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Don’t be fooled.  Conservatives aren’t in love with America or its constitution.  They’re infatuated with a dangerous and misleading fallacy of small government, and committed to hollowing out the nation-state.

Conservatives sure like to remind us of just how much they love America; what with all their talk of “the founding fathers” and the need “defending the constitution” and to “ take the country back.”  Perhaps the reason conservatives feel an incessant need to express their love for America is because they certainly don’t seem to like very many Americans.  They don’t like the gays, or the poor, or feminists, or too many minorities for that matter.  Atheists and Muslims are certainly out of the picture, as are scientists, and most teachers, definitely the unions, and get the idea.

Increasingly, however, I’ve become convinced that despite all their talk to contrary, conservatives don’t actually like America (not just most Americans).  Why else would the be trying so hard to dismantle the American nation-state?

Consider for a moment Grover Norquist’s much repeated mantra of reducing the size of the American government to the point that it can be drowned “in the bathtub.”  Admittedly, it’s one thing to believe in smaller government, but it’s entirely different matter to openly espouse your support for killing the government.  In some circles that’s called treason.  In other circles, it’s called anarchy.  Whatever you call it, it’s most definitely unpatriotic.

As a defense, conservatives like to tell us that what they’re really after is returning America to the country envisioned by the founders. The problem with this argument is that the Founding Fathers were not of one mind. There were many competing and contentious views as to what the new American government should be, and while some of the founders absolutely believed in small government (an opinion that was far from unanimous), none advocated no government at all.

Yet continued Republican efforts to defund key federal programs and crucial public services strikes at the very heart of what a nation-state is.  A country, after all, is far more than a geographically defined territory and a piece of paper laying out the supposed rule for warring political tribes.  That’s a failed state.  A nation-state, must include the above, but it must also enjoy legitimacy from its populous. And legitimacy is derived only insomuch as the state is able to deliver key public benefits (you know, things like roads, and social security, and health care, and schools).

Likewise, claiming that the role of federal government should be limited to providing a strong military does it cut either.  That’s what authoritarian governments do.  And besides, a standing national military certainly wasn’t a concern of the founding fathers.  If it had been, they probably would have established one.

Once you start hollowing the core of what the government does; when you shrink it to the point that you are able to drown it in the bathtub, you eliminate the very reason for government to exist in the first place. At that point, you are returning the populous to the state of nature (the thing which Hobbes and Locke wrote so much about), where only the fittest survive and the strongest rule with impunity.  Such conditions are not at all conducive to a flourishing democracy, nor for that matter, are they what the founders had hoped this nation to be.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.” -Albert Einstein

    by Dr Christopher Boerl on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 06:49:04 AM PDT

  •  We're going at light speed & the framers whom (0+ / 0-)

    I deem to be rotten created the framework for failure.

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 07:06:35 AM PDT

  •  We're a market with disposable customers, not (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anon004, Calamity Jean

    A country.

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 07:07:57 AM PDT

  •  The right are mostly big government too. (3+ / 0-)

    Libertarians aside.

    They'd just rather have an e-frickin-normous military.  They're very fearful.  

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 07:17:46 AM PDT

    •  The right hates government except when there is (7+ / 0-)

      a revenue stream that can be diverted to themselves and their cronies via privatization or contracting out.  In which case they love it to death.

      They distrust freedom except when they are the ones seen as exercising it.

      They love the military except when it comes to actually putting in the time in uniform.

      Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car, and his hat is made in China. © 2009 All Rights Reserved

      by oblomov on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 07:28:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  When "conservatives" say they "love America," (6+ / 0-)

    they're talking about an abstract fantasy, not the actual country that actually exists. Forget that the "Founders" lived in a nation of about 3 million people with, inter alia, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no telecommunications, no motorized transportation and no major industry, and likely could not have "envisioned" what a nation of 300 million that has all those things would look like, let alone how it would or should be governed, regardless of whether they were "of one mind" or not.

    The reality is that "conservatives" love the "America" of their imaginations, and hate (maybe "resent" is a better word) the real America for not being that (or for not being that anymore, to the extent it ever was to begin with). They accuse "liberals," including but not limited to our current President, of "wanting to destroy" "America" -- I remember hearing some man-on-the-street wingnut tell a reported in March 2009 that Obama had, quote, "already destroyed most of the country -- but what they mean is that their idealized mythological fantasy "America" is being and has been replaced by the real one. And the real one is filled with Democrats, liberals, gays, atheists, Muslims, non-white immigrants, and whoever else conservatives feel don't belong here and don't consider "real Americans." Not to mention ethnic minorities, the poor, college professors, trial lawyers, labor unions, feminists, hipsters, Hollywood, environmentalists, &c. &c. There really isn't much about America that "conservatives" even like, let alone "love."

    •  I believe in the Federal Papers.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the Founding Fathers explained why the Constitution didn't enumerate all the powers the gov't could do - as one Constitution signer did want - because they recognized they couldn't envision what life would be like in the future.


  •  They've Halfway Restored Articles of Confederation (5+ / 0-)

    They want nothing but local government because it can't stand up to their global corporations.

    They are the contractors who fished the tea out of the harbor for the East India company.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 07:42:28 AM PDT

  •  I agree in part, and disagree in part with author. (0+ / 0-)

    "Once you start hollowing the core of what the government does; when you shrink it to the point that you are able to drown it in the bathtub, you eliminate the very reason for government to exist in the first place"

    I agree with this portion of your argument.  However, I would argue that the goal of some  is not anarchy, but rather  to move the power from the Federal government to the individual States.  We are still having the same debate that took place between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.   That is why the 10th Amendment comes up in so many debates.

    I would distinguish further by splitting the Tea Part goals from the goals of mainstream Republicans.  The have always and continue to be the champions of business and the already wealthy.   The mainstream Republicans also seek to take power from the Feds, but not all power.  The want to continue to use the Federal power to benefit their contributors.  Consider Federal funding of subcontractors, the defense industry, physicians salaries under Medicare.  Mainstream Republicans only want to shrink that portion of government that works to disadvantage their contributors.  In short, they lie.  They are not against government.  They are for that potion of government they can use to their advantage.  Consider the Rand Paul versus Cheney debate.  

    If the chief goal of the mainstream  Republican Party was really paying down the debt, they would have to be for cutting spending and raising taxes.   How else can we pay down our debt?  Yes, Republicans want to pay down the debt, but they don't want to make the sacrifices necessary to do that.  

     As I see it, the chief functions of government, state and federal, is to distribute benefits and burdens.   Each party works to the greatest extent possible to benefit their supporters and pass the burdens on to the opposition.  

    I thank you for your post.  It is a great contribution to the discussion.   I look forward to your response and or rebuttal.

  •  They put the con in conservative. They're not (3+ / 0-)

    really conservative at all.

    conservatives like to tell us that what they’re really after is returning America to the country envisioned by the founders.
    The Republican regressives need to be confronted and their hare-brained ideas must be stamped out.

    There is no existence without doubt.

    by Mark Lippman on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 09:50:27 AM PDT

  •  Every time I encounter some (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radabush, Calamity Jean

    Grover Norquist acolyte or other delusional libertarian, I say, "You know where government is so small you can drown it in a bathtub?  Somalia!  Why don't you go there and enjoy all your freedom!"

    •  It's a Republican paradise! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Free-market! Faith-based! Libertarian!

      And besides, being a warlord is so much cooler...

      "If you are still playing for Team Republican and want to have any honor whatsoever, you need to leave the Republican Party now, apologize to America, and work to remove it from our political system." - Brad DeLong

      by radabush on Thu Apr 10, 2014 at 12:33:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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