February 17, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Stop calling the GOP ‘conservative’

That's the lesson today from Texas.

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Regular readers are familiar with my use of the term “fascism,” but regular readers may not quite understand why. Fascism is all-American. It’s native-born. And it describes the politics of the Republican Party more accurately than “conservatism” does. Sure, there are conservatives in the GOP (Mitt Romney comes to mind). There are conservative think-tanks, conservative policies, conservative legal theorists. But none of that captures the character of today’s Republican Party, which combines, in its never-ending search for enemies to punish, the elements of sadism and masochism.

In particular, I’m thinking of news coming out of Texas. The state, as well as parts of Louisiana and Oklahoma, is getting hammered by subfreezing temperatures. That’s due to an arctic weather system from the North Pole that was displaced there by warmer temperatures (as a consequence of global warming). This “polar vortex” has crept down the continent and is now sitting over the southern midwest. Four million Texans are without power during a time when they really need it. At least three have died. In Houston, wholesale electricity went from $22 per-megawatt hour to $9,000! The problem is a power grid maximizing low, low prices while skimping on reliability in cold weather, which the state is seeing more of as a result of climate change. One expert told the Post that decades of “disinvestment in electricity production reminds him of the last years of the Soviet Union, or of the oil sector today in Venezuela.”

As the late Rush Limbaugh said, if conservatism animated the Republican Party, there would be no President Donald Trump.

Before I go on, let’s put the crisis in Texas in a broader historical context. We long ago decided as a country to stop investing in public works. We long ago decided as a country to stop cultivating—which is to say, paying for—commitments to the public interest and the common good by way of local, state and federal governments. Instead, we as a country retreated into our private selves, chose to acquire as much as we could for ourselves, and settled into a reactionary individualism that became allergic and uncompromising over time to the responsibilities of citizenship, community and the social contract. The very idea of mutual obligation stank of Communism, which is, I’m guessing, why the former mayor of Colorado City, Texas, decided to respond to his state’s crisis with a Facebook post distilling perfectly 40 years of Republican thinking.

No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local governments [sic] responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice!

The city and county, along with power providers or any other service, owes [sic] you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn hand out! If you don’t have electricity, you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe.

If you have no water, you deal without and think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family. If you were sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising! Only the strong will survive and the week [sic] will perish.

The former mayor. After Tim Boyd voiced his contempt for democracy and for the needy, his constituents cancelled him. (He resigned the same day.) But he wasn’t alone in deflecting responsibility. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Dan Crenshaw, the United States representative from Texas, blamed rolling blackouts on wind turbines freezing over. Abbott went on Fox to say this is why the Green New Deal is bad, bad, bad (though Texans must have been surprised to hear that their state had anything to do with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal). Crenshaw took to Twitter to say the same or similar. Fact is, about 10 percent of energy in Texas comes from wind, and colder places in the world that have invested in wind energy have turbines that don’t freeze over. The problem isn’t the technology. The problem is the people in charge of it.

Here’s the tip jar!

I said “deflecting” blame, but what Boyd and Abbott and Crenshaw did was meaner and nastier. They blamed the victims. They blamed a “boogeyman” from the Bronx. They blamed people who have no power to fix the problem, who are themselves the real problem because of who they are—the weak, the helpless, the Black, the brown. It gets worse. California has the same problem Texas has. It won’t deal with its failing power grid either. But when California has rolling summer blackouts, Crenshaw and others are habitually quick to blame its politicians. Criticism that’s good for one state isn’t good for another, but this is worse than hypocrisy. This is a political worldview that not only fails to see the value of democracy (or the legitimacy of citizen claims on government action). It seeks out, on a never-ending basis, enemies to punish. And in the process of seeking them out, it fails to deal with problems at hand, whether they are a once-in-a-century virus, climate change or a power grid failing biannually.

Abbott and Crenshaw know well that lots of their Republican voters will suffer gladly through incompetent government as long as they keep punching down on the people they don’t like, because punching down on the people they don’t like feels good. As the late Rush Limbaugh said, if conservatism really animated the Republican Party, there would be no President Donald Trump. But conservatism doesn’t. What does? “A united, virulent opposition to the left, the Democratic Party and Barack Obama.” So “conservative” doesn’t capture today’s Republican Party. It does not combine, in a never-ending search for enemies to punish, the elements of sadism and masochism.

Fascism, however, does.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. RUArmyNavyMominTX on July 30, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    From San Antonio, TX ~ Dems need to hold Republicans accountable for this fiasco. Follow Beto’s lead as there’s nothing “conservative” about the energy situation; just plain greed.

  2. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    When will people realize that GOP governance equals fascism which then equals death? GWB led to Katrina and the 2008 economic meltdown. DJT and crew led to the garbage COVID pandemic response and an even bigger economic meltdown. Now the voter suppression GOP clowns in Texas who boasted about how their state was this deregulated paradise can blame everybody but themselves for the infrastructure debacle that will kill lots of innocent Texans.

    The problem is that fascist politics pays big time for people like Abbott, Crenshaw, and Cruz. They are financially set for life. Their “governance” is just corruption and self-dealing. After carrying political water for their plutocratic masters, they’ll retire and use their connections to get high-paying lifestyles and not worry about average Americans.

    The delusion that Republicans without these connections like the former mayor believe they’re part of that gravy train. So long as they can punch down on the hater “Other”, they can gleefully pay themselves the wages of fascism without making real i.e. plutocratic money. The irony is that they’ll usually end up screwing themselves like the former mayor and the insurrection “patriots” now dealing with real legal jeopardy.

    The wages of fascism can pay for a while but are not limitless. The majority of Americans have consistently rejected failed Republican policies for decades because they fail and because they are immoral. We’ll see how long hardcore Republicans can ride the gravy train of hate before the bill they’ll pay finally comes due.

  3. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Fascism’s been around a long time. What else would one call white folk who believe they have a right to own slaves and saw to it that slavery was written into the constitution. Isn’t that why amending slavery out of the constitution didn’t actually stop the white superiority notion so many hold in this, um, greatest nation in the world and the so called “democracy” so many think they live in?

  4. LIBA on July 30, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Since you brought it up again… I still don’t understand why non-conservatives (aka “liberals”) are so desperate to salvage the word “conservative” after what the Right has done to the word “liberal” for the past 60 years. It’s like you don’t understand messaging at all. You know who calls themselves “conservative”? Just about every goddamn Republican politician in the land. They brag about how “conservative” they are. That word is featured prominently in their campaign ads. Its a massive point of pride and identity to them. Why the hell would you try to rescue it? I don’t get it. You should be savaging that word, not salvaging it. Make these people afraid to boast about how “conservative” they are. When’s the last time you saw a Democrat brag about how “liberal” they are? It doesn’t happen. And you know why? Because conservatives had great success at turning that word into a pejorative. They didn’t try to save it, they demonized it. And it worked. Think about this: what would conservatives call themselves if “conservative” was successfully turned into a pejorative? Liberals went with Progressive (with mixed success), what would conservatives go with? Make them think about that for awhile… But nah, we’re gonna keep throwing this incredibly key political label a life-line because contemporary conservatives don’t align with the Webster’s dictionary definition of the term. “The Left” has got to get alot better at messaging and there’s no better place to start than to trash the word “conservative” every chance you get. Do unto the word “conservative” what the Right has done unto the word “liberal”.

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