Monday, June 7, 2010

What, pray tell, can Karl Giberson's idea of a bad conservative be?!

I was reading The Nation's big article on the Templeton Foundation, and this quote from Karl Giberson really struck me:

According to his lifelong friend Jay Norwalk, Templeton "is exceedingly scrupulous about keeping his personal life separate from the foundation." By most accounts, this has been the case. Physicist Karl Giberson, a self-described liberal who has been a close collaborator on various foundation projects, adds, "To me, Jack Templeton represents the way you want conservatives to be."

Really??? We already knew Giberson is no friend of aggressive secularism, but even still, this really surprised me. Putting aside what one thinks of the Templeton Foundation, it seems rather odd to me that a self-professed liberal would be praising Jack Templeton's politics, in light of this fact from the prior paragraph in The Nation's article:

Jack Templeton's money has also gone to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and to ads by the neoconservative group Freedom's Watch. In 2008 he and his wife gave more than $1 million to support California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.

Now, I know Giberson was praising Templeton's (alleged) separation of his politics from his personal life. But seriously? This is "the way want conservatives to be?!?" Funding attack ads that are blatantly false? Financing a campaign to deny minority rights at the ballot box?

I'm sorry, Giberson, but that's not even close to how I want conservatives to be. As has been pointed out numerous times by folks such as Andrew Sullivan, a real conservative ought to be in favor of gay marriage, as it represents an expansion of actual (non-fake) family values, as well as possibly a significant cost savings according to recent analysis. And anyway, how can someone who professes to believe in small government want a whole separate constitutional amendment specifically defining marriage?

I do think that a conservative counterbalance is an important factor in a healthy representative democracy. But only if it's actual conservatism. The way I want conservatives to be is: skeptical of any type of increased spending (multi-trillion dollar nation-building adventures used to be something liberals did and conservatives criticized), generally opposed to laws that impinge on personal freedom for a supposed societal benefit (it's supposed to be liberals that are trying to legislate people into being good, isn't it?), and supportive of actual (non-fake) constitutional principles.

I say this as an unapologetic liberal -- despite having a certain libertarian idealistic streak, I recognize that on the Real Planet Earth, expansive social programs are both humane and economically beneficial in the long run; that despite the risk of totalitarianism it entails, the government does sometimes have to tell people (and especially businesses) how to behave; and that sometimes social progress needs to be helped along by governmental compensation of past mistakes (i.e. affirmative action and such). But there also needs to be a sane opposing force to help keep government action in check.

Tea Partiers and gay marriage opponents and Jack Templeton are not that sane opposing force. They are assholes and bigots, and are either stupid, ignorant, crazy, immoral, or some combination of the four. If Giberson is saying that the ideal conservative is a bigot who is nice to his liberal friends in person, but still uses his wealth and power to quash the rights of minorities, I have one thing to say to him: Fuck off.

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