Viewpoint

Conservatives: Loving the fight but losing the war?

At Donald Trump rally in an Arizona: The way we bicker, fight, and snipe instead of solving problems – is the Cartooning of America.
At Donald Trump rally in an Arizona: The way we bicker, fight, and snipe instead of solving problems – is the Cartooning of America. AP

John Hood thinks people ought to be able to get beyond political bickering, fighting, and sniping to solve problems.

“There’s a better way to disagree than just calling people names,” Hood told me.

Of course there is, John, but I’d be out of my day job. By the way, you sound like an appeaser.

Hood is president of the John Pope Foundation, which promotes the idea that people in North Carolina should be free “to live, work, pursue individual interests, sustain families – and prosper.” That’s a clearly conservative, almost classically libertarian view.

Hood has gathered a handful of influential conservatives and liberals to find that “better way to disagree.” He says it’s like in debate class when we were assigned to argue against something we believed in. We had to start by getting a thorough handle on the issue from the other point of view; we had to listen, and understand.

“Surely we can do that and not call names, not assume someone who disagrees with you has evil intentions; that they’re Snidely Whiplash or Montgomery Burns.”

Points to Hood for generation-spanning references to Dudley Do-Right and The Simpsons, both of which are cartoons, because what’s happened in the political dialogue the past 20 years – the way we bicker, fight, and snipe instead of solving problems – is the Cartooning of America.

It’s Bugs Bunny vs. Yosemite Sam. Getting votes, viewers, listeners, readers, and clicks is done most effectively by telling people they’re right and the rest of the world is all wrong, in the most extreme, cartoon-like fashion.

So, Republicans are evil, hate children and the poor, and want old people to die broke. Democrats are evil, hate God and guns, and want America to die broke.

It works because people want to have villains to blame. It works because people like to have righteous heroes on their side. It works because what’s actually “indivisible” in America today is the identification people take on with the politicians, personalities, and jerseys that make them feel best about themselves.

It’s all played out with the bravado of professional wrestling and fans love it. Right now the Ric Flair of politics is Donald Trump. He should start shouting, “Woo!”

But what if, at least as far as conservatism is concerned, it’s all wrong?

“The Left has interpreted and reacted to all this in ways that help them get their programs done,” Hood says.

He’s right.

Through the two-decade high tide of Fox News, typical conservative talk radio, the Drudge Report and similar sites; despite the traditionally liberal media losing its hold on news coverage and commentary – the federal government has grown more expansive and powerful.

We now have the TSA, Patriot Act, bank and auto industry bailouts, No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Bush Prescription Drug Bill, Obamacare, and more. All despite the fact that Republicans have controlled the White House for eight years, the Senate for 12 and the U.S. House for 18.

Hood says the labeling, name calling, and heated rhetoric have all served to advance government’s growth and power.

“Conservatives who play this game,” he said, “are actually helping the Left.”

Such an appeaser.

Keith Larson can be heard weekdays 9 a.m. - Noon on WBT AM/FM.

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