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Author Topic: Why is the US so conservative?  (Read 4366 times)
Senator bore
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« on: July 21, 2011, 05:13:03 am »
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There is no denying that compared to almost every other developed country the US is  very conservative, in what other country could Michelle Bachmann be a serious contender for the presidential nominee. In almost every other developed country opposing universal health care would make you an extreme right winger, but supporting it in the US makes you a socialist/communist/marxist. Why is this?
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2011, 05:23:50 am »
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There is no denying that compared to almost every other developed country the US is  very conservative, in what other country could Michelle Bachmann be a serious contender for the presidential nominee.
I would argue she isn't a very serious candidate here, she has a very small chance of being the GOP nominee and basically zero chance of beating Obama.
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In almost every other developed country opposing universal health care would make you an extreme right winger, but supporting it in the US makes you a socialist/communist/marxist.
Just because someone calls you that doesn't make it true.  Asshats say a lot of stupid sh**t.  You support the war in Iraq you're suddenly a Neo-Con.  Support drug legalization, you're a hippie stoner.  Don't like Israel, you're an anti-Semite.
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Why is this?
Different strokes for different fokes?  And it's not like we are more conservative about everything.  Our gun laws are much more liberal than yours.  But give it time, once the baby boomers die off we will be less conservative.
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« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2011, 05:35:07 am »
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'Liberal' gun laws is a conservative position.

Guns are heavily restricted in most of the rest of the world. And rightly so.
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« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2011, 05:48:11 am »
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I have sometimes wondered how much of it is simply the political system.  If the USA was a parliamentary democracy, in which it was actually straightforward for a party that wins a national election to actually pass some of its agenda, then universal health insurance probably would have passed some time in the 1960s or 70s, and it'd probably be uncontroversial today.  The American political system has so many veto points, that doing something big becomes very difficult.

And of course, the US has open primaries, with many (most?) members of Congress having to worry more about a primary challenge from their party's base than they do about being defeated by someone from another party.  That tends to lead to a very different cast of characters getting elected from what you would get in a "normal" democracy.
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« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2011, 06:25:07 am »
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It is a country of bitter, deluded, spiteful, anhedonic madmen, bore.
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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2011, 07:36:06 am »
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There is no denying that compared to almost every other developed country the US is  very conservative, in what other country could Michelle Bachmann be a serious contender for the presidential nominee.
I would argue she isn't a very serious candidate here, she has a very small chance of being the GOP nominee and basically zero chance of beating Obama.
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In almost every other developed country opposing universal health care would make you an extreme right winger, but supporting it in the US makes you a socialist/communist/marxist.
Just because someone calls you that doesn't make it true.  Asshats say a lot of stupid sh**t.  You support the war in Iraq you're suddenly a Neo-Con.  Support drug legalization, you're a hippie stoner.  Don't like Israel, you're an anti-Semite.
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Why is this?
Different strokes for different fokes?  And it's not like we are more conservative about everything.  Our gun laws are much more liberal than yours.  But give it time, once the baby boomers die off we will be less conservative.


 Bachmann is leading the national primary poll, so she certainly a contender for the nomination, I doubt she'll win as well, but the fact that someone as extreme as Bachmann is a contender for the nomination of one of the two main parties says something. Also I know that someone calling you a communist for supporting universal health care doesn't make it true, but the fact that many americans believe that its an extreme viewpoint whereas in other countries not supporting it is out from the mainstream definately shows a gulf between the US and other developed countries.
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2011, 08:20:05 am »
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Lack of class solidarity as a result of the black (and later immigrant) underclass.
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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2011, 09:36:06 am »
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Lack of class solidarity as a result of the black (and later immigrant) underclass.

The Canadian labor movement has always been rather weak politically, and Canada's turned out fine.
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« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2011, 09:38:18 am »
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It's a country founded on what you may call conservative ideas. I'm guessing that's really much of the explanation.

I also think it has something to do with how US society was created and even more with how Americans have idealized that process.
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« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2011, 09:40:54 am »
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Lack of class solidarity as a result of the black (and later immigrant) underclass.

The Canadian labor movement has always been rather weak politically, and Canada's turned out fine.

That alone wouldn't neccesarily mean that's there's less cohesion among classes in Canada.
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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2011, 09:41:30 am »
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It's a country founded on what you may call conservative ideas. I'm guessing that's really much of the explanation.

I also think it has something to do with how US society was created and even more with how Americans have idealized that process.


^^
This.
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« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2011, 09:48:28 am »
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I think it is more corporatist than anything.

There is nothing conservative about the size of our budget.

Over the past decade, we have also seen a huge rise in laws that restrict civil liberties. Conservative would mean not adding these laws, since conservative means status quo.
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« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2011, 09:59:10 am »
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What really befuddles me isn't so much the fiscal conservatism of the US, it's the saliency of social/cultural matters and the continuous struggle over them.

Here in Greece, arguably the most socially conservative of European western democracies, abortion was legalized thirty years ago with little fuss, after being accepted practice for much longer, and nobody has ever talked about it again.
Gay people were never targeted for ridicule and condemnation by our (powerful) Orthodox church and its conservative political allies.
And while anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise due to our economic hardships, there is nowhere near the venom and hate of people like Tom Tancredo and Steve King.  
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« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2011, 10:17:21 am »
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Part of it - perhaps waning now - is that our ethnic diversity deflects to some extent what would otherwise be perhaps more class based voting. (I notice now that Lief mentioned this above.) And of course for a developed nation, the US is off the charts when it comes to to the percentage of its population for which matters of faith are an important aspect of their lives.  On the regression analysis line, most of the nations are dots that are not far from the line created by per capita income on one axis and religious intensity on the other, while the US is up in the corner of the chart just miles and miles away from the line.

Anyway, that is my theory. Some might think it has more to do with the indulgence of the fantasy of American exceptionalism, but I don't really subscribe to that one myself.
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« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2011, 10:21:07 am »
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What really befuddles me isn't so much the fiscal conservatism of the US, it's the saliency of social/cultural matters and the continuous struggle over them.

Here in Greece, arguably the most socially conservative of European western democracies, abortion was legalized thirty years ago with little fuss, after being accepted practice for much longer, and nobody has ever talked about it again.
Gay people were never targeted for ridicule and condemnation by our (powerful) Orthodox church and its conservative political allies.
And while anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise due to our economic hardships, there is nowhere near the venom and hate of people like Tom Tancredo and Steve King.  

Ever heard of Le Pen, Bossi, Haider, Kjaersgaard, etc, etc?

Immigration and racism is one subject where Europe can't really claim to be much better than the US. If we had anything like the US-Mexican border I think racism would be a lot worse than it already is...

If one were to over-generalize in a ridiculous fashion one could say that anyone in Europe who cared about religio nwas born again in the nineteenth century and had to flee to the US. Ergo...
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« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2011, 10:21:46 am »
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Part of it - perhaps waning now - is that our ethnic diversity deflects to some extent what would otherwise be perhaps more class based voting. And of course for a developed nation, the US is off the charts when it comes to to the percentage of its population for which matters of faith are an important aspect of their lives.  On the regression analysis line, most of the nations are dots that are not far from the line created by per capita income on one axis and religious intensity on the other, while the US is up in the corner of the chart just miles and miles away from the line.

Anyway, that is my theory. Some might think it has more to do with the indulgence of the fantasy of American exceptionalism, but I don't really subscribe to that one myself.

As I alluded to above I think perceptions of class are very different in the US - at least partly for good reason.
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« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2011, 10:28:08 am »
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What really befuddles me isn't so much the fiscal conservatism of the US, it's the saliency of social/cultural matters and the continuous struggle over them.

Here in Greece, arguably the most socially conservative of European western democracies, abortion was legalized thirty years ago with little fuss, after being accepted practice for much longer, and nobody has ever talked about it again.
Gay people were never targeted for ridicule and condemnation by our (powerful) Orthodox church and its conservative political allies.
And while anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise due to our economic hardships, there is nowhere near the venom and hate of people like Tom Tancredo and Steve King.  

Ever heard of Le Pen, Bossi, Haider, Kjaersgaard, etc, etc?

Immigration and racism is one subject where Europe can't really claim to be much better than the US. If we had anything like the US-Mexican border I think racism would be a lot worse than it already is...

If one were to over-generalize in a ridiculous fashion one could say that anyone in Europe who cared about religio nwas born again in the nineteenth century and had to flee to the US. Ergo...

Yeah, thanks about the condescension.

We have the equivalent of the Mexican-American border: it's called the Aegean. And yet until the last couple of years, incidents of xenophobia were very few and far between here. So perhaps it's time for you to stop the overgeneralizations.
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« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2011, 11:23:45 am »
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The South, Midwest, and mountain states are the  conservative parts of the union and have the most influence over our political system. Even with more people living on the coasts and cities such as New York City, there not much influence coming out of there. Most people in the South ridicule New York natives for hating religion, baby killing, gay loving, elitist liberals. The same thing happens in the Northeast with stereotyping southern as gun totting, NASCAR/football loving, religious rednecks. The double standard goes to both sides of the issues. In the future, I see conservatives to start becoming more as libertarians with social conservativeism to be dead as winnable political issues. The libs will become more social democracy and will move forward from there agenda on.
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« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2011, 11:40:48 am »
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It isn't. Not even close.

What is the US?
Economically? Corporatist
Socially? Libertine

I'm not really sure what conservative economics would be. I guess if you want to argue that corporatism is conservative you could claim we are economically conservative as corporatism has been around long enough that conserving the economic system of the past is basically conserving corporatism.

Socially we are not even remotely conservative. Yes there are some people who practice social conservatives. And there may be some laws left around that have some social conservatism. But society as a whole is definitely not. Is virtue promoted at all? Is purity and innocence? Society uses sex to sell, values promiscuity, adultery, abortion, the degradation of women as a whole. It values basically every vice imaginable while belittling any virtue.

I'm talking about lifestyle and practices, not laws. The laws are irrelevant since they don't change someone's inner thoughts and values. If you want to live any kind of wholesome life, you have to pretty much tune out of the culture of modern society as a whole.

We really have the worst of all worlds. We still have various authoritarian laws, combined with a libertine culture and corporatist economy. I think our society is a pretty massive failure in this regard. But I have been looking around and I don't see any other society that doesn't fail in the same way.

But in the end, I guess it depends on what you view conservatism to be in general. Since I separate the law from the culture, I don't see it. Since I think of corporatism as non-conservative, I don't see it.
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« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2011, 11:53:37 am »
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It's a country founded on what you may call conservative ideas. I'm guessing that's really much of the explanation.

I also think it has something to do with how US society was created and even more with how Americans have idealized that process.

This, basically.

What really befuddles me isn't so much the fiscal conservatism of the US, it's the saliency of social/cultural matters and the continuous struggle over them.

Here in Greece, arguably the most socially conservative of European western democracies, abortion was legalized thirty years ago with little fuss, after being accepted practice for much longer, and nobody has ever talked about it again.
Gay people were never targeted for ridicule and condemnation by our (powerful) Orthodox church and its conservative political allies.
And while anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise due to our economic hardships, there is nowhere near the venom and hate of people like Tom Tancredo and Steve King.   

Same, but for much different reasons. Unlike Europeans, I think the problem is not that America is too right-wing, but that Europe is too left-wing.
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« Reply #20 on: July 21, 2011, 11:57:51 am »
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You have to be careful about going too far down this particular road (there is, for example a very old radical democratic - for want of a better term - tradition in the U.S, and it's not a co-incidence or an 'accident' that Syndicalism was as strong in the mining camps of the American West as it was anywhere else in the world. You then have the American Jewish Marxist tradition and so on. More recently various forms of 'Alternative' politics (especially with a small p) have been stronger in certain parts of the U.S than in most other places. And, hey, even some powerful Democratic politicians in the fast-receding past were relatively radical in their own way) but there's obviously a degree of truth to the question/observation, especially as far as formal politics is concerned. So acknowledging the dangers of making sweeping statements, I'd offer the following factors:

1. A unique political system which is geared towards protecting established interests to a degree that is occasionally quite remarkable. This includes the structure of government itself (everything from the particular division of political power and the operation of Congress to the weakness of local government in most of the country; the latter is important because it prevented/prevents the development of radical bridgeheads like Poplar, County Durham or the Rhondda), but also the structure of the two political parties, which, as I keep going on and on about, aren't really political parties in a conventional sense.

2. An extremely conservative political discourse, with roots in America's only slightly odd take on liberalism. Now that liberalism is dead as a political project* (we're now quite close to the 100th anniversary of that, by the way) all political discourses that are rooted in it will inevitably be highly conservative in practice because alternatives to the language of individual rights will not be tolerated. The worship of the Constitution and so on is a big part of this.

3. America's unique social structure and perceptions of class. Which, in turn, is linked into a whole host of other factors; the legacy of slavery, centuries of mass immigration from a huge range of other countries (and the way that different groups of immigrants turned - and turn - to different types of work), the extraordinary power of American employers over their workers (including their willingness to turn to violence; interesting that this was also true of France, another country with politics that can take a while to explain satisfactorily), and the fact that, almost uniquely, capitalism actually delivered (note past tense) for most working class Americans more-or-less on its own. Always several generations down the line, mind, but that may actually have encouraged conservative sentiment.

Plenty of other things as well, I suppose. And all that I've written can be neatly filed under 'gross generalisation'. I've just realised that I used the word 'unique' a lot. I must stress that this isn't because I believe in American Exceptionalism (or any such other nonsense), but because I tend to think that everywhere is unique, even if there are always similarities with other places. It's the similarities that are usually the interesting things.

One final thing though. It's interesting to note that many of the great centres of American radical sentiment are now noted for their conservatism; Northern Louisiana for example. I mean, there you have an area that gave remarkably strong support for the Socialist Party of America and later (and this time overwhelmingly) for Huey Long, but which by the 1990s was the great stronghold of, well, David Duke.

*If not in other respects.
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« Reply #21 on: July 21, 2011, 11:58:53 am »
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What really befuddles me isn't so much the fiscal conservatism of the US, it's the saliency of social/cultural matters and the continuous struggle over them.

Here in Greece, arguably the most socially conservative of European western democracies, abortion was legalized thirty years ago with little fuss, after being accepted practice for much longer, and nobody has ever talked about it again.
Gay people were never targeted for ridicule and condemnation by our (powerful) Orthodox church and its conservative political allies.
And while anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise due to our economic hardships, there is nowhere near the venom and hate of people like Tom Tancredo and Steve King.  

Ever heard of Le Pen, Bossi, Haider, Kjaersgaard, etc, etc?

Immigration and racism is one subject where Europe can't really claim to be much better than the US. If we had anything like the US-Mexican border I think racism would be a lot worse than it already is...

If one were to over-generalize in a ridiculous fashion one could say that anyone in Europe who cared about religio nwas born again in the nineteenth century and had to flee to the US. Ergo...

Yeah, thanks about the condescension.

We have the equivalent of the Mexican-American border: it's called the Aegean. And yet until the last couple of years, incidents of xenophobia were very few and far between here. So perhaps it's time for you to stop the overgeneralizations.


No need to be so testy. I wasn't implying that you didn't know that those people existed, I was pointing at them as examples of a pattern.

There is a vast difference between a sea border and a land border. I doubt the share of (Turks, Egyptians?) is the same in Greece as the share of Hispanics in New Mexico or Arizona, but I could be wrong.

Regardless, that might mean that Greece is great when it comes to immigration issues (I'll confess that I'm no expert on that subject) but the general pattern in Europe is certainly not one of tolerance. Especially if we include Eastern Europe in the analysis.
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« Reply #22 on: July 21, 2011, 12:01:52 pm »
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't a rather unpleasant far-right party hold 15 seats in the Greek parliament?
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« Reply #23 on: July 21, 2011, 12:02:52 pm »
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It's a country founded on what you may call conservative ideas. I'm guessing that's really much of the explanation.

I also think it has something to do with how US society was created and even more with how Americans have idealized that process.

This, basically.

What really befuddles me isn't so much the fiscal conservatism of the US, it's the saliency of social/cultural matters and the continuous struggle over them.

Here in Greece, arguably the most socially conservative of European western democracies, abortion was legalized thirty years ago with little fuss, after being accepted practice for much longer, and nobody has ever talked about it again.
Gay people were never targeted for ridicule and condemnation by our (powerful) Orthodox church and its conservative political allies.
And while anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise due to our economic hardships, there is nowhere near the venom and hate of people like Tom Tancredo and Steve King.   

Same, but for much different reasons. Unlike Europeans, I think the problem is not that America is too right-wing, but that Europe is too left-wing.

We don't have true left-wing party that is huge. The Dems are center-right-left and not left wing.
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« Reply #24 on: July 21, 2011, 12:29:40 pm »
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If the size of government isn't liberal or conservative, then what is it?

I know many of you think it is one or the other. I disagree.

It certainly isn't something moderate either. That budget is not moderate.
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