Common sense conservative

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A common sense conservative is an often-radical advocate of right-wing politics who adopts the rhetoric of so-called "common sense" (a concept much debated in philosophy) and outward aspects of "conservatism" (a resentment of social welfare systems and usually also immigration) in order to advance this radical agenda. Unlike the foreign-policy-focused neo-conservative, they usually focus on domestic policy.

At times this rhetoric falls to propaganda or claims of access to absolute truth or what is "self-evident". Critics often refer to conservative common sense in a mocking way, implying that it is simply ignorance or outright stupidity.

It is a phenomena mostly confined to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, but has spread to Latin America and other regions with evangelical Christian movements which emphasize moral rules, rigid conformity, financial success, and retributive justice. In each country the radical agenda is different, but it has economic themes in common:

  • tax cutting, often regardless of impact on infrastructure or services
  • unlimited support for neoliberalism, monetarism, capitalism and free trade as they are interpreted solely through neo-conservative views
  • privatization of as much of the infrastructure and services as possible on the assumption, often called market theology, that it is not only more efficient but more effective at providing such services
  • deliberate stirring of conflict among opposing groups to clear the way for their "reforms", which are often simple reactionary moves to eliminate prior regimes of regulation

Often, these objectives and strategies cross national boundaries. Margaret Thatcher can be said to have brought the above trends into the mainstream, but the subsequent application of these beliefs by Ronald Reagan in the US was much more ideologically rigid in character and led to much deeper hardship. A second generation of regional politicians, often using their slogan "Common Sense Revolution" (used in New Jersey, Ontario and Australia) that included Ontario Premier Michael Harris continued the trend in the 1990s - along with a very similarly-styled Texas Governor, George Walker Bush.

With Bush's controversial rise to the White House, the common sense conservative perspective became globally known, with such moral simplicities as the "Axis of Evil" and "War on Terrorism" becoming part of conservative rhetoric in most developed countries. New trends became obvious among these supporters:

  • opposition to the Roman Catholic hierarchy and its traditions in thought
  • support for war and death penalty, but also opposition to abortion
  • very often, a strong alignment to Zionism and unlimited support for the so-called "War on Terrorism" which many interpret as a holy war on Islam, which they often characterize as Islamofascism, analogizing their war on it to World War II (and, usually, all moderates as Neville Chamberlain)
  • very often, a condemnation of all faiths other than Judaism and Protestantism as 'untrue', or heretical

Overall, there is a strong messianic and simplicity-seeking character to these movements that suggests not politics but religion or mass movements. Olivier Roy, from France, has characterized the conflict between the US and Israel on one side and the Islamic World on the other as religious only from the US/Israel side, while Muslims see it more as against colonialism.

On domestic issues, the "common sense conservative" is usually able to exploit commonality with actual conservative groups who do not share its radical program. This facilitates the development of mailing lists and political party factions that can later be applied to the more radical agenda elements. Same-sex marriage is one such issue that is easily exploited by radicals: many conservative people dislike the idea intensely, making it easier for them to be organized into factions or parties that can later advocate wars or trade measures.

Critics of the movement often claim that it is simply fascism or plutocracy, a uniting of all strong and violent forces in society. Or, in part due to its deceptive presentation of itself as being "conservative" (which many conservatives deny), perhaps a pre-requisite to a kleptocracy.