Let’s ponder something together. C’mon, it’ll be fun. (Note: Author makes no guarantee as to fun of the following exercise.)
OK, first, Dictionary.com defines “conservative” as:
1.disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: conservative suit.
Now, keeping in mind those definitions, look at the following measures that have been prefiled by various Republican legislators:
- Proposing a removal of all capital-gains tax, which would make Arkansas one of a very, very small number of states that has such an exception;
- Suggesting that, despite the fact that your proposed legislation could not have any actual effect, Arkansas should adopt a measure challenging the authority of the federal government;
- Prefiling bills creating any number of new, narrow tax exemptions for certain groups, despite the fact that the exemptions would have no demonstrable positive impact on the economy;
- Suggesting new, unnecessary legal hoops for family law that are not designed to solve a real problem and could result in confusion and even unwitting bigamy down the road;
- Giving tax credits to certain lower-income families where one parent chooses to stay at home with infants;
- Providing tax credits to people who build “green” homes;
- Creating new government oversight related to prescription drugs;
- Proposing new rules that would give more government oversight over dietary supplements;
- Restricting grocers and other retailers from using single-use plastic bags;
- Prohibiting the commercial use of vehicle accident reports for ninety days following the accident; and
- Requiring employees to contribute .5% of all wages earned to the Unemployment Compensation Fund.
What, pray tell, is “conservative” about any of those? All of them embrace change, often for nothing more than the sake of change; some ignore the concept of “cautiously moderate;” none seems predisposed to embrace the status quo (obviously), but few if any are actually “restor[ing] traditional” measures.
Don’t get me wrong here; I actually like some of those ideas quite a bit. (The tax credit for stay-at-home parents has a particularly delicious and ironic European Socialism taste to it!) However, if anything, the fact that I like some of them just further proves my point: there is a tremendous disconnect between what some of the “conservative” Republicans think they believe and what kind of legislation they actually propose.
It’s things like this that give me pause when I hear “Arkansas is a conservative state” statements. Sure, on some levels that seems self-evident. Yet, for many voters, all that seems to matter is that their candidate of choice says that s/he is a conservative, repeats some Glenn-Beck-inspired drivel, and throws around words like “socialist” and “founding fathers” and “constitution.” If the people don’t realize what they are getting, and if the elected officials don’t actually stay the straight-and-narrow when it comes to conservatism, can we really draw sweeping conclusions about the overall political leanings of the state?