The most popular strands of ideological thought in America are Liberalism, Conservatism, and Libertarianism. I've been examining the various subdivisions thereof in search of something to promote as the way forward because most Americans have me pegged as a left-winger. Actually, according to Political Compass, I'm Left-Libertarian. I'd argue that the questions they ask are hardly relevant to me and don't address the issues I deem important at all.
The conservative conundrum
I'm socially conservative but wouldn't dream of imposing my ideology or religious convictions on others. The reason I'm so tolerant and willing to get along with other people is that, after conversations with my fellow G+ users, I've come to realise there's not a one-size-fits-all solution to the issues at hand. The Left-Liberals understand this, but the Right doesn't, and seeks to practice a form of social Darwinism that seeks to delegate social services to the charities in order to divest the state of responsibility for the indigent poor. The thing is, charities can't take in the amount of money required to help the poor in a the current economic climate and simply haven't got the funds to cope with the needs of the people. Besides, they often limit the care they provide to certain people or to particular services.
The Almighty Market idol has feet of clay
The Right is also geared to shifting other essential services to private enterprise, and Libertarians often tell me that the market is the answer to all, as if there's no such thing as price gouging or malfeasance. They have this blue-sky ideal view of a Libertarian society that defies reality to such a degree that when I point out examples of their ideology in practice going horribly wrong, they tell me that the people involved were doin' it wrong. The problem is, they're trying to fit people to their ideology, instead of fitting their ideology to the people. Every ideology that isn't fitted to the needs of the people will fail in practice, it's as simple as that.
Why do you think China allows private enterprise now? Communism has the same problem: people need to be "educated" to fit the ideology, but that doesn't stop them being human any more than "educating" them to be Libertarian does.
American conservatism and its consequences
American conservatives will tell you that they want to keep the status quo. Bear in mind that they vary in opinion from the moderate "designated driver" types that simply want to keep order (I consider myself to be in that bracket) to racist, religious authoritarians and YOYO (you're on your own) Libertarians. The far right evangelicals have hijacked the Repubican Party and pushed out the moderates, branding them "liberals" for refusing to follow them in everything. This has led to schism in the Party because the members don't all march in lockstep, as indended. They've fractured into factions, the most popular ones being Libertarian, religious authoritarian, and neoconservative.
The far right, formerly fringe members use shaming to pull the others further to the right than they'd like to go so they can claim orthodoxy. They're the ones making all the noise and since they can't agree on anything, it's a lot like watching monkeys flinging poo at each other in the zoo. To be fair, not all conservatives are Republicans, but the most-quoted ones are, and they're the ones that American conservatism is measured by, particularly by foreigners like me, because that's what makes the news.
What they want
What the Republican leaders actually want is to go back in time to the 1950s and keep that status quo, with all that's entailed for minorities, the poor, and people with disabilities. The War on Women has produced some shameful consequences, including rapists having the right to contact with the children their victims are now forced to bear, and unwanted children being born and raised at the expense of the states that won't provide contraception for free as a public good. Remember, rape victims won't be able to get abortions if the Republicans get into office because they're going to make it a constitutional amendment and they'll be pushing abstinence instead of sex education.
How they are perceived
To say that Republicans are idiots is to state the matter mildly. When facts are a matter of opinion, something is wrong. It explains this far-right fellow, who cites only right-wing sources of information in debates because they're the only ones he will accept. Debating with them is ineffective because they won't compromise, never admit to being wrong, and change the subject when cornered, as commenter Rich White does on this thread. They're prone to conspiracy theories and seem to think that good governance and social policies are socialism, which must be rejected, whatever the benefits, because it might disadvantage someone else somewhere, mostly by redistributing wealth, which is considered to be the ultimate evil. God forbid that a worker should get a fair wage if the boss has to take a cut in his own to fund it. He must rely on the jobs market to find a better paid job; the government has no right to "force" an employer to provide better wages or working conditions for the worker. I've been reading for the past few days how the Republican media sites are reporting the most outrageous lies about President Obama's mother, of all things. There's also the matter of the popular anti-Obama movie 2016: Obama's America being made and released in theatres in America. I haven't even got started on the alleged skewed polls.
Where is conservatism going?
"To hell in a handbasket" is too easy to say. People are angry and desperate, and in those circumstances, they'll do what they think is best for them, and selfishness is the first port of call. "Me and mine" is the refrain among those Libertarians I've had the fiercest debates with. The moderates have tried to work towards a compromise, as moderates will. When commenter Andrew Eva and I got talking on my "What's a Libetarian?" thread on Google Plus, we talked about the importance of the nation and the community, and arrived at the conclusion that the divisions in American society are mostly due to the notion of community ending at the front door. We've got to build a national community if we're to get anywhere.
The biggest problem with extreme individualism is interoperability. There needs to be some standardization to make things work or they will only work locally and won't scale. However, the problem with extreme collectivism is stagnation. You have to have wiggle-room. Communism doesn't provide that, it's why I reject it. However, throwing away the good ideas from other ideologies because it doesn't match yours is irrational. As I've already said, you have to match your ideology to the people, not the other way around. If we're going to create a conservatism that works in practice we're going to have to change the way we define it.
A new ideology
We need a new ideology for conservatism that means effectively being the designated driver for our society. We need to provide a sober, responsible face to the public and insist on honesty and integrity in our private and business dealings. We need to be capable stewards and managers of our resources who can care for the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in a way that empowers them to care for themselves as much as possible. This means encouraging our peers to take responsibility for community building in a way that provides rights and responsibilities for each other in equal measure. If you have a rights-heavy society, you get a mess. An over-responsible society breeds the nanny state and that's the wrong way to go. The answer, as I always say, is usually in the middle. Conservatives need to rebrand and repackage themselves if we're going to take them seriously. Recovery begins with objective thinking and fact-based decision making. If they can't do that, the Republican party will implode as the various factions become radicalised and try to start a civil war over ideology. That doesn't have to happen.