisis.
Housing Inflation/Bubbles: Conservatives that government is the problem because…I didn’t get an answer on this, but the free market will solve the problem, even though the bubbles that occur with rapid housing price increases are caused by capitalisticitic factors, not government involvement.
Economy: Conservatives believe that business is the creator of jobs and growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and government inhibits both. The evidence contradicts this as job and GDP growth have been anemic under almost 35 years of Republican economic policies, and the pre-conservative period of government initiated infrastructure projects and the space program generated massive job and GDP growth.
Healthcare: Conservatives believe that government has been the cause of uncontrolled price increases in healthcare and drug prices, even though it’s the lack of government regulation that has allowed the price increases, especially in the prescription drug market, where Republicans pushed for, and passed an end to competitive market that would help to restrict price increases.
Trump and Republicans have succeeded in creating a cult-like status around the concept that government is the problem and business is the solution…and like any cult, the believers surrender themselves to ‘faith.’ Truth and facts are fiction to a conservative.
The Republican party has no need to be logical, compromising, or reasonable. Their believers have no choice but to hate government, and worship business.