Now I know your heart, I know your mind… and it’s Conservative, so it’s evil

I finally got around to watching the excellent Four Corners episode on Tony Abbott.  You can see the episode here.

The part I found most fascinating was how the word ‘Conservative’ was used.

LIZ JACKSON (to Nick Minchin): Do you think this means that the party under Tony Abbott will shift to the more conservative side of politics?

NICK MINCHIN: Well look, in the Liberal Party obviously the nature and character of the leader is is influential. But, you know, both Malcolm and Tony are mainstream Liberals, and the Party’s essentially mainstream Liberal.

So I don’t think you’ll see and I don’t detect big changes as a result of this change of leadership.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: You’ve asked me whether he’s more conservative than me and clearly he is; that’s a penetrating glimpse of the obvious to say that.

But I’m not going to run a commentary on Tony Abbott, you know, as as to you know what his policy direction may be; it’s up to him.

What is it about the term ‘Conservative’ that makes it so politically disastrous?  Why is it suddenly a pejorative?

It seems to be the case that Conservatives have increasingly been the red neck, yokel types in Australian politics.  It’s not dumb people who deny anthropogenic climate change.  No, no.  It’s conservatives who do that — as if being reactionary towards science was somehow conservative.  It’s not dumb people who want to treat homosexuals as second class citizens.  No, no.  It’s conservatives.  And the list goes on.  What is particularly strange is that conservatism has been so closely tied with reactionary politics.

Conservatives no longer stand for anything and that’s what made it so easy for them to jump into bed with neo-liberals (for reasons why that might have been, there’s a rather good article written in Inside Story about the issue from the perspective of Paul Samuelson).  Instead of standing for the best (instead of for the popular), they’ve reduced themselves to the tinfoil hat political party.  Instead of giving reasons why our cultural institutions should be considered default rational, they use fear campaigns about all the terrible things that change might bring.  Instead of representing the rational, they appeal to the secret grudges the majority holds towards the minority.

It’s a shame that, historically, it’s been such an effective platform.

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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