Face the Ugly Truth: The Tea Party Is Conservatism in a Nutshell

PalinandCruzI try not to use terms about selfish jerkholes that end up being demeaning to other, innocent people, but economist Umair Haque may have dispensed the bestest tweet ever!

The Classical Greek definition of an ‘idiot’ was a person uninterested in the common good. In other words, modern conservatives.

This line resonated with me partly because of the timing of it – toward the end of the Tea Party-initialized, GOP-enforced government shutdown. Partially because I had one of my infamous conversations/arguments with conservative libertarians last week wherein one asked, in all seriousness, “What is the common good?” A Sarah Palin moment if ever there was one.

The very word — “conservative” — doesn’t fit for most people, as we seriously ask ourselves what exactly is it that they are conserving? The answer is nothing but the social order, with those on top remaining on top and those below remaining below. The only question of distinction among conservatives is: How far down should the lower and working class be? How dirt poor is too dirt poor? How powerless is too powerless? How disenfranchised is too disenfranchised? How little money is too little money? How far can we push this and not have to worry about blood spilling on our Louis Vuittons?

The Tea Party and all represented by it – its nuclear options of reactionism and extremism; its latent racism; its homoantagonism; its rallies against immigrants; its support for wage and wealth discrepancy; its Confederacy Apologism; it’s White, Male, and Christian Supremacy narratives – aren’t a different form of conservatism. It’s the same kind of conservatism that has been going on, just intensified in a concentrated form, hyped by 24-hour media and white male fears. As Corey Robin helpfully points out in his book  The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin:

Neither is conservatism a makeshift fusion of capitalists, Christians, and warriors, for that fusion is impelled by a more elemental force—the opposition to the liberation of men and women from the fetters of their superiors, particularly in the private sphere. Such a view might seem miles away from the libertarian defense of the free market, with its celebration of the atomistic and autonomous individual. But it is not.

Though it is often claimed that the left stands for equality while the right stands for freedom, this notion misstates the actual disagreement between right and left. Historically, the conservative has favored liberty for the higher orders and constraint for the lower orders. What the conservative sees and dislikes in equality, in other words, is not a threat to freedom but its extension. For in that extension, he sees a loss of his own freedom.

Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rahm Emanuel*, William F. Buckley, the Koch Brothers, Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Peter King, John McCain, Clarence Thomas – while most will fight over the REAL definition of conservatism, the truth is that they are all conservatives. They all favor freedom for the “uppers” and constraint for the “lowers.” They want to take our freedoms away while using the language of liberty and freedom without a trace of irony.

It’s high time to fight back against not just conservatives, but conservatism in all of its forms and however it occurs — whether it’s the privatizing of public use (such as schools and roadways and prisons); the increase presence of military and covert operations; the militarization of urban police forces; the redlining of neighborhoods; the fight against fair wages and anything else which seeks to oppress lower classes to the benefit of the rich.

Let the GOP be killed by its own idiocy. It cares not for the public; the public needs to care.


*Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel will be called a liberal because of his alignment with the Democratic Party, President Obama and the Clintons, but we shouldn’t recognize a person by what labels he or she attaches to himself or herself. Rather, we should recognize them by what they actually do — and what Rahm does is definitely conservative.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


Facebook comments

  • Matthew Reece

    What is the common good? It is the sum of each individual good, nothing less and nothing more. It is a concept, not something which exists separately from its component parts.

    • Pipercat

      Average, not sum.

      • Matthew Reece

        The problem with averages is that they do not always exist. For example, consider the following set of numbers: {1, 2, 4, 5}. There is no mode, as no number occurs more frequently than any other. The mean is 3, which does not exist in the set. The median of an even number of elements is the mean of the middle two elements, so the median is also 3. In this example, it makes no sense to speak of an average within the context of the elements of the set. Something equivalent to this example happens when one considers each individual person and tries to think of them in collectivist terms.

      • Pipercat

        Well consider this then, we each have 5 “goods.” Three of which we agree are good; the other two we do not and would cancel out. A third person comes in and thinks that only one of the five is good. Makes it kinda tricky for sure. That’s why you can’t really have a sum like you described. You are correct, average does not apply either. Math was a long time ago and I can’t remember all of the terms. It occurs to me though, it’s really more like the lowest common denominator. Common good is a nebulous term and hard to quantify. Just like real life I suppose and probably why there is so much antagonism out there.

  • Alison Demzon

    Except that actual conservatives have done immense good for the country. The Railroad Pensioners system was adapted to be the Social Security system by Conservatives. Same for food stamps, and Medicare. Lincoln, a Conservative Republican, lead the call for abolishing slavery. The claim that the Tea party is a “Conservative movement” is laughable to any one that actually remembers what a Conservative actually is. The Tea party is a bunch on Nationalistic, Religious extremists, using the power given to them by the failure of education to educate, and appropriating words that people are allowing them to change. Congratulations; this article shows that the author is helping the change in language to confuse the debate, and further the tribalization of America with more “us v. them” thinking.

  • Anthonij

    Nice to see someone else who thinks that Rahm Emanuel is a conservative snake… Democrat in name only, his agenda is all about privatisation of public assets to benefit his rich friends. Truly one of the most despicable politicians around today because, unlike Cruz and the other lunatics of the Tea Party, Emanuel pretends through his Democratic affiliation to be something he most definitely is not.

    • There are many of us, Anthonij. 😉

      You may also enjoy the works of my friends at Mayoral Tutorial, at the forefront of progressivism in Chicago. Very eye-opening.

      • Anthonij

        Jasdye — Many thanks for the response… I want to be active in trying to work to find someone who can defeat this nasty snake in rabbit’s clothing (as it were) in the next mayoral election…

        As appallingly bad and unsurpassingly inarticuate as the corrupt Daley was, this crypto-Republican has matched him… lol

      • I said when he was running that we were going to replace Daley with Steroid Daley. I was really pushing for Del Valle. We got sold out by the liberal coasters and the Hollywood celebrities (thanks, Wilco and Jennifer Hudson).

        For the time being, I’m rooting for Toni Preckwinkle.

      • Anthonij

        Preckwinkle… perhaps the first politician in the history of the County of C(r)ook who is honest… lol… She’s amazing…

    • Matthew Reece

      Emanuel’s conduct is not an example of privatization; it is an example of cronyism. True privatization simply ends all government involvement in the provision of a certain service, and does not consist of agents of the state handing out favors to their friends.

      • Oh Matthew… You’re free to go libertarian troll somebody else with your false definitions of things already verifiable.

      • Matthew Reece

        You have the burden of proof to demonstrate that my definitions are incorrect. Simply stating such and walking away is an ipse dixit fallacy.

      • Well, that’s the first time I can recall anybody has run a True Scotsman on me and then told me the burden of proof is on me to prove them wrong.

        You may not like the form of privatization that Rahm Emanuel offers, but it’s still turning over the management and production of public entities to private companies/hands. It may not be the only kind of privatization, nor the most preferable type. But it’s still privatization.

        I can’t argue that James Dobson or Paul Ryan isn’t a Christian, because they still fit under the basic, agreed-upon and historical definitions of “Christian.” I would like to say that Lenin wasn’t a communist, because I don’t like top-down, violence-bred communism – but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a communist.

  • This is possibly the biggest pile of horse $#%! I’ve ever stumbled upon surfing the web. Now I have to buy a new pair of shoes.