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 well...you 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.