By James Bishop, Jr.
(November 25, 2013)
In politics absurdity is not a handicap
In his cups, Doug Rigby, an author in Sedona’s early days, before all the experts in planning and parking arrived, loved to talk. In particular, he loved to tell visitors at the Rainbow Inn saloon that planet Earth, with all its wars, tyrants, dictators, half-wit politicians, crooks and gamblers, battle-hungry generals was here for the simple reason that the Gods needed something to amuse them, so easily bored they can be, from time to time.
Indeed, with all the cutting and running nowadays in Washington where Nixon, a conservative, is now being as a attacked as a left wing liberal for having signed environmental laws; where the U.S. Congress is on the verge of cutting food stamps to the poor, while at the same time handing more benefits to corporate farmers for them not to plant—and calling themselves conservatives.
History tells us a conservative is one with traditional views and values along the lines of Teddy Roosevelt, Stew Udall, Robert Byrd from West Virginia, forgetting hard-right Republican Senator Trent Lott who supported the Endangered Species Act—and believed the poor should not be ignored.
Really? So what’s happening now?
Well, not even a scorecard helps! There’s the New Left and the Old Right, there’s the Old left and there’s the New Right, the Progressives v. Reactionaries—labels I submit are as useless as a shape-shifting, back shooting, city council persons. Oddly to be sure, congressional efforts are aimed at easing corporate taxes, (now the lowest since the 1950s), even subsidizing corporate farmers not to plant all while voting to lower food stamps for the hungry. Some say that’s conservative. Others say the very idea of conservatism is not conservative at all, just led by a gang of well-dressed congressmen and women hell bent on repealing the 20th century, the New Deal, and Social Security. Is that leaning Left or Right? Does it matter?
When D.H. Lawrence got the blues thinking about the future, he made some marmalade. “It is amazing,” he once quipped, “how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.”
Americans may soon be running out of floors to scrub for the labels being tossed around—like left, center and right—have become a rhetorical bouillabaisse unmatched since Teddy Roosevelt wished to be called a Progressive. Forget labels for Teddy took on the Robber Barons early in the 20th century, some of whom were Harvard classmates He courted the press and was fearless as when he charged that when the obstinate, often corrupt Senate rises to vote, “ Senators do not know whether to answer Present or Not Guilty.”
Nowadays, Teddy, a stanch conservative if there ever there was one, would undoubtedly be pilloried as a liberal after cracking down on unhealthy meat combines, not forgetting dissecting Standard Oil. In the same vein, when the legendary biologist, Rachel Carson exposed America’s pesticide threat in Silent Spring, conservatives blasted her for communist sympathies. Years later when Nixon, a real conservative, acted to ban DDT there were rumors that he might have become a pinko; those rumors picked up support when he was seen suppering with Chinese communist leaders.
What do labels Left and Right mean actually? During the Kennedy administration, major efforts were made to police other countries, heading them toward Democracy while conservative councils cried for caution, even pleading them to stay home. In the early 2000s, this dynamic was reversed. Conservatives were dying to invade faraway lands while the so-called Left fought mostly against such actions.
Nowadays, so-called conservatives are eyeing the forest service and all federal agencies involved with environmental issues working to have them nullified, along with the laws that created them. Truth be told those positions are neither Left nor Right.
But don’t throw in the towel, yet. One by the one, true conservatives are breaking ranks and going public. In public, and not reported well by the press, the President of the New York Fed, William Dudley threw some high hard ones at a financial gathering sounding at times like the financial editor is this dreaded sheet. Of large banks he said that he sees “an apparent lack of respect for law, regulation and the public trust…there is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions….”
Another voice was recently heard from a tough conservative from Maine who made fortunes on Wall Street, then had an epiphany. Bob Monks, long-time supporter the Right, is his name and here’s what we had to say:
“Big companies have captured the political system. Chief executives have captured corporations, ensuring that our nation is now run by a handful of business managers pursuing their own narrow interests.”
As Doug Rigby once quipped after an adult beverage at the Rim Rock Hilton, “truth exists. Only lies are invented.”