Conservatism distorted in LaLonde’s column

In his column Friday, Paul LaLonde put forth the proposition the media gives a distorted view of conservatives. In that, and only that, he’s correct.

The reason the view is distorted is since sometime around the middle of the Carter Administration, the U.S. news media has, for all practical purposes, served as a steno pool for the Republican National Committee, with the result that the presentation of everyone is distorted – from the Washington Post allowing the right to set the vocabulary of debate to Fox News’ unabashed propagandizing.

Thus, we get moderate conservatives like Bill Clinton depicted as a liberal, a moderate liberal like Dennis Kucinich shown as a left-wing radical and extreme right-wing nut cases like Tom DeLay and Trent Lott treated as if they were rational. Perhaps the biggest distortion is the failure to mention the complete lack of qualification George W. Bush had for the office he took. Here is a man who has forever ended the debate over whether Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan was the worst president of all time, and he was given a pass.

As to LaLonde’s complaint about characterizations of the two types of conservatives, sometimes stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason.

Republican leadership is full of evil businessmen who develop policies to make themselves richer at the expense of the rest of us. Why then, you ask, do so many of the second-group vote conservative against their own interests? Well, as John Stuart Mill said, “While it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.”

LaLonde then went on to expound on what conservatives purport to believe. Let’s look at that point-by-point.

The legitimacy of the Constitution derives not from the Declaration of Independence, but from the source of its authority, the people. Yes, conservatives believe it must be understood in its original context – but its original context was the rights and freedoms enumerated therein pertained only to propertied white males, and those of African descent were fit only for slavery. Fortunately, the founding fathers were wise enough to include provisions for amendment and judicial review, which have allowed liberals to extend the promise included in the Bill of Rights to everyone – progress conservatives have fought against tooth and nail and still work diligently to reverse.

Conservatives believe in the right to practice their religion, backed by the coercive power of the state, despite the clear prohibition of it in the Constitution they claim to revere.

Conservatives, while denying the right to privacy that is the obvious underpinning of the Bill of Rights, believe the Constitution guarantees a right to life that extends to the moment of conception (though a fetus doesn’t even have a functioning nervous system until the second trimester), but does not preclude the patently cruel and unusual practice of capital punishment.

Apparently, in the conservative world view, life ends at birth.

Conservatives do not believe in smaller government (according to General Accounting Office figures, government spending as a percentage of GDP is always higher in Republican administrations), they believe in a different focus of government. While liberals believe the proper role of government is to assist its people, to support things like education, child care and clean air and water, conservatives believe the proper role of government is to control its people, to tell them what to believe, when to bear children, who to love and on and on, and the government should have no restrictions on what means are at their disposal to enforce this.

And by the way, Mr. LaLonde, heroin is a narcotic – heroine is a female hero.

Peter Gerlach

Graduate Student, History