‘Conservative’ is supposed to mean cautious, careful, and traditional. ‘Conservative’ means taking the known path, using the proven process, changing as little as possible, for with the unknown, the unproven, the new, there is risk. ‘Conservative’ means avoiding risk, especially risk that is avoidable.
Americans like to think of themselves as prudent and sensible. So, ‘conservative’ sounds good to many. They want a backstop of conservative safety, so if they experiment and innovate and strike out adventurously, then they know that they have a safe harbor waiting in the background. You can’t have ‘reckless conservatives’ or ‘radical conservatives’ because these are diametrically opposed impulses. ‘Conservatives’ don’t ‘bet it all’ on untested ideas and massive changes.
America has never defaulted on its debt. This has been such a bedrock principle of world finance that Treasury Bills are universally accepted as the ‘riskless rate’. We’ve built this fortress of stability by establishing a continuous record of responsible behavior. We’ve committed to this responsible behavior with our very Constitution and we’ve maintained it through the massive upheavals of the Great Depression and both world wars. Where other nations have been shaky, we’ve been steadfast.
We now face a self-inflicted default over a non-existent problem – the raising of our debt ceiling. Never before has this been a serious issue. But now, the Republicans see this previously routine task as an opportunity to advance a radical agenda. The agenda they’ve laid out, far from having a proven track record, has repeatedly been shown to fail when tried at a smaller scale, yet they insist we adopt their recommendations on a massive scale. Unless we undertake this massive experiment, they will force us into default. And, when we default, we enter completely unknown territory whose most likely consequences are manifestly worse and possibly unspeakably catastrophic.
This sort of risk-taking is the opposite of ‘conservative’. This is choosing to circumvent the bridge and leaping into the looming chasm expecting to fly. And, this is not just the fringes of the party taking the plunge; it is the whole Republican establishment in lock-step. The fringes are arguing against a running start; they’d like to try a standing swan-dive.
To continue to reward the Republican Party with the label ‘conservative’ does our country a grave disservice. By their actions, Republicans have forfeited this label. They are radicals, pure and simple, and their recklessness endangers us all.