October 16th, 2013
07:56 PM ET

Conservatism needs to lighten up

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

The current Republican fear derives from Obamacare, but that is only the most recent cause for alarm. Modern American conservatism was founded on a diet of despair. In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. began the movement with a famous first editorial in National Review declaring that the magazine “stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” John Boehner tries to tie into this tradition of opposition when he says in exasperation, “The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years!”

But what has been the result over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income. Over the past 60 years, America has built highways and universities, funded science and space research, and — along the way — ushered in the rise of the most productive and powerful private sector the world has ever known.

For some tacticians and consultants, extreme rhetoric is just a way to keep the troops fired up. But rhetoric gives meaning and shape to a political movement. Over the past six decades, conservatism’s language of decay, despair and decline have created a powerful group of Americans who believe fervently in this dark narrative and are determined to stop the country from plunging into imminent oblivion. They aren’t going to give up just yet.

The era of crises could end, but only when this group of conservatives makes its peace with today’s America. They are misty-eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory yet passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, quasi-capitalist democracy that has been around for half a century — a fifth of our country’s history. At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?

Read the full Washington Post column

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Topics: Politics • United States

soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. ✠RZ✠

    The difference between a dictatorship and a democracy is that YOU have no say in one, and YOUR VOTE has no say in the other.

    October 16, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Reply
    • TYERTY345645

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      October 17, 2013 at 9:20 am | Reply
      • ✠RZ✠

        Gee Nano, thanks for keeping it short. And please, keep working on it.

        October 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
      • Barry

        I know, the meds make you feel cloudy and not quite yourself. Take them anyhow.

        October 17, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
      • PeriSoft

        "KNOW WHY PRESIDENTES ARE AFRAID TO TAKE LETHAL INJECTION."

        I'm no Presidente, but I gotta say that I'd be afraid to take lethal injection, too...

        October 18, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Willlliam Davies

      Very good artical,

      It conveys that American cannot go back to the past of having things were under conservatism because their country is getting more multicultural of a bigger population of different ethnic groups that will have their say under democracy that is like to change the Amarican way of life.

      William Davies from Canada

      October 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  2. Phelix Unger

    Jesus did it

    October 17, 2013 at 12:21 am | Reply
    • Science

      Guess so ?

      Stenographer snaps, rants on House floor.

      http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/17/stenographer-snaps-rants-on-house-floor/?hpt=hp_t2

      October 17, 2013 at 8:08 am | Reply
      • ✠RZ✠

        They'll just right that one off to post partum shut down distress. I'm just glad the DC police didn't run her down in a hail of bullets too.

        October 17, 2013 at 8:27 am |
      • Science

        The guard knew who she was.

        October 17, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Science

      Hey Phelix Unger..............they did IT before the fairy in the sky did IT.

      Archaeologists Rediscover the Lost Home of the Last Neanderthals

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131017111411.htm

      October 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Reply
    • Terri

      Dr. Seuss did it because he didn't want no green eggs and ham. Let them eat pork. :-)

      October 17, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  3. john smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    October 17, 2013 at 3:36 am | Reply
    • Sol Deus

      It would be nice if people who actually know some history. In the 1980s, just a few decades ago, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Airlines plane that had gone off course into their territory. Much of what you say is true about actions by the government. There is a distinct evil cancer that has attached itself to this country. Back to not knowing history, it is not like these actions are someone new in the world. Europe had been doing worse to the rest of the world for centuries. Unfortunately, the banking cartels from Europe have infected the US. Bilderberg is not an America only meeting, the evil it promotes if international. The main conclusion here is the majority of people in this world are on one side, it is the very small, very rich, very power group of sadistic barely humans who take advantage of the influence money can have in promoting their agendas. Unfortunately, a large majority of people are easily led around by these parasites.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:43 am | Reply
    • TiredOfPaying

      Your list shows an obvious bias towards Islam. So, please start counting the atrocities committed daily by Islam as well. Then come back to us and try to moralize.

      October 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Reply
    • forreal89

      Sounds like you are not happy maybe you should leave. I bet you are one of those guys that goes to the coffee house to rant and rave about this. Go home play Xbox and smell your own farts

      October 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Reply
    • Puck-It

      iIf invasion is how you base your "root of all evil" theory, it would actually be Great Britain, since they have invaded most countries on EVERY continent, except Antarctica, and they tried to claim that. They enslaved all the inhabitants of the places they invaded and extorted them until they revolted, some successfully, some not. Ditto for most of the other European countries. All this was, by the by, already going on before the US of A was even a pipe dream.

      October 18, 2013 at 3:54 am | Reply
    • Jack Smith

      Good lord, who are you?

      October 18, 2013 at 3:56 am | Reply
    • Trevor

      Sol Deus, Tired of Paying, Puck-it, forreal89 and Jack Smith...

      This nut has posted the EXACT drivel atleast a dozen times on various comment boards on CNN. He's not worth your time responding to. I learned that with several retorts and point outs of his "cut and paste" crap, he never responds...take note so others will not waste their time responding can cut down on allowing this individual to take up bandwidth...

      October 18, 2013 at 9:30 am | Reply
    • Paul Jaramillo

      John Smith if you think America is so evil, pack your garbage and get out!

      October 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  4. rightospeak

    You keep writing about DEMOCRACY but throw out comments on GPS you do not like ???? What democracy ? The media is dysfunctional so freedom of speech and democracy is out of the window. You in the media are parrots of propaganda, that is all. The journalists of Helen Thomas caliber who asked inconvenient questions are long gone. She paid the price for being outspoken and truthful even on CNN by being unjustly demonized and CNN took part in it.

    October 17, 2013 at 7:02 am | Reply
    • Quigley

      Well said, rightospeak. How true that rings!

      October 17, 2013 at 9:29 am | Reply
  5. WERTWERT32452345

    Conservatism needs to lighten up, you say. I say it needs to disappear altogether! Look what happened to both Germany and Italy during WW2, not to mention Latin America!

    October 17, 2013 at 7:46 am | Reply
    • Publius Novus

      Not to mention the U.S. from its founding until the passage of the 13th Amendment.

      October 17, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Reply
    • Puck-It

      didn't we have a liberal president during WWII? lol

      October 18, 2013 at 3:57 am | Reply
    • Jack

      You are confusing "right wing" Fascism (which is socialist) with American conservatism which is opposed to the policies of those countries.

      October 18, 2013 at 4:43 am | Reply
      • Trevor

        You probably got the deer-in-the-headlight look from this individual and he probably had to go to the dictionary to "educate" himself on the difference...pretty sad.

        October 18, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  6. Science

    Well they won't get there way in the end it looks like.

    Rick Perry looks like he won't get the changes he wanted to NEW SCIENCE text books either !

    Stephen Hawking: 'There is no heaven' – Under God – The ...

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/...god/.../stephen-hawking.../AF6..

    by Elizabeth Tenety – in 624 Google+ circles – More by Elizabeth Tenety
    May 16, 2011 – There is no heaven... that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” Hawking told the Guardian.

    October 17, 2013 at 7:49 am | Reply
  7. j. von hettlingen

    It's quite unlikely that the recent showdown will finally force the Tea Baggers to grow up and govern with a reasonable amount of orderliness and common sense.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:42 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      The name of the game in Washington is career interests and having enough voters behind you.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:45 am | Reply
    • Publius Novus

      They haven't learned a thing. Sen. Cruz and Rep. Labrador have already stated that the polls are wrong, that the American people really support them.

      October 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Reply
  8. Terry

    Why not tell muslims to make peace with the world, jerk?

    October 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Reply
    • Jack

      Someone from his homeland of Pakistan might try to kill him. They are rather fond of murdering people they disagree with there so I can certainly understand why Fareed left.

      October 18, 2013 at 4:40 am | Reply
  9. SomeoneElse1

    Yawn.

    October 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  10. wrm

    Wow, this isn't even original trash.

    October 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  11. TJ

    wow I didn't realize you guys crushed the soviet union. Good job. Must be more of that "exceptionalism"

    October 17, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  12. Josh

    Did I log onto MSNBC? I think Fareed is forgetting that "conservatism" isn't some fraction of the country's majority. It isn't something long past. It isn't something that is dead and gone. It is 50%, + or – quite a few percentage points, of the country. A democrat has been in office for 5 years and they act like they beat up, cast out, and salted the earth of the Republicans. Get over yourselves. You won 2 elections in a row just like your best pal GW Bush did before him. Republicans will be back. Quit kidding yourselves that you've "defeated conservatism".

    October 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Reply
    • MC

      Actually every poll I've ever seen shows moderates and liberals more numerous than conservatives, who come in at perhaps 40% of the population. And when we break it down, not all who call themselves conservatives support the entire agenda – I know many conservatives who support gay rights, science education, environmental protections or health care that covers those with pre-existing conditions. I also know conservatives who opposed the Bush wars. Call them RINO's if you like, but it means the ranks of true believers are even smaller ...

      October 17, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Reply
    • fxalbert

      Not likely after that performance.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Reply
    • fxalbert

      Also the actual number MC is about 28%. Try winning an election with 28%.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Reply
    • Jack

      Show me an election where the democrat got more than the 53% Obama got the first time.

      Bill Clinton couldn't even get 50%.

      That's the best you guys can do and yet you are full of yourselves.

      October 18, 2013 at 4:39 am | Reply
  13. Publius Novus

    1. The Tea Party types are not conservatives by any conventional measure. They are better described as reactionaries.

    2. Most political scientists contend that Americans tend toward theoretical conservatism, but operational liberalism. This dichotomy suggests some kind of linguistic dissonance. In plain words, Americans have been conditioned to believe conservatism is good and liberalism is bad. The Republicans have been very successful in this effort, which is essentially propaganda.

    3. Conservatism has been almost uniformly on the wrong side of every issue in history. Conservatives were the impetus for the Crucifixion; they opposed the American Revolution; they fought to preserve slavery; they opposed the liberation of women. Just to name a few.

    October 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  14. rdg18

    I'm proud to stand with the Tea Party. It's better than with liberal America.

    October 17, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Reply
    • fxalbert

      Another !d!0t speaks.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  15. myrtlemaylee

    Excellent piece. However, zealots not only fear everything, they fear for themselves. The results of the last 200+ years mean nothing to them & they're storing toilet paper & water so they can survive the next apocalypse. The best thing the media can do is stop giving them so much free air time. Focus on the sane Conservatives & their goals so we can have a sane discussion about the methods required to reach America's new goals.

    October 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Reply
    • GlenS

      Yep, maybe we should also stop giving free air time to all the insane illegal immigrants and just start focusing on the legal immigrants with actual visas who want to contribute to our economy and well being with their talent, skills and education. And maybe we should stop giving air time to all the radical liberals who want to raise taxes all the time and just start focusing on the moderate democrats who know how to read a balance sheet and budget appropriations with wisdom and clarity. You see you can't decide that some voices are to be allowed freedom to spout their ideals and agenda and those of different views are to be silenced because they should remain the silent majority. It's not going to happen that way because that is suppression and discrimination, and we are all about independence and diversity in this country so deal with it

      October 17, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  16. Eddie Fonseca

    Bebe Winans who an African American gospel and RB singer wrote a song called Love is a Reason We Came Here, he talked about life being good around the world with great people and I believe people in America have waken up and realized we need to change our laws in America so The Republicans don't hold our country hostage again. As Americans we should feel angry at the stupid, Republican party who have stolen our hard working money and driven this great country of ours into the ground. I willing to bet the Republican party would not have shut down the government, if they had their paychecks taken away from them how quick do you think they would be at the tables trying to open the American government back to work again. The American way of life has always been a beacon of hope for all those who want a better life, in our great country from earning a hard honest paycheck to pay for that new house or brand new car in our lives. If we have party's like the outdated Republican party who are willing to put this great country of ours in harms way with their weird viewpoint's, what kind of message are we as America sending out to the rest of the world who want to invest in our country for years to come.

    October 17, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Reply
  17. OrionStyles

    No, thet don't need to lighten up, the neo-cons need to be booted from the GOP.

    Go read Bob Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians" to see what the real problem is with SOME of the Republicans.

    October 18, 2013 at 12:03 am | Reply
  18. thomas

    We've lightened up and lightened up, and lightened up....to the tune of 17 Trillion dollars.

    October 18, 2013 at 1:56 am | Reply
    • Puck-It

      that's relative... A GOP controlled house passed the spending bills.

      October 18, 2013 at 4:02 am | Reply
  19. Kenny

    Fareed, do you really believe that those sitting in a far distant capital can run my life better than I can? I don't. I just want to be left alone. Now I have a government telling me I have to buy something I don't want or be fined. That's Bull ^&%$!

    October 18, 2013 at 2:03 am | Reply
  20. Jack

    What if these new influences are the ones that hate America and want to replace our traditional way of life with Marxism?

    Fareed has it backwards.

    October 18, 2013 at 4:35 am | Reply
    • mickinmd

      Marxism? There's nothing Marxist about the Democrats Programs.

      Government-regulated Universal Health Care is supported by EVERY major Conservative, anti-Socialist Party in EVERY industrialist nation on the Earth – except the GOP.

      October 18, 2013 at 5:10 am | Reply
      • PeriSoft

        I still haven't figured out why it's OK to have a 'socialized' military, 'socialized' police, 'socialized' roads, and 'socialized' schools, but not socialized medicine...

        October 18, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  21. clearick

    Conservatives have lost their way. It's one thing to criticize the direction the country is moving, but they have nothing to offer to the people that makes their life better. In fact, all they dream of is a government that does nothing, taxes no one and lets businesses do whatever they want with workers. When most Americans want to see a brighter future and a better life the Republican view of things offers nothing! They don't like anyone, don't want more freedom or opportunity. They don't care if the average American makes less or is expereincing a decline in living standards. They don't care that top 1% have more wealth than the bottom 150 Million combined. Maybe if they did, actually concerned themselves with issues that affect the common man, they might actually become a party of the people instead of the party of the doomed and the dead.

    October 18, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
  22. vistar hornbill

    Racist Tea Party cowboys ought to be arrested for economic subversion !

    October 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  23. Carl Sartain

    “The crisis has been resolved, but this respite is temporary. We are bound to have more standoffs and brinkmanship in the months and years ahead. To understand why, you must recognize that, for the tea party, the stakes could not be higher. The movement is animated and energized by a fear that soon America will be beyond rescue.”
    Contrary to your flippant observation, America will be beyond rescue if we do not seriously address the debt. THE predominant, fundamental tenet of the tea party is resolution of the national debt. That is not a hard concept to accept.

    “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) put it plainly at the recent Values Voter Summit in Washington: “We’re nearing the edge of a cliff, and our window to turn things around, my friends, I don’t think it is long. I don’t think it is 10 years. We have a couple of years to turn the country around or we go off the cliff to oblivion.”
    Sen. Cruz is correct on this matter. Numerous universally accepted economists have said this exact same thing, that at best, we may have only two years to genuinely alter government spending, or suffer irrevocable and catastrophic economic collapse. The media and media personalities have not educated the American people to this fact. We must reign in government spending if we are to survive, and that means we must make serious and painful reductions in spending, that will no doubt impact every citizen in this nation. The choice is do it now, or do it later. Later will cause immeasurable suffering the likes of which this nation has never experienced.

    “But what has been the result over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income. Over the past 60 years, America has built highways and universities, funded science and space research, and — along the way — ushered in the rise of the most productive and powerful private sector the world has ever known.”
    Do you even see how ridiculous this statement is? Every “achievement” that you cite was accomplished by driving this nation into further and further debt. Yes, we did benefit greatly from all of this, but at some point it has to be paid for, and the truth of it is, that none of it has been paid for.

    October 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  24. Donald

    There have always been undercurrents of fear, fear of change, of a country that's not familiar. Not enough has been said of how the Republican party cynically solicited those votes and in so doing fueled and expanded the ideologues who now will take over the party. Not enough is said about how the Republican party nominated those jurists who destroyed any semblance of control over money that now funds these groups. There's no going back, "moderate" Republicans cannot be moderate enough to win Democratic votes and will never win Republican primaries. It will take perhaps only another 4 years for the complete end of the Republican party as we knew it.

    The Tea Party is not conservative. It is reactionary. Their tactics are nihlistic. It's not sustainable, not productive.

    October 21, 2013 at 11:38 am | Reply

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