In his brilliant 2004 treatise, “What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?” Dr. Philip Agre, an Internet pioneer and former UCLA professor, contends that conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy that can only be perpetuated through deception, especially in a democratic republic like the United States.
Conservatism, writes Agre, has been the hallmark of societies ruled by aristocracies, from ancient Egypt’s pharaohs through the kings and queens of the Middle Ages to the present day conservative movement. In each instance, Agre notes, there is, “a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are.”
That’s why conservatives demand we fawningly defer to the imaginary omnipotence of “job creators” while we afford these modern aristocrats all kinds of tax breaks and loopholes.
Further support for Agre’s argument is Mitt Romney. Born into wealth and privilege with an enormous sense of entitlement, Romney’s personality could be overlaid onto that of an 18th century European king, and you’d see nearly identical traits.
The king’s subjects groveled for scraps of his beneficence. Romney’s supplicants bowed and scraped before his purported greatness. The king regarded anyone not in his class as unworthy. So did Romney, as revealed by his “47 percent” remarks.
The king claimed a divine right to the throne. Romney also relied on deception. He proclaimed he was “resolute,” but switched positions on most all issues and even renounced his own signature achievement as Massachusetts governor, the individual mandate, because it was embraced by his political opponents.
Down through the ages, Agre explains, aristocrats have relied on the passivity and gullibility of their subjects, aided by the clergy and fellow aristocrats.
Rather than bishops, dukes and earls, Romney had wealthy conservatives promote his mythical wonderfulness; people like Roger Ailes, the former GOP operative and multimillionaire head of Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh, the multimillionaire radio comic.
Romney appeared almost exclusively on Ailes’ Fox programs or shows like Limbaugh’s, where he was seldom challenged or asked anything consequential. The idea was to deceive viewers and listeners into believing that Romney had everyone’s best interests at heart.
Meantime, other conservative media nobles breezily dismissed Romney’s prevaricating and his oddball and sometimes disastrous gaffs. Like sycophantic courtiers who once crowded around the throne seeking recognition and favors, they showered flattering praise on Willard the Great.
Thankfully, most voters weren’t fooled. They knew Romney cared not a whit about poor and middle class Americans, especially those who suffered through an economic collapse engineered by another conservative aristocrat.
Americans were hit hard by conservatism and they had the scars to prove it; staggering unemployment, children killed in an unnecessary war, poverty, a doubled deficit, stagnant pay checks, the worst terrorist attack in American history, and all the rest of the woeful Bush legacy.
More conservatism, skeptical voters rightly concluded, would deliver only more misery. Yet, there were enough would-be Romney subjects to make the election close — but only if you believed the conservative media, which maintained that particular deception right up until the last ballot was cast. Court jester Karl Rove frantically ran around the Fox News studio on election night declaring Ohio wasn’t decided when it was.
In the end, the wisdom of democracy-loving Americans won out. The would-be emperor had no clothes and he lost in an Electoral College landslide.
Still, some pine for a conservative resurgence without understanding why conservatism is completely antithetical to America’s “all men are created equal” democracy.
And that’s something else conservatism needs to survive: willful ignorance.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.