I get asked a lot who my choice in presidential candidate is for this upcoming election. It’s a short answer, but I think people should hear how I got there.
I grew up full on conservative, Republican, WASP, in a place with minimal poverty, great schools, low crime, and lots of churches.
My image of liberals could be summed up: they don’t think babies are people, they want to take your money and give it to people who don’t work, they aren’t willing to do what it takes to defend America, they want rampant homosexuality and debauchery, and they love big government policies that reflect no real economic understanding.
I valued personal responsibility, as a good citizen should. That meant that if you wanted money, you needed to work for it. If you wanted freedom, you needed to fight for it. It wasn’t the government’s job to do everything for you.
I still believe those things. I guess that still makes me conservative in some sense.
I’ve written recently about the damaging effects of inequality in capitalism and moralization of wealth and class. I wrote about those things because how my conservatism is expressed has changed due to exposure.
What happens when working hard no longer yields enough money to survive? The common conservative position is that they should have gotten a better job, they shouldn’t have had kids, and so on.
What happens when discrimination occurs due to race, gender, etc? The common conservative position is to either deny that this happens or to point the finger at the discriminated, telling them that they should work harder to overcome being black or a woman, etc.
What happens when a company destroys local drinking water? The common conservative position is “go away hippie.”
What happens when people move to America for the opportunity to work? The common conservative position is xenophobia: accusing them of taking our jobs, women, etc.
The list goes on. Now minimum wage, labor laws, and unions are getting in the way of “making America great again.” They are “bad for corporate growth”. Giving billions in tax breaks to corporations who don’t even pay their employees enough money to afford basic needs like healthcare is apparently the conservative thing to do. (They even have the nerve to turn around and ask the state to support their basic needs).
They constantly bemoan taxes on corporations and the rich. I think many have forgotten that income for the top marginal tax rate and capital gains taxes have fallen by more than 30% since 1970. (Yep, in the good old days Republicans want back so much, we taxed the rich way higher)
Republican candidates are funded by huge donors. Many bills in Washington are bought and paid for by big money. They used their power to attack American privacy and use military might to reinforce police and protect American “economic interests” abroad. These economic interests often consist of fossil fuels and slave labor.
Government intervention in these areas is taboo.
But, we do call for government intervention in any country that supplies our oil. And in Israel. We proudly proclaim them our ally and reinforce them as a means of wielding influence in the Middle East. Well, it worked. Due to Israel’s demolishing of native Palestinian homes and the killing of all who resist, Israel is committing human rights abuses on a massive scale. That is our influence. That is our legacy there.
For those frustrated with my focus on Republicans so far (which I am only doing because I want to show how they aren’t actually conservative), I will sadly say that the Democratic party is guilty of most, if not all, of the above crimes as well.
My conservative ideal is an America where the rich can’t oppress the poor. Where white can’t oppress black. Where people searching for opportunity can come and thrive. Where our presence in the world brings prosperity, not death.
Somehow, the Republican candidates have convinced conservatives that they deliver all this and more.
Namely, they have politicized Christianity. And we happily let them do it.
Paired up with this wonderful cocktail of corporate welfare and death are good old “Biblical values”. As I grew to understand more about the Bible, I realized that it has a lot to say about this stuff. Mostly that it’s bad.
But, somehow Christianity got co-opted into this ridiculously oppressive form of conservatism because they convinced us that if we don’t make laws against specific “sins”, our country will be destroyed. It will decay and fall apart from the inside.
Now, our churches feel the need to convince everyone of why their sin will destroy America and that God is sad.
These candidates will do and say anything that sounds Christian just so they will get a Christian vote. Churches and Republican candidates alike have started speaking the same political language: scapegoating certain groups and activities while promoting others.
How far off track does the church need to get before “Christians” start realizing what has happened? (I put Christians in quotes there because if being a Christian can mean promoting violence and discrimination, then I’m not sure what that word means anymore).
Christians have been co-opted in supporting Israel despite its human rights abuses out of some twisted idea that it has something to do with God.
One might have thought that Christians praising the use of atomic weapons on civilian populations might have woken us up.
One might have thought that when the church started praising George W. Bush for being a bastion of morality as he condemned public services for the poor while ordering the deaths of thousands in a small, poor country threatening our oil reserves would have woken us up.
But, now we are here, listening to some of the brethren refer to our current president as the “anti-christ” (shows how well they know the Bible). At some point you have to open your eyes and realize that the Republican party isn’t interested in being Christian, it is interested in making Christians into Republicans. And it has done that marvelously well.
Christianity should be promoting peace. It should be welcoming people. It should be an example of morality, not a guardian of it. It should be loving people even if they are enemies, not condemning them. Christianity should be a refuge, not a court of law.
Republican conservatism does not represent Christianity at all anymore.
So, where does this leave me?
I became a libertarian-leaning sort in the wake of my economic education. I found my conservatism expressing itself in a way that valued incentives for work and innovation and penalties for the opposite. Leaving people up to their own devices, to live the sort of life they want to live, seemed reasonable to me. Also, understanding how people respond behaviorally to different economic phenomena led me to believe that government interference in these economic phenomena would just make things worse.
I still believe those things, to a certain extent, as well.
I want to see many of the institutions and big money interests that uphold the current system of violence, destruction, environmental degradation, racism, and slavery destroyed so that a more pure freedom for the individual can exist. As stated in a recent article on this subject, “I want to live in an America where common-sense tells me to wear a seat-belt, not an officer with a gun.” I want to be able to work hard and not have what is mine taken from me unjustly.
But, now we have a system where the government subsidizes corporations that destroy communities. Where racism is strong, against Latino and African Americans. Where the quality of your education is determined by where you were born, not how hard you worked. Where the poor have no way to escape poverty. The government sucks money out of the poor and middle class and hands it back to corporations or puts it in their own pocket.
The only candidate with a chance of winning the presidency who isn’t funded by big money interests is Bernie Sanders.
I’m not a socialist. To everyone out there who doesn’t want to be like Europe, or doesn’t want their success penalized, or doesn’t want the government to control every aspect of life, or force everyone to live equal and similar lives:
I get it.
I really do. There are some things in the USA, even if they are sometimes faint or only memories, that make this the only place in the world I want to live. I love this country.
But, you won’t see me putting up an American flag because, despite loving so many things about where I live, I cannot endorse the system that spits people out into the street on the regular and that allows kids who can’t read to graduate high school and that perpetuates death all over the world.
My Christianity wants to see this country become a place that regards all human life with great dignity and disregard for age, race, creed, gender, sexuality, etc. A place where the people who made mistakes and need help can find it easily. Where education and brotherly love is abundant.
Common conservatism says that’s socialist. It’s too much like “communism.”
Real conservatism says we should all be responsible for making that a reality. Unfortunately, many people, especially common conservatives, are doing nothing to make it so, or are hurting that effort. As are the mainstream liberals.
So, my choice is Bernie. I want a candidate who represents a different system. I want less interference in my day to day lifestyle choices and I want more interference on behalf of those who can no longer help themselves. Looking at his proposed policies, they will (aside from the far-off single payer healthcare) have very little impact on me, but a lot of positive impact on the poor. It will also do a lot to undo all the corporate welfare that exists in the US right now.
He’s not sucking up to my Christianity at all. He’s not pretending. But he is advocating for justice for the oppressed. And I love him for it.
I have a bachelors in Economics and Political Science and my professional expertise is in Federal Healthcare Infrastructure. I’d be glad to elaborate on any of my positions or discuss specific policy details with anyone who asks. Thanks for reading.