I have mentioned numerous times in past videos about my personal political affiliations, but for those who are new and haven’t watched through my backlog, I am a registered Republican, and I consider myself to be a recovering activist. I was a member of my community college’s chapter of the College Republicans for 5 years, serving in every formal officer role, as well as a few informal ones. I was a voting member of the local GOP central committee, and an active member of my local Tea Party until about 2012. In all of these capacities I volunteered for political campaigns for local candidates to the House of Representatives, The State Assembly, County Board of Supervisors, Mayor, and city council.
In terms of ideology I have always thought of myself as someone who is, generally speaking, on the right. If you are a fan of the political compass I am somewhere in this quadrant. I bring all of this up in order to demonstrate my credentials as a right-winger or conservative, and so you know that I’m not some generic lefty criticizing the right. I have a lot of negative opinions I could share about the modern left, but most of them aren’t unique. However I could make that article at a later point if there’s enough demand for it, but for now these are, what I believe to be, the four biggest mistakes made by the political right in America in my lifetime. For context, that’s from 1990 to the present.
First, the politicization of Patriotism. What do I mean by this? Well, in America the right is pretty patriotic. Now, from the perspective of foreigners, all Americans seem pretty patriotic in comparison with people in other countries, but within the American context the right is seen as having a near monopoly on the expression of patriotism. They unabashedly wave the flag, support the troops, and respect the symbols of America. In comparison the political left is far less supportive. This is due in part to their political alignment with minority groups, many of whom have either in the past or to some degree in the present have felt persecuted by what they believe are discriminatory policies. However, another big reason for this, especially in the current year, I believe go back to the Presidency of George W. Bush.
Bush 43 was a very controversial president when he came into office, and if you think the level of vitriol thrown at Donald Trump is unprecedented, than you either aren’t old enough to remember the Bush years, or you are deceiving yourself into thinking that politics only got ugly when Trump came into office. Due to him coming into office despite not winning the popular vote, many saw President Bush as illegitimate, but after 9/11 his star rose. He received huge waves of popular support, and the country seemed in unison when it came to the war in Afghanistan. But as the Iraq War began this popularity began to falter, and many people began to revive the belief that he was an illegitimate president.
So, in response to this many on the right began to push this narrative. “If you don’t support the President than you don’t support the war. And if you don’t support the war, then you don’t support the troops. And if you don’t support the troops, than you are supporting the terrorists.” Looking back on this time I remember that I fell for this logic. I was in my early teens, and I came from a very Christian home. Bush was the first president since Carter to openly display his Christian faith, which is a big reason why my family and many others supported him. With this mantra the right began to politicize patriotism. They created this false dichotomy that the only way to be a patriotic American was to support President Bush, and all those who didn’t were anti-American terrorist supporters.
Now, not everyone, or even a majority of the left, fell for this, but many did. There were quite a few, especially on the fringe, that embraced this belief that the best and only way to fight the Republicans and their agenda was to be anti-American. And for the young people, especially millennials around my age, this seed was planted. That’s how you get people AOC. The right planted the seed of its future adversary itself during the Bush years, and helped to further polarize the country.
Conflating Socialism and Welfarism
The second biggest mistake, in my opinion, was the conflating of Welfarism and Socialism during the Obama years. Many people, including myself, believed that Obama was a socialist and wanted to push socialist policies, and to an extent we were right. Obama was very open to expanding redistributive policies and programs, and increasing government control of private industry. That’s what the affordable care act was about, and after the Republicans gained control of the House in 2010 President Obama continued his agenda to have greater government control over private industry through the rules-making process. Given these facts many on the right pushed forward this narrative that Obama and the Democrats wanted to make America a socialist country.
The problem with this, however, is that we conflated a redistributive welfare state with full on government ownership of the means of production. The justification you would usually get from the right over this was that redistribution of wealth was also a part of socialism, and although that was technically true, most Democrats at the time weren’t proposing government ownership over the means of production. On the right we believed that the growth of welfarism and the regulatory state would politically condition people to accept government ownership of industry.
Now, whether that’s the case or not is uncertain, but what this conflating did do, however, is allow actual socialists like Bernie Sanders to convince a generation of Americans, i.e., Millennials, that Socialism is just government spending. And if you get people to accept that government spending is the same as socialism, you can get them accept more things are socialism. And so this informal mantra is born. “If socialism is just government spending, and government spending is good, than the other aspects of socialism must be good as well.”
This also had a similar effect as the previous reason. The Republicans were ardently anti-socialist in their rhetoric, and so if you wanted to oppose the Republicans and their agenda, you should embrace full blown socialism. Just like with Politicizing Patriotism, they had planted the seeds of their future opposition.
Nothing But Tax Cuts
The third biggest mistake the political right has made, in my opinion, is the refusal to implement actual new policies into government when they had the chance. In my previous video on the Political Toxicity Cycle, I talk about the Republican Party refusing to use their congressional power to make meaningful changes. Since the Republicans were excluded from most political decisions in Congress between 1931 and 1995, once they finally gained control of congress again they have been too afraid of losing control of congress again to implement many of their ideas.
They used to have a bunch that they always talked about implementing, like a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, term limits, federal restrictions on abortion, ending the practice of automatically taking social security taxes out of pay checks before employees receive them, reforming entitlements, and all sorts of other things. Instead, all they do now is pass tax cuts when a Republican is in the White House. In contrast look at what the Democrats do when they regain control of congress. Once they had both Congress and the presidency under their control they passed both the Stimulus Package and the Affordable Care Act, two pieces of hyper-partisan legislation, of which we are still dealing with the repercussions of today, whereas the Republicans pass a tax cut that only lasts 10 years, which they will have to wait until they control the White House again to pass. Never anything new.
Giving the Benefit of the Doubt Too Much
The fourth biggest mistake was one I had to come to recently, and that is the right’s tendency to give the benefit of the doubt too often when it comes to accusations of racism.
If you’re someone on the right you’re all too used to hearing that either you or some commentator you follow are racist because you disagree with the ideology or policy positions of someone on the left. This happened all to often during the Obama years, when all of his critics were labeled as racists. Past that point we have seen the phrase “dog whistle” come into more frequent use; the idea that someone is engaging in secret coded racism that provides a cover of plausible deniability. Every Republican since Barry Goldwater has had to face accusations of them being a racist, and more often than not it was a false accusation. Given this history it’s understandable that people on the American right might be willing to give the benefit of the doubt to those accused of it. This courtesy is often extended to anyone who attacks the left, including those who may have a less than reputable character.
We might write it off as just someone telling an edgy joke. Somebody who doesn’t conform to political correctness. In some cases it’s just an older person who, due to the time they were born an raised in, simply have an antiquated view on race, sex, and religion. Many of these people are our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We don’t want to completely write them out of our lives. A recent article on Vox asked conservatives if the left was right on race. Although it seemed to be a genuine effort by someone on the left to reach out to those on the right, it seemed completely blind to the culpability the left has in fostering this issue. Jonah Goldberg wrote a great response to this, and in it he explains that the right doesn’t automatically crucify someone for non-progressive positions on issues simply because there’s more to that person than that one thing.
However, in a time when voices on the right are being silenced on social media platforms, many have taken this all or nothing defense of those who attack the left. We will defend everything they say, because we share a common foe that is the Culturally Marxist Left (and if my using that phrase is giving you red flags, don’t worry, I will address this issue in either a future video or article). But I want to implore my fellow citizens who are also right of center that we shouldn’t be defending this figures anywhere past the point of their constitutional rights. Nobody has the right to a positive reputation, especially if it is not deserved.
So those are what I, as a conservative, see as the biggest mistakes the right has made in my lifetime. If you’re a conservative as well, what are some other mistakes you think the fight has made in the last 30 years. And if you’re on the left, would you be interested in me making a video about the biggest mistakes the political left has made in this same time period. Let me know down in the comments below. I’ll also set up a poll in the cards in the upper right over whether I should make that video.
If you enjoyed this look into the mistakes of the political right, perhaps you’ll enjoy this previous video about the history of the Republican Party.