Are Those Guys Actually Conservative?

On the day I’m writing this column, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the 1864 law on abortion, a near-complete ban, is now the law. This is horrible, and the details and the response (for instance to redouble efforts to get AAA petition signatures) will be expanded on by many sources. While shocking, the decision by our state supreme court was not deeply surprising, since the court is known to be quite conservative. But it does bring up a question: What is “conservative”? Is it favoring low taxes, or is it being fiscally responsible? Or is it opposing freedom for women and minorities? Or more generally, is it, “your ideas don’t match my ideas, so my ideas win”?

But it does bring up a question: What is “conservative”?

Is it favoring low taxes, or is it being fiscally responsible? Or is it opposing freedom for women and minorities? Or more generally, is it, “your ideas don’t match my ideas, so my ideas win”?

Conservative vs liberal ain’t what it used to be

If conservatism used to refer to minimizing the reach of government, why would conservatives in the legislature or the state supreme court want to impose their will on the reproductive freedom of millions of women? And it’s not just about abortion. Here in Arizona, we also have a huge budget deficit. This is partly due to tax cuts, partly due to ESAs, and partly due to last year’s big giveaways to legislators’ pet projects. Why do so-called conservatives promote so many bills to overrule local decisions, and to reduce individual freedom (unless it’s about guns)?

Words change

It’s not unusual for a word to change its operational meaning. For instance, as language historian Anne Curzan points out, “nice” used to mean “silly, foolish, simple.” And political language is no different. Much as the Republican Party has morphed many times (particularly from its noble start as the anti-slavery party), many of the words associated with it have conveyed something quite different over time. And I find this to be particularly relevant in our state today.

Conservatism can resist change

I had always thought “conservative” meant a tendency to resist change. And a conservative force opposing change can often hurt people. Conservatives who opposed the advancement of civil rights in the 50s and 60s (often Democrats) were certainly on the wrong side of history. And legislation that can reduce income inequality is often opposed by conservatives (often Republicans) who might think that such inequality is natural, even Darwinian.

On the other hand, it certainly is prudent to understand the downside for any proposal. Constructive criticism can improve decision-making. Unilateral decision processes entail risks, which can be reduced when a “loyal opposition” seeks out flaws in our argument for change. In other words, the open-minded can often benefit from a thorough testing of their ideas.

So, in principle, “conservatives” could have a valuable role in developing change that can benefit us all. But is that what the current, supposedly conservative party, provides? There’s little evidence for this.

Republicans in 2024

On the contrary, today’s Republican Party, in addition to now being a cult for a malignant narcissist, has shown itself willing to shift its governing philosophy opportunistically. For death-dealing weapons like assault rifles, it holds individual rights to be sacrosanct; but when it concerns women’s bodily freedom, the Republican Party has no problem pushing for Big Government intervention. It favors legislation to reduce regulations on individuals with small businesses; but then it favors radical reduction in regulations that protect those same individuals from dangerous chemicals in their food or air. It promotes the ability of some individuals (such as those who want to ban books) to restrict the freedom of others (parents who want their children to be well-read.)

In short, both in Arizona and nationally, we lack a significant organized movement that promotes thoughtful hesitation about proposed improvements. At the moment, nearly all such constructive hesitancy, along with the impetus for progress, is contained within the “big tent” of the Democratic Party, as well as in the millions of unaffiliated voters. The Republican Party has become a malignant force, one that resists  positive change while remaining unwilling to enter a constructive dialog. We can only hope that failure after failure will have its effect, and perhaps provide for a resurgence of thoughtful dialog about future changes, both for our state and our country.

What’s Needed

I’m a liberal, but I want to hear serious conservative arguments, not nonsense or fascistic overreach. Good luck with hearing that thoughtful opposition from the current Republican Party.

We can only hope that women’s reproductive freedom will be honored again in our state (and throughout the country). The petition for abortion rights is our best chance now for this in Arizona. Let’s get those signatures! And work to elect better legislators!

9 thoughts on “Are Those Guys Actually Conservative?”

  1. I cannot reply because I have no idea what you are saying. You are worse than Biden off script.

  2. The “truth” is the entire premise of States, individually, regulating personal reproductive health decisions is completely flawed. It rests on Alito’s personal position to outlaw this freedom, and then he hunted and pecked 1000 years of history to support an irrational theory. Roe’s logic was flawless. I guess since the Constitution and 1000 years of history doesnt mention automatic weapons, states should outlaw these. But you can bet those of JKs logic would say the opposite. This whole premise that states can outlaw universal rights is just wrong. Can states regulate religious practices, outlaw newspapers they dont like, require quartering of state militia troops in private homes, lock up opponents of the regime? Maybe popular sovereignty for slavery, there, Mr. Douglas. Why are Repubs in favor of reproduction police? Why does the party of small government want to police personal, and private reproduction decisions?

    • States cannot infringe on constitutional rights but a recent Supreme Court decision said abortion is not such a right, so states can be as permissive or restrictive as they want. Freedom of the press, religion, and the right to bear arms within limits are constitutional rights, as is the right not to be owned by another. You just need to read the constitution`s amendments. It is not a secret and I know you know that, which makes your post seem odd.

      • Weird argument as far as this case goes. Show me where it’s written in the US Constitution that you can impose YOUR religious beliefs on others?

        You are free to practice your religion, not force your views on others.

        Abortion is allowed in Judaism and other religions, in fact it’s free for all in Israel, and your personal belief that life starts at the first wink at the prom is just that.

        A personal religious belief.

        The “right to not be owned by another” is not in the first draft, troll boy. Wow, not even close.

        Same for women’s rights. OMG.

        Yet again, you fail to think things through and your arguments fail, as usual.

        Remember to donate in Honor of Arizona State Senator John Governement Checks Kavanagh.

        • This may be the least self-aware moment that you’ve ever had on this blog, John. You do realize that the laws you advocate re abortion are not religiously neutral? They privilege and establish a very narrow Evangelical Christian dogma regarding the ensoulment of the zygote as the fundamental law which all must follow. You are so close to realizing that imposing a religious view of a particular segment of the population is wrong and harmful to our rights, but you seem blind to the fact that this EXACTLY what you are advocating. So close, John. One more step and you are there!

  3. What is shocking is that a college professor mistakenly believes that the court decision was based on political beliefs and not on a straightforward interpretation of the law’s language. The case was not about the law’s constitutionality but whether or not the law the legislature passed last year could coexist with the older law or whether last year’s law disappeared with the demise of Roe v Wade and the return of the older law.

    To quote former Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb:

    “The court did not decide that the abortion policy in Arizona should be to forbid it except to save the life of the mother. It decided that the Arizona Legislature had decided that. And that wasn’t a difficult conclusion to reach, since the Legislature said as much in plain writing. To reach a different conclusion required ignoring the plainly stated legislative intent and engaging in mental gymnastics to reconcile two clearly irreconcilable statutory provisions, one banning all abortions except to save the life of the mother and another making abortions lawful under any circumstances up to 15 weeks into the pregnancy and widening the circumstances under which one could be performed even after that.”

    Robb went on to cite the unequivocal language of last year’s law:

    “In 2022, pro-life states were attempting to get the U.S. Supreme Court to move the unrestricted period to 15 weeks, rather than the then prevailing 22-24 weeks. Arizona joined the effort by passing a law (Senate Bill 1164) adopting the 15-week threshold. In so doing, the Legislature included a construction clause as follows:

    This act does not:

    Create or recognize a right to abortion or alter generally accepted medical standards. The Legislature does not intend this act to make lawful an abortion that is currently unlawful.

    Repeal, by implication or otherwise, section 13-3603, Arizona Revised Statutes, or any other applicable state law regulating or restricting abortion.

    Section 13-3603 is the statute making providing an abortion illegal except to save the life of the mother. ”

    Readers of this blog deserve the truth and not political spin, but maybe they want the latter.

    • So, John Government Checks Kavanagh, since we’re taking women’s healthcare back to 1864, you should do the same.

      Because you’re not a hypocrite, have fun at the “painless dentist”, enjoy your dysentery, and don’t forget to bite down hard on the wooden spoon during your amputation.

      The good news? You can get that sore tooth removed, ineffective polio treatment, and a haircut, all at the same shop.

      Idiot just doesn’t think things through.

      Oh, yeah, laws about women’s health made before women had a say in lawmaking…wow dude.

    • In response to Senator Kavanaugh: my article was about the nature of being conservative. I’m not an attorney, and people in that profession can argue about whether the court’s decision was correct from a strictly legal perspective. I do understand that the court said that they were not considering constitutionality in this particular action. While I am a college professor (retired), I’m also a citizen, and my concern is more about the consequences of decisions than about any assessment of judicial correctness. And in my view (and my worldview) the consequences are very bad, and provide a radical change for the lives of the population (as did the Dobbs decision), not one that was conservative, in the classical sense of that word. Radical change (backward or forward) is not conservative.

      • Your observations are illustrative of why strict textualism is a foolish judicial philosophy. If our judiciary only considers the meaning and intent of those who originally wrote our constitutional texts, we will end up with a constitution and body of judicial interpretation that delineates a constitution that no one alive actually wants to live by. Claiming that constitutional amendment is the solution for such an outcome is anti-historical and reactionary in the extreme: constitutional amendment as a solution for poor judicial practice simply means that many people will suffer greatly (especial minorities and women) in the meantime.

Comments are closed.