Conservatism: Why Republicans Don’t Hate Poor People

Before I begin, this is a response to a comment left by Tony on another post.  There are a lot of pure-capitalist Republicans who are guilty of this.  However, it’s important to note that capitalism alone is not conservative.  It’s the default economic system we settle on because it is generally self-managing.  Why our conservative ideology prevents us from wanting to micromanage the economy and why progressive ideologies encourage government entanglement in economic affairs is actually laid out in this post… but not directly.  You have brain cells, use them.

Vintage MSPaint Comic from way back in the day.
Vintage MSPaint Comic from way back in the day.

When I was younger and my conservative ideology was less refined but twice as fanatical, the words, “They should get off their lazy butts and get a better job.  If nobody will hire them, it’s because they made poor decisions in life and they don’t deserve the opportunities I have.”  In fact, the best SimCity3000 city I ever built had a regressive tax structure where the poor paid a higher percentage of income tax than the wealthy did. Interestingly, the tax strategy worked and my city was overrun with wealthy people, which had the added benefit of keeping crime low.  Sadly, this tax strategy hasn’t worked in later variations of the game.

This caused me to question my approach to SimCity, and inspired me to learn more about conservatism and go deeper into the ideology.  Okay, it wasn’t actually SimCity. I realized that my attitude really wasn’t very Christian… which then created a paradox because conservatism supposedly embraces traditional Christian ideas.  The first thing I realized is that conservatism really doesn’t embrace Christianity because Jesus Christ invented this ideology.  In fact, it has very little to do with theology at all.  Conservatism embraces organized religion (especially the dominant one in a society) because of the function it serves in society.  Specifically, providing the members of society with a uniting cause and establishing ethical norms that members of the society are expected to adhere to.  When people police themselves, it then makes managing crime and radical behavior a much easier, less intrusive, and considerably less expensive function for the government.

Likewise, conservatism looks at the poor in the same functional way. Whether you are poor or wealthy, conservatism defines you by what you do.  Parents, teachers, engineers, janitors, street cleaners, investment brokers, tailors, barbers, credit card salesmen, and politicians all serve unique functions in society.  Some functions are more important than others and, admittedly, the pay isn’t proportional based on importance or quality. But to conservatives, that really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that we have a healthy culture where you can raise your children without living in fear of them being kidnapped, raped, murdered, or becoming a drug addict or any other kind of criminal.  If we can create that kind of wholesome environment where people respect one another and everybody (generally) conforms to the norm without too much variation, everything else will take care of itself. Maybe not completely fairly, maybe you’ll struggle, maybe you’ll struggle a lot, but life isn’t supposed to be a utopian experience.

The problem, at least from a PR perspective, is that nobody assesses their self-worth on their function in society.  They define themselves based on what they have compared to what others have. I live in a four bedroom house with a lawn that takes me 45 minutes to mow on a riding lawn mower. There are two people I compare that to. My next door neighbor and Bill Gates.  Bill Gates has four 40 bedroom homes and lawns that take 40 hired hands 4 hours to mow, each. Even when you combine all of my neighbors, we’re insignificant compared to Bill Gates.  We look and feel like crap by comparison.  Leftists seize on this, promising to tax Bill Gates more to make your life better.  After all, you’re both humans, so why should he be so much better off than you?

Leftists view society using various different “Conflict Models” of society.  They disagree on what exactly the conflict is, but they agree it’s a conflict.  For example, some like Jessie Jackson will argue that society is structured by racial conflict of whites oppressing people of color.  Barack Obama will argue that society is structured by economic conflict of the wealthy oppressing the poor.  Hillary Clinton will argue that society is structured by gender conflict of men oppressing women.  People who are frying their brains with drugs have argued that society is structured by an age conflict of the old folks oppressing the young.  Some bleeding heart liberals will go so far as to say that society is structured based on all of the above conflict models.

Here’s the funniest thing about the various conflict models of society: relativism proves them all wrong.  Ultimately, which conflict model you decide to buy into is only your perspective on society.  It’s much easier to convince a poor person that they’re being oppressed than to convince a rich person that they’re oppressing the poor.  It’s much easier to convince a black person that they’re being oppressed by a white person today than it is to convince a white person they’re actively oppressing a black person.  It’s a lot easier to convince a woman that she’s being oppressed by a man than it is to convince a man he’s oppressing a woman.  It’s a lot easier to convince a teenager that they’re being oppressed by a bunch of old people in Washington and at the polls than it is to convince a politician or senior citizen that they’re oppressing teenagers.  Of course, the only people who can’t say they’re being oppressed are old, wealthy, white males.  Sound familiar?  It’s the one demographic Democrats can agree is to blame and it’s the stereotypical definition of the cartoon Republican.

Enough about Democrats.  Let’s instead say that I choose to judge myself based on what I do rather than what I have. Suddenly, I start to feel better. I design power plants and environmental solutions for fossil burning power stations.  Because of the work I have done in the past two years, there are kids in Iraq and Saudi Arabia who are going to grow up with a steady supply of electricity.  There are people today whose jobs I have helped save by helping design unique environmental solutions to power plants that would have been shut down by EPA regulations.  Even better, the extra time I helped add to the life of these power plants in the United States is keeping our energy infrastructure that much more stable for years to come.  Plus, the environmental solutions we’ve designed are going to save the lives of children who would have otherwise developed respiratory diseases and cancers.

When a conservative asks me what I do, it’s because they want to know what my function in society is.  When a liberal asks me what I do, it’s because they want to be able to guess what my standard of living is and how they should judge me based on their individual conflict model of society.  As discussed in the post #ThingsYouMightHearALiberalSay, my job description makes a lot of liberals think that I must be rich.  Therefore, any good I’m doing for the environment or impoverished people overseas doesn’t matter because I’m rich and have been from the day I was born.  Of course, as also discussed in that post, I’m not rich and neither is my family.

If I can live my life knowing I am where God wants me and trying to do whatever it is that God wants me to do, that should be all that I need in life.  Having family and an abundance of good friends are the greatest blessings any of us should date to ask for.  Obsessing over material possessions like money, property, jewels, fashions, televisions, game systems, the latest smart phones, and the like will never bring you happiness.  There is always someone who will have something that you cannot have.

Let me put this another way.  A few nights ago, Krista and I were talking and we got on the topic of when we were happiest.  As much as I love being with my wife, the time I was happiest was when I was in the Air Force.  I had the most fulfilling job I’ll probably ever have, worked with the greatest friends I will ever have, and I may have lived in the most dangerous, poor neighborhood I will ever live in.

Seriously, there was a time I was worried I was developing super hearing powers that would ruin my life… thankfully, the walls were just that thin.

hearingman

Which was still scary, seeing as how the man next door was seriously crazy.  He would often knock on my door at random hours of the day and night to tell me that the color of my car reminded him of the girls on truckers’ mud flaps.  (I still haven’t figured that out)

Some of you will remember me telling you about the time I was asked to leave IHOP in California because some crazed communist woman got super pissed off about my Bush-Cheney ’04 hat?

commyihop

“YOU’RE KILLING BABIES!”

“No, I’m trying to eat pancakes!”

Oh!  And the goth girls who accused me of being a Nazi when I asked why they were looking deviously at the Intrepid 5… which of course was decked out with 24″ Bush-Cheney magnets, bumper stickers,  and two flags clipped to the back windows…

gothgirls

There was also the time that someone threw a Molotov cocktail at me and hit the dumpster next to the Intrepid 5.  I have an actual picture of that somewhere…

But even that stuff I remember fondly because I associate it with the awesome friends I had and the adventures and road trips we did.  Seriously, none of us should judge one another based on what we have or don’t have.  That’s a terrible, miserable existence.  Coincidentally, polls done over the years have UNIVERSALLY shown that REPUBLICANS ARE HAPPIER THAN DEMOCRATS! By a 2:1 margin in some polls!

This is why.  Our conservative ideology tells us that our place in society is not tied to our economic background, ethnic identification, gender, or anything other superficial thing that liberals try to use to measure people.  If you stop obsessing over these things, and start thinking about people for what they do, you’re going to enjoy life a lot more. But seriously, there are people in your life who are a true blessing.  Stop categorizing them and enjoy the time you’re fortunate enough to spend with them.

kevenvironmentmapkevrenoelephantkevvegas5

(How’d that get in there?)

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Kevin Tracy is an Air Force veteran, terrorism/counterterrorism expert, and jack of all trades. KTracy's day job is designing electrical systems for new fossil power plants and environmental solutions. On the side, he keeps a blog, fundraises for political candidates and the St. Baldrick's Foundation, writes and illustrates comic books, and studies foreign affairs in depth.

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