Conservatism certainly seems alive and well in America. For years polls have consistently shown that more Americans identify as conservative than as liberal. In recent decades both branches of Congress, as well as the White House, have often been controlled by Republicans – who generally regard themselves as conservative. “Conservative” Fox News has for some time been the country’s most widely viewed television news source. Rush Limbaugh, who proudly calls himself a conservative, has for decades been the country’s most popular radio talk show host.
But such influence is deceptive.
Over the past century, conservatives have drastically shifted their views, abandoning their stands on one issue after another, including Medicare, federal spending, Martin Luther King Day, and more. On any given issue, the “conservative” view of today is often the “liberal” view of ten years earlier.
When the Franklin Roosevelt administration and a compliant Congress were establishing Social Security during the 1930s, conservatives opposed it. Denouncing it as “socialist,” they pointed out that it’s basically a compulsory old age insurance program. They likewise resisted Medicare in the years before it was established in 1966, calling this federal program “socialized medicine.”
Today not a single prominent politician who regards himself as conservative dares call for dismantling Social Security or Medicare. To the contrary, conservative politicians assure voters that they will “protect” these programs. Conservatives likewise fought the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Although there is still some residual talk of repealing and replacing it, it appears that some form of the Act will remain in place. And just as they eventually accepted the once-despised Social Security and Medicare programs, conservatives very likely will come around to accepting some version of Obamacare.
Just be right, right-wing. Keep it that way.