Conservative Absolutism and the Death of Moderate Idealism


One of the Republican Party’s largest problems – the problem that by far lost them the election due to moderates running from their party in droves – is their absolutism. Rape has to be legitimate and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. 94% of scientists that claim climate change is real are all in on a big conspiracy theory (and/or being paid off by the government) and there’s no other way to explain it. If your father rapes you there should be no legal abortion avenue. These and many other absurd absolutist positions have become hallmarks (rather than exceptions) to mainstream conservative ideology – and that ideology is what will demographically destroy the future of the party. 

I have to give credit where it’s due on this – a Tea Party conservative actually espoused a rather moderate position yesterday, and it got her into a lot of hot water with her followers. Regular readers of my blog will recognize her name – Sara Marie Brenner, Ohio Tea Party politician and wife of Ohio State Representative Andrew Brenner. She attempted to discuss the pending New Mexico abortion law (that would make abortion after rape a felony) and gave her (unpopular) opinion: that Plan B should be an optional component in rape kits for women who do not wish to carry a baby conceived in rape. When she put that opinion into cyberspace – an opinion many moderate conservatives historically have allowed (called the “rape and incest exception” in political circles) – you would have thought the world was ending the way her Twitter feed exploded with ultra-conservative hate and infighting (and continues to do so, actually).
Why do I bring this up? It’s simple: conservative absolutism has reached the point to where a far right Tea Party conservative like Brenner is now considered too liberal for some conservatives. I can’t say that I have much sympathy for Brenner in this particular instance though. Like Dana Loesch, Brenner likes to stoke the conservative fires as often as she can on hot button topics. In doing so she’s accumulated a large following of absolutist conservatives foaming at the mouth each time she calls a liberal ignorant (just before tweeting out a message to everyone that she’s blocking them in order to both publicly shame the person as well as have her followers spam-report the person en masse). She should have expected nothing less than a full rebuke upon admitting she believes a moderate ideal on a single issue.

But what does this mean on a larger scale? Like those screaming “liberal” at Brenner for her non-liberal stance on abortion, many ultra-conservatives have begun to shun anything (and anyone) remotely un-conservative by any measure of the word. Just as the Republican demographic is disappearing since grumpy old white men are becoming a minority, their ideology (and its rigid, unforgiving nature) makes no allowances for change. Why else would they constantly refer to what the Founders thought in every argument they make? They can’t escape mid to late-1700’s white male slave-owning land ownership-required ideology. 

What many if not all conservatives like to forget (or perhaps they never learned to begin with) is the notion that the Constitution isn’t just a living, breathing, changing document – but it also was never meant to last this long in its original form. In his famous letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson said:

Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right. It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only. In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be, indeed, if every form of government were so perfectly contrived, that the will of the majority could always be obtained, fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form. The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:459, Papers 15:396

Jefferson made the same appeal for revision or repeal in several other letters, including correspondence to Samuel Kercheval, William Plumer, John Cartwright, and John Wayles Eppes. Of course, conservatives will use the same arguments against this that they use against Jefferson’s famous/infamous “Wall of Separation” letter that lead into the Establishment Clause.
I guess the lesson to be learned is this: when you stoke conservative absolutism as a regular practice, you can’t cry foul when your rabid followers turn on you for moderate thinking. Furthermore, conservative absolutism – a key component in religious movements like Dominionism – will only decrease the party’s power over time as it drives the center further away from the fundamental right. Figures like Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann are ruining the Republican Party, and small-time politicians like Brenner are riding their coat tails in profiteering from the movement while it’s still hot (even in light of the across-the-board national electoral defeat in November). 
While the conservative absolutists and not-quite-moderates eat one another alive across Twitter (in the ever-evident collapse of #TGDN‘s intended purposes of bringing those parties together), liberals must continue to live up to the mantra of cooperation in working toward a better and more progressive nation. Higher education standards, access to adequate health care (including women’s contraceptive access), and LGBT equal rights are all paramount (among other vital issues). As long as we focus on the issues as conservatives continue to fight, we may actually begin to accomplish something.
And for those who clicked through from Twitter wanting to see some of the in-fighting, continue below to see some prime examples:

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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