The Conservative War on Conscience, Democracy, Language and Reason

I enjoy a healthy friendship with conservative thought leader and former Virginia Republican party spokesperson, Shaun Kenney.  I disagree with him on almost everything, but I respect him.

I see our friendship as akin to the famous Christmas Truce of WWI. There, the soldiers from the trenches set aside their quarrels for some bonhomie and soccer, before they headed back to the long slog of killing one another.  The major difference here is that conservatives have long been armed and have been successfully conducting a war on liberalism for a generation.  Liberals have basically been sleeping.

Recently, Shaun Kenney asked me to justify my statement that conservatism is the death of conscience, democracy, reason, and language, so here goes.  It’s time for liberals to finally wake up and get in the game.  If you are a liberal, if you have a net worth of less than $10 million, or you are not in favor of a particular brand of conservative theocracy setting policy in this country, conservatism has been at war with you for a generation.

This is a language war, and we’re not even fighting.*


First, you must understand the purpose of the conservative enterprise and what the conservative agenda means. Conservatism itself is the domination of society by an aristocracy. Call them the 1% or identify them as those with a net worth of over $10 million, but those aristocrats and those who support their absolute power in society are the conservatives. This is as old as the Pharaohs or the feudal thugs of Rome or pre-enlightenment European monarchies. In each society in which conservatism takes hold language, reason, democracy, and conscience are destroyed in a way unique to its own culture.

In America, conservatism has arisen as a reaction to the democracy, education, wellness, empowerment, and freedom that the middle class enjoyed as a result of FDR’s New Deal, and it seeks here in America to empower an authoritarian, corporate, theocracy.

To this point it is critical to emphasize that Trump is in no way an aberration of conservatism but its fulfillment, without the messaging figleaf.  He is precisely what conservatives of both parties have been aspiring to and empowering in this country, either intentionally or out of ignorance. To blame the full horror of the current situation on Trump is to absolve a generation of zealots from their responsibility.  Burn the fruit and the tree remains.  If progressives are going to effectively uproot this tree, we must take it at the root.

That root is conservatism. There is only one force in America that can protect the nation from authoritarian, corporate, theocracy, and that is a healthy, wealthy, secure, free, and powerful middle class in control of governments worldwide. Conservatism opposes all of this.  Conservatism is at war with American freedom.

Conservatism ignores history’s lesson that cultures and empires fall when the people are dis-empowered. The goal of conservatism in America has always been to move all the wealth and power of the nation into fewer and fewer hands. The welfare of the common good is the enemy of the accumulation of dynastic wealth. Because of taxes, conservatives argue, any and all efforts by the American government to ensure the well-being of the American people must be destroyed by any means necessary. Conservatives wage war on “regulations”.  Regulations are simply protections for the American people and American freedom.


In America, conservatism attacks freedom through four key types of destruction: the destruction of conscience, the destruction of reason, the destruction of language, and the destruction of democracy.


Whenever people complain that the poor should not have healthcare, that they should not have food stamps, or that they should not have education, that is the destruction of conscience, regardless of the argument. Caring for others is defined by the conservative movement as weakness. Progressives know that we are stronger together. Many conservatives will argue that government should leave the poor to the care of churches.  This is anti-American and disastrous for two reasons. First, that effort failed absolutely in the great depression.  Second and much more fundamentally, we are a nation of laws, not religion. It is unconstitutional for the government to leave these responsibilities in the hands of churches.

The destruction of conscience relates back to the core goal of the conservative enterprise; corporate domination.  As long as the people deny their responsibility to one another, they will continue to cede power to the super wealthy.  The game is pretty horrifying, but it’s been very successful.  The destruction of conscience is the poison tree and this is the fruit.  Teach the middle to hate the bottom and the top gets all the money and power.


The destruction of democracy is necessary for the conservative agenda.  The greater power individual people have without the wealth multiplier, the less power the wealthy have in government. With Citizen’s United and other campaign finance laws, America no longer has a democracy in any real sense whatsoever.

Unless you have a net worth of over $10 million, your opinion has zero effect on the workings of Congress. If you have that net worth, Congress reacts directly to your desires. Citizen’s United was engineered by conservatives, and conservative die-hard Justice Roberts was seated specifically to overturn the laws that were protecting democracy from the influence of money.  He succeeded.  As a recent Princeton University study determined, Democracy in America is over.  We now live in an oligarchy.  The conservative agenda to destroy democracy in America has succeeded.


The conservative destruction of language is well documented. Yet progressives don’t understand how pervasive that destruction has become.  Control of language is critical to the conservative agenda of aristocratic domination of society.  People would reject the actual goal of conservatism out of hand.  Conservatives have effectively waged war on language for decades, so as to make the people the champions of their own poverty and political destruction.

The conservative war on American freedom is primary a war on language. Starting with the “Powell Memo” in 1977, conservatives made the intentional decision to overturn all New Deal protections, from Social Security to Medicare to clean water and air protections.

Conservatives invested in “think tanks” on a massive scale.  These set out to undermine the lasting New Deal consensus that a healthy, wealthy, informed, and powerful middle class in America was the primary purpose of American government.   Their core tactic was the destruction of language.  Newt Gingrich was a leading purveyor of language as a weapon against American freedom  His revolution in Congress, through a concerted effort to weaponize language for the destruction of liberalism succeeded in redefining “freedom” as Washington discusses it.

Freedom has traditionally meant the opportunity for every man, woman, and child, to fulfill his or her personal destiny, in health, security, and peace.  Thanks to conservative language warriors, American freedom now means only the ability of the super wealthy to exploit any economic opportunity without restriction.

Now American freedom means the strong do as they will and the weak suffer as they must.

Another great example of the destruction of language is the concept of “entitlement”. Historically, entitlement is what the aristocracy receive from the monarchy.  A concerted effort to rearrange language by the right, took that hate and transferred it from the super rich to the poor.  Now, thanks to billions of dollars invested in right-wing thin tanks welfare payments are called “entitlements”. This is where the destruction of language empowers the destruction of conscience. It is just one example of a universe of changes successfully engineered by conservatives.


All of this amounts to the overreaching destruction of reason: the ultimate control mechanism of the right. Conservatism, based on its effective destruction of conscience, democracy, and language, may now abuse reason without restriction. It has effectively trained a generation of believers to ignore every fact, every source of fact, and every purveyor of fact.

Conservatives have named their “four corners of deceit”: science, academia, government, and media.  Any organization that states any position not completely in tune with conservative doctrine cannot be trusted.  This is the destruction of reason. Reasoned debate cannot be conducted.  Reasoned discussion cannot take place.  Conservatism wages war on fact and supporters take this holy war as a matter of religious faith.

Global Climate Change can’t exist, despite the universal scientific consensus on the matter, because conservatism says it doesn’t. Hillary Clinton is corrupt, despite the absolute absence of any proof, because conservatism says she is.


To accuse Donald Trump of being some kind of aberration from the core tenants of conservatism is to absolve a generation of conservatives predominantly in the Republican party, but many in the Democratic Party (e.g. Joe Lieberman) as well, of lying and destroying conscience, democracy, language, and ultimately reason.

These Anti-American zealots make use of racism, sexism, theocratic Dominionism and other hate/fear movements to support their enterprise, but the goal is singular and pointed: the domination of society by a dynastic aristocracy.

It is important for progressives to understand the process by which conservatives have succeeded. In propagandizing their honest religious allies into supporting their campaign of destruction, conservatism has destroyed the capacity for debate. This is war, and conservatism has been waging it for a generation.

It is important to understand how and why they are doing this. Most importantly it is important to define American freedom in progressive terms, and to fight for progressive ends in all things. There is too much conservative insanity flying around.  It is important for our movement to stay resolved and focused in our goals and energy.

When we spend our time obsessing over this racist outrage, or that theocratic destruction of freedom, we lose sight of the core enterprise and the core conflict in American politics: who is the government for? Is it for the 1% or is it for the American people? Conservatism has one answer, and progressivism has another. Keeping that distinction clear will allow activists and leaders to overcome the confusion and emerge victorious for the protection of freedom, justice, opportunity and the future of the world.

Despite conservatism’s ongoing war on democracy, language, reason, and conscience, progressivism can still win.  Progressivism can still save the world.

*Note:  Much of this argument is explored in Philip Agre’s seminal, “What is Conservatism and What is Wrong with It.” ca 2004. Please read it in its completion. It is critical information for all progressive activists and organizers.

Crosspost Blue Virginia


Why Should You Care About Other People?

People ask me all the time, “How did we come to this?”  Shaken in disbelief that we could have elected Republican majorities at nearly every level of American government and a lifelong betrayer of trust as President of the United States, people just can’t fathom what the heck is going on.

There are tactical reasons, like voter suppression and gerrymandering.  There are strategic reasons like the rise of conservative media and the increasing separation of society into hermetically-sealed, ideological echo chambers.  There are historical reasons and there are political reasons, but the greatest reason in my mind is something we as Progressives and Democrats can face, and with courage and perseverance even triumphantly overcome.   It is a refocus, not only in terms of messaging, but in everything we do.  It is the power of our mission as a movement, and that our role in society must be to champion the policies that protect authentic American freedom.

I came across the attached heartbreaking meme on the internet, and it fully encapsulates the core problem we face.  With the repeal of President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act now immanent, many of us are left speechless.  As the young woman who authored this question writes:  “My Biggest Problem with these ACA Debates?  I don’t know how to explain to you why you should care about other people.”

It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it.  Not only should common decency and civil society simply eliminate the question at all, but decades of conservative messaging have eliminated our responsibility to one another in the eyes of movement followers.  In the conservative world view, you shouldn’t care about other people, that’s for the weak.

This is the great failing of the Progressive movement, writ large. We have absolutely failed to put progressive “freedom” and the progressive moral worldview before the American people in an effective way to counter conservative “freedom”.

In brief, the answer is this: Conservative “freedom” means your right to take what you want and do what you want. As the Greeks would say “The strong do as they will, and the weak suffer as they must.” In practice, Conservative freedom amounts to the domination of society by a white, male, corporate, theocracy, because those are the people that our society primarily serves financially and gives power to.

Unfortunately, conservative aristocracy is the primary cause of the downfall of capitalism and democracy throughout history. From the Middle Kingdom to Rome, from England to Germany, when real freedom falls, it’s because government has stopped serving the common good. Read about the collapse of the Roman middle class and the fall of the Republic.  It reads like today’s headlines.

Progressive freedom seeks to protect and serve the interests of a well-informed, healthy, powerful, and wealthy middle class as the center of society and the only protector, long-term, of the core tenants of American faith, democracy and capitalism.  Where conservatism serves monopoly and authoritarianism, progressive freedom is the embodiment of the founding ideas of America, that each of us has the right to fulfill his or her potential, and that it is the government’s role to protect that opportunity.  That means security, education, healthcare, food, justice, and a safe environment.  These are the common good, the enemies of authoritarianism and the Conservative movement.

As we await the inauguration of Donald the Betrayer as President of the United States and as the policies of conservatism get their chance to wreak havoc on American lives, there has never been a better time for us to realize that our values as Progressives and Democrats are America’s primary values.  The more we are able to effectively represent them, the better chance we have to save ourselves from the cycles of history.

Why should you care about other people?

Because American freedom depends on it.


The Singular Lesson of the Obama Years


It was heartbreaking watching President Obama’s farewell address last night. We love that man so much. He accomplished so much, helped so many people, and yet the overwhelming feeling of the moment is one of lost potential, and that this man who saved the nation from economic crisis, leaves us in a state of political crisis. How did we get here?

The real crisis of American politics wasn’t 2016. The election of this compromised conman to the highest office in the land, with both Houses of Congress and dominion across the states was a reaction to the actual crisis. That took place back in 2010. Let’s remember what happened.

In short, Progressives were LIVID during the 2010 election, at the right to be sure, but also at President Obama and the Democrats.

In 2008, President Obama had come into office with a commanding mandate for change, and with the support of Congressional majorities in both the House and the Senate, but by 2010, the wind had gone out of his sails.

President Obama had already given away the Recovery act to conservatives as a big tax break boondoggle, and then allowed them to paint him as a big government “communist” because it actually spent some money. They didn’t care that he’d basically saved the world economy or that he had done it using their playbook, they still just wanted to kill the liberal.

It was obvious by the time we were fighting out the Affordable Care Act that President Obama was about to play the same game and get hit with the same lies. It was a disaster. Obama really lost the whole game when he dropped the “Public Option” which would have allowed all Americans to buy into Medicare. It was a lifeline to authentic reform in the eyes of the progressive base, but the Democrats deemed it unworkable, and it was exorcised from the bill. By that time the Tea Party was already well funded by the Koch bothers and was on the march, and the only shred of support or meaning he could have offered real progressives was the Public Option. It was our only clarion call, and President Obama let it die.

So, in 2010 the right was on fire, well funded, well supported, and well organized. The left had nothing to go to war for.

As a politico, I was well aware of what 2010 meant. That was the most important election in recent memory. It allowed Republicans to channel their trumped up anger at the president to drive votes, and when the won, to gerrymander the hell out of Congress and take control in the states. It was a huge failing on the part of the President and his team. They failed to read the electorate. They failed to give liberals anything to fight for.

Did I vote? Hell yes! Did I work hard for the President and Democrats where ever I could? You betcha, but without driving and organizing the base around first principles, the movement as a whole collapsed when we needed most to be fighting for our lives.

This was a shared failure. It was a critical moment in American history. Progressives needed to be there fighting for the cause of freedom and opportunity. We messed that up by allowing that critical election to be overrun by the paranoid, the greedy, the deranged, and the liars.

President Obama and the Democrats also failed us. They failed to recognize that the conservative war on American freedom was well underway, and that our team needed something to fight for. They failed then as Hillary Clinton failed in 2016 to give the American people a genuine progressive agenda and vision. They failed to give us something to believe in.

The only solution to this problem is the Democratic party, but that party must free itself from this conservative Stockholm syndrome that we have lived under since 1984. We must get back to our first principle: that the American government must exist to serve the American people, not the rising corporate oligarchy of dynastic wealth, not the violent militarism of right wing fear, and not the theocratic Dominionism of the hate-filled right.

The sooner we face this reality the better. It does no good to blame the President and the Democrats, but neither does it do any good to blame the voters. We must all accept our culpability in the current crisis of conservative hegemony if we are to organize effectively to fight it. The pathway back to authentic American prosperity, freedom and justice requires that our party take a new direction, and that is the direction of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Ike and JFK. We need to be party of the people.

Forget Identity Politics, Call the Tribes

tribesThe purpose of the Democratic party and for the progressive movement and liberalism, for that matter, is to ensure that the American working class has the real power in this country, not conservative aristocracy. By arguing every point from a position of conservative economic theory, you give working people no reason to support Democrats and every reason to back Republicans/conservatives.

Specifically, $15 minimum wage is a matter of principle and of making a genuine difference in the world. It should apply to companies with over 500 employees, because that argument that minimum wage hurts small business is valid, and needs to be denuded, $12 for smaller companies.

TPP and other trade deals need to be readdressed to reconsider labor and environmental concerns to stop the worldwide race to the bottom and instead use our powerful market to lift the rest of the world up. Specifically, TPP’s extra-national tribunals are a direct assault on national sovereignty, the idea that a company can sue a nation for full life-cycle damages of what they could have made from privatization when a nation nationalizes an industry is corporatist insanity, and the fact that no member nation can nationalize any industry even more so.  All of our trade deals must be revisited to consider labor and environmental issues to end our race to the bottom.

Fracking causes earthquakes and destroys natural aquifers, it needs to stop. Obamacare does good things, but it starts from the Nixon/Kaiser premise that healthcare should be a national profit center. Single payer is the only solution and America is the only major nation that doesn’t use it.

College education should be debt free. That one was in the Party Platform thanks to Bernie. Our only focus in energy should be in efficiency and renewables. Solar is now cheaper than coal without supports, that should be the focus along with maximizing all other renewables to get to an 80/20 mix within 20 years.

Media consolidation must be addressed, fairness doctrine reintroduced, corporate charters should be potential targets for corporate offenders. If we’re gonna have the death penalty and corporations are people it should apply.

We should also have 2 years required national service, military, peace corps, teaching, national works, to reinvigorate our belief in our national institutions. Government is us. We need to make it us again. Term limits should be eliminated. There should be no wall with Mexico but an impenetrable wall between lobbyists and public office should be erected.

Citizens united should be overturned, and public financing of all elections instated. No person or organization should be allowed to put more than $5000 into any political campaign or organization in a given year.

“Right to Work” laws simply gut bargaining power, they need to go, and Unionization should be put into place wherever possible.

The problem with Hillary is that she presented as a perfectly lubricated weathervane of public opinion. She didn’t present herself as someone who would stand on principle for the interests of the American pubic, but could be moved in one direction or another to win votes in an election or support for a policy in governance.

When you have a country that is as divided as ours, you need someone standing up to move the dialogue in a certain direction. Republicans are loud and proud in their approach to this, and that calls their tribe to support them. Democrats are half and half. Fiscal conservatism is conservatism, and because both parties represent it, we now have the complete corporate takeover of American democracy and an oligarchical hereditary aristocracy forming.

We battle over social issues, and make great progress when we do, but we face backlash and the overall flow of history is now trending towards conservatism because we have failed to call our tribe to battle. Why didn’t Hillary support NoDapl for example? Where was she on that? People were getting maimed and environmental disasters exploding everywhere.

Hillary could be reasoned with, as the party platform showed, but she didn’t lead. Democrats are not leading. Democrats are not calling anyone to their side or creating new supporters. They are hunkering down in a belief that a centrist tactic that worked after Iran-Contra is some kind of general success blueprint, but Republican control of The White House, Congress, 32 Governorships and 67 State Legislatures is proof positive that it’s a losers game. Somebody has to fight for us, the regular American people. That’s all of us, we need to deal with the systemic injustice of racism in law and the judiciary and in policing, and the sexism in pay discrimination, but in a broader sense we need to deal with the economic injustice for everyone regardless of identity so that everyone knows that Democrats are on the side of the only force that can oppose violent militarism, corporate oligarchy, and racist, sexist, hate-filled theocracy. That’s progressivism and the only institution powerful enough to fight for it effectively for all Americans is the Democratic party.

Our policies should be generally beneficial for the broadest possible welfare of the American people.

Those support the health, wealth and power of the American republic because a healthy middle class is the only force that supports our critical ideals: justice, freedom, and opportunity and protects capitalism, democracy and the middle class. Call the American tribe as a whole and make clear to each member nation, women, Hispanics, LGBT, men, African Americans, whites, that our policies are best for each and best for all of us, The United States of America.

With The Failure of Detente, Democrats Must Finally Join the War for American Freedom

smileyElection night, 2008, I remember it like my father’s hands, like the first time I fell in love, like the day my son won gold for the first time.   My friends from Virginia politics, the Democrats, the Progressives, the true believers, felt an ecstatic joy unlike any we’d experienced in politics.  After eight years of dizzying assault on everything we held dear, finally we had won back control of the levers of power in Washington.

There would be no more assault on Social Security in the name of wealth for the few, international peace in the name of wealth for the few, social justice in the name of wealth for the few.  With the advent of the Obama Administration, we would finally have a genuine Progressivism in power.  We would recover from the social and economic disasters wrought by the Bush Administration.  We would see healthcare finally enshrined as a universal right in the American lexicon.  We would see a universal respect for our cultural diversity.  We would see a new emergence of forceful diplomacy around the world.  We would see women achieve social and economic equality.

We would see a more perfect union.

A funny thing happened, however, on the way to the Obama Administration.  As our new president took to the world stage, a cabal of Republican leaders and Conservative zealots devised a strategy of sedition.  On the night of President Obama’s first inauguration, they determined to faithlessly undermine the will of the American people.  They would work to stop everything and anything the new President would attempt.  They would stall all efforts to save the economy from the ravishes of the Bush depression.  They would rally their base by reinforcing every bias and every brutality with facts and passions where possible, and lies wherever necessary.

President Obama proceeded with endless good faith.  He offered open hands and incorporated conservative solutions first.  Despite the admonition of all reputable economists, his Recovery Act prioritized conservative “Tax Breaks” over long term investments.  His Affordable Care Act was taken directly from the plans created by the conservative Heritage Foundation.  He aspired to a “Grande Bargain”on Social Security.  He would accept Conservative arguments against benefits and for raising the age of retirement if only some Republicans, any Republicans, might meet his good faith with anything besides a slap in the face.

As the Obama Administration ends, we can clearly see the net effect of nearly a decade of Conservative sedition.  They dug in and fought for their failed and anti-American policies.  They undermined justice with voter suppression laws in the states.  They rallied their supporters against universal healthcare access with “death panel” lies and endless, pointless, votes for repeal.  They raised racial biases by denying even the President’s American citizenship, and by lying to their supporters about the causes of economic change.  They denounced his efforts to expand American influence through cooperation as weakness.

Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.  In America, Conservatism means the domination of society by an aristocracy of rich, “Christian”, white men.  If we can’t thump our chest and make the world fear us, we are not the leaders of the world.  If we can’t force the inferior races and women into their rightful place of submission, we are not worthy of our place at the top of the order of society.   If ours is not a Christian nation as narrowly defined by our prejudice, then we are not defenders of the faith.

The American republic is now at a crossroads.  We will accept the Conservative NewSpeak lie that freedom is the right of the rich to line their pockets at the expense of the rights and legacy of the American public, or we will redeem the public sphere from the dominance of Conservative oligarchs by asserting, rightly, that American freedom is the right and privilege of every man, woman and child in our nation, that it may again be the aspiration of every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth.

Progressives, Liberals, and Democrats must finally accept and acknowledge that Conservative hate speech is not some abberation, but is the genuine fulfillment of generations of indoctrination.   We must fearlessly expose Conservatism as the work of, violent Militarists, Theocrats, and Oligarchs, for whom freedom is only for the few, the rich, the white, the male, and the Dominionist.

We tried.  President Obama tried.  Democrats tried.  Progressives tried.  We tried to reach out to the right, to find common ground, and common cause for the good of all Americans.  In their reaction, Conservatives showed us what they truly are: the defenders of justice for the few, faith for only one interpretation of divine Truth, eternal war as our legacy to the world.  For the many, for our diverse nation, they wish poverty, sickness and death, wage slavery, and subjugation for race, sex, nationality, and religion.

For decades, Conservatives and their Republican electeds have been unafraid to revile Liberals, Progressives and Democrats in the most defamatory way.  They have been unafraid to lie about us.  All we need to do is finally begin to tell the truth.