How to Become a Conservative in Four Embarrassing Steps
Not that we'd want to. But many Americans, perplexingly, have taken that path in the last ten years, as 27 percent of those polled now consider themselves 'mostly' or 'consistently' conservative, up from 18 percent in 2004. (Conservatives were at 30 percent in 1994. Liberals increased from 21 to over 30 percent in the 1990s and have remained approximately the same since then.)
The language of true conservatives often turns to denial, dismissal, and/or belligerence, without verifiable facts of any substance. There is also evidence for delusional thinking and a lack of empathy. Here are four ways to be just like them.
1. Ignore Facts
Research shows that conservatives tend to modify facts to accommodate their beliefs and convictions, while liberals are more willing to deal with the complexity of multiple sources of information that help determine the true facts.
Perhaps the best example of fact-aversion is climate change. Incredibly, even though 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming is very likely due to human activities, 66 percent of Republicans say they do not believe in global warming.
It's even more incredible that the Chair of the Committee on the Environment, James Inhofe, brought a snowball to the Senate floor to back up his earlier suggestion that manmade global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
If there is even a chance that humans are damaging the environment, a thinking person would consider the potential effect on his or her children and grandchildren. But the exact opposite has happened. Half of all carbon emissions have been dumped into the air in approximately the last 25 years. Even the Pentagon, much trusted by right-wingers, has warned that "the danger from climate change is real, urgent, and severe."
2. Make Up Your Own Facts
This is the opposite of ignoring facts, for in this case conservatives are inventing new ones. A prime example is the stubborn belief in supply-side, trickle-down economics, and in the supposed power of the free market, as summarized by Milton Friedman when he said, "The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people."
The "Laffer Curve," named after economist Arthur Laffer, hypothesizes that tax rate increases will eventually reach a point of diminishing returns for tax revenue. Conservatives have contorted this economic theory into the 'fact' that all tax reductions are beneficial.
Adherence to supply-side beliefs may help to justify 35 years of trickle-down persistence in the minds of the people getting rich. As conservative analyst Michael Barone once said, "Markets work. But sometimes they take time." 100 years, perhaps?
3. Display No Empathy for Others
Conservatives tend to blame poor people for their own misfortunes. Like when John Boehner voiced his perception of people without jobs: "This idea that has been born...I really don't have to work; I don't really want to do this. I think I'd rather just sit around."
Almost all healthy adult Americans, of course, want to work. But in 2011 Senate Republicans killed a proposed $447 billion jobs bill that would have added about two million jobs to the economy. Members of Congress filibustered Nancy Pelosi's "Prevention of Outsourcing Act," even as two million jobs were being outsourced, and they temporarily blocked the "Small Business Jobs Act." In April, 2013 only one member of Congress bothered to show up for a hearing on unemployment.
When asked what he would do to bring jobs to Kentucky, Mitch McConnell responded, "That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet."
It gets worse beyond our own borders, where American neoconservatism leads to behavior that is shockingly devoid of empathy. A 13-year-old Yemeni boy told The Guardian about the drones buzzing incessantly overhead: "I see them every day and we are scared of them...day and night...we even dream of them in our sleep."
That boy was killed by a drone in early 2015.
4. Shout Down Your Opponents
If nothing else works, belligerence will. Many of the top right-wingers use this strategy. John McCain told Code Pink protestors to "Get out of here, you low-life scum." Michael Moore has reportedly received death threats from both Glenn Beck and Clint Eastwood. Bill O'Reilly bashed Mother Jones chief David Corn as a "liar" and an "irresponsible guttersnipe," and then assailed New York Times' Emily Steel in an interview about the Falklands controversy: "I am coming after you with everything I have. You can take it as a threat."
The bully tactics are especially frightening at the global level. "All of Russia," notes Paul Craig Roberts, "is distressed that Washington has destroyed the trust that had been created during the Reagan-Gorbachev era." And as noted by The Nation, "There’s the perception across the Global South that, while the United States remains embroiled in its endless wars, the world is defecting to the East." Toward China, that is, as their New Silk Road opens doors of cooperation from the far east all the way to Europe.
Our conservative-controlled nation's self-serving belief in "exceptionalism" is taking us further and further from the rest of the world. And closer to a world of trouble for our children.