Recently the Opinion section published an article called “The Elephant in the Room,” in which Jenny Davis calls for conservatives on campus to speak up in order to provide a voice that has been silent on this campus for some time. I, as a moderate conservative, shall attempt to provide that voice. It should be noted: in some cases I am expressing views that I agree with and in others I am expressing views I don’t agree with and will explain why.
Abortion: In a country where our politics are complex, abortion is one of those issues that can turn entire demographics into single-issue voters. Simply put, many conservatives are pro-life and vote for pro-life candidates. When I engaged pro-life supporters in conversation, I quickly realized this is not a women’s rights issue for them. They believe that abortion is government-sanctioned murder, and that there should be a voice for the unborn since they can’t speak for themselves. A response I once got is, “If a woman were to commit murder, it wouldn’t be a women’s right issue, it would be a murder case. Abortion is the same thing.”
I personally am pro-choice, as I do not think the government should be allowed any measure of jurisdiction over a person’s body. I do believe, though, that abortion is ethically and morally wrong, as long as the fetus is not a product of rape or incest. More importantly, this is a private issue, and one that I personally wish conservatives would pursue in the private arena.
Religion: The discussion of abortion leads me to discussing the role of religion. Religion is much more than a priest’s droning on and on and on in front of a congregation: it is a system of morals. Despite liberals’ claims that the United States’ founders were not religious, religion played a huge part in the formation of America, specifically the morals and ideals of Protestant individualism. It’s what a virtuous citizen looks like: hard working, independent, productive, personally accountable, charitable, and frugal. Honestly, I like this version of a virtuous American. This is why, in an oversimplified way, so many conservatives are against welfare; they believe a hard-working American never needs welfare or that it should be very temporary. I will elaborate on this later. If you take conservative religiousness as simply a system of morals, then the divide between liberals and conservatives isn’t as wide as you think. Liberals have their own system of morals: openness, inclusiveness, acceptance, charity, and so on. We both want to promote the idea of a virtuous citizen, but we disagree on what that citizen looks like. Calling conservatives “religious right-wing nut jobs” is divisive and toxic, just as calling liberals “left-wing godless nut jobs” is detrimental. Toning down the vitriol is essential to working together again.
Welfare: I have talked to social workers who have become vehement conservatives after some experience doing their jobs. Conservatives are derided for being “anti-poor” or accused of thinking that “the poor are lazy,” but there is anecdotal evidence to support the fact that there are many people on the government dime looking for ways to keep the free money flowing. Conservatives see increasing the aid to these people as a thinly veiled way for Democrats to use government money to buy votes and to pay people to stay at home instead of committing crimes.
My own views on welfare were solidified when I went to Haiti in 2010 after the earthquake. The modern welfare state is not a pretty picture. I believe that given our nation’s wealth, we can afford to provide a certain baseline living for every citizen. I also think, though, that our current welfare system is destroying communities. This is a view that I share with political scientist Michael Sandel. Welfare is more destructive and more addictive than heroin, and it makes people beholden to a bureaucrat who lives thousands of miles away rather to their local communities. It isolates people and perpetuates cycles of poverty. Conservatives want to reform welfare and to build up local communities, just as Robert F. Kennedy tried to do. I would support a system in which welfare recipients perform some form of community service or are provided assistance while they go to community college. That way, people would feel as though they have earned their money from the government, a feeling which would in turn empower them and make them free. This would also encourage more Americans to get off welfare, become productive, and pay back the taxpayers via taxes taken out of their paychecks once they themselves are employed.
Gay Marriage: Stances on gay marriage are usually cultural and can transcend political party lines. Many Hispanic and black Democrats have historically been anti-gay marriage and routinely vote against state bills, such as the one in California, that would legalize same-sex marriage. Another reason for the anti-gay marriage position is that Republicans have a specific view of what makes a virtuous citizen, and specific views on how to promote the next generation of virtuous citizens—namely, through the traditional family, a male and female who are married and raise their children to be “good” Americans. In their minds, gay marriage short-circuits this “natural order” and creates or promotes the existence of citizens who are partly responsible for the dysfunction that is present in today’s society.
I do not agree with this view, but I am simply providing an explanation for this perspective to the best of my ability from my research and conversations. I hope that conservatives change their views on this topic. Simply put, I cannot fathom how a group of people that believes the government should keep out of a person’s private life can turn around and endorse the government’s dictating whom one can and cannot marry.
Healthcare: Let it be known that conservatives want healthcare to be accessible to everyone; we just disagree on how to implement that goal. The government, while good for some things, is incredibly inefficient and bureaucratic. Do you really want the same type of people who run the DMV to be in charge of running your healthcare? Instead, via the private market, conservatives want to drive down costs while leaving the individual in charge and in power of one’s healthcare decisions. Yes, I know that other countries have a single-payer system that supposedly works. But those countries also have small, homogeneous populations that are subsidized by the United States military and pharmaceutical companies. It is easy to pay for health care when the U.S. government is nearby, providing military power and drugs.
Health insurance itself is the problem: it encourages waste and overspending. By increasing competition among health insurance companies, or removing them altogether, healthcare providers will be forced to price services that reflect actual costs. As it stands, healthcare providers issue bills to customers expecting them to be negotiated down. This favors insurance companies and leaves individuals in an inferior negotiating position.
I am, however, in favor of “OS” (OH SHIT) insurance being provided by the government in a single-payer style system. That means that things such as cancer and other debilitating diseases or injuries will be covered by the government, but the day-to-day health costs are paid for by the individual. I believe this will significantly cut down on medical bankruptcies.
Stascavage is a member of the class of 2018.