Theodore Roosevelt said: “The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists property must be the servant and the not the master of the commonwealth.” Paul Ryan said: “We need to defend the morality of a system in America that says you are free…to make money, to create jobs and to do it however you want so long as it’s legal.” Josh Stein said: ““You shut [the clinics] down and women are still going to want to have abortions. We as a state and a nation have been there in the ’60s and ’70s, we know what the consequences are. Please, let us not go back to those days.” Paul Stam said: “In North Carolina you can get an abortion for any reason…That’s something we’ve got to deal with.”
It is clear that Republicans, in North Carolina and nationally, are not true conservatives. If they were, they would not be threatening to return us to the troublesome conditions of the past. For that matter, our Republican leaders have forgotten about the conditions that existed in the first place. Consequently, they think only about ideal scenarios, not the aftermath of repealing successful policies. In short, past liberal successes transferred “conservatism” to the realm of the abstract.
The New Deal buttressed the legitimacy of capitalism, giving free-market fundamentalists the luxury of visualizing a world where everyone accepts the inequities of the market. Roe v. Wade allowed religious fundamentalists to focus on the imagined purity of the fetus rather than the misery of unwanted children. Pro-education, pro-growth Democrats spared North Carolina Republicans from the sight of true poverty.
True conservatives revere the wisdom of history. But a Whiggish hubris animates the Republican agenda. They ignore the dangers of radicalism because of their contempt for our past. McCrory’s complacency stems from this same present-minded ethos. He has never been “rather conservative” in the true sense of the word. It will prove his downfall.