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I believe the differences between conservatism as it is known in Europe, Canada and Australia on the one hand and how it is known in the United States on the other hand needs to be investigated and properly understood.

The Republican party has developed a very special brand (or brands) of 'conservatism' that is (are) drifting further and further away from mainstream conservatism.

While I'm not, as my name suggests, a conservative I have some respect for mainstream conservatism as a counterbalancing force in political life and I rarely - if ever - doubt the democratic sincerity of mainstream conservatives.

But since I see more sinister forms of 'conservatism' in the Republican party I would like to highlight a few areas where European conservatives would find precious little common ground with Republican 'conservatives'.

(My perspective is shaped by the fact that I am Swedish but I have spent plenty of time in both continental Europe and the U.S.)

* Abortion. While there are some exceptions (notably Catholic nations like Poland and Ireland), a woman's right to choose is settled among European conservatives. By most it's not even seen as a political issue but as a private matter. A Swedish conservative who tried to turn abortion into a political debating point would find very little support in his own party. Likewise, it's uncontroversial that public schools should teach children about (mutually respectful) sex and contraceptives.

* Gun laws. While Sweden is a nation of hunters, especially in the North and in the countryside (moose is probably the most preferred prey), gun access is heavily restricted. There is no debate about gun control because Swedish conservatives agree with this policy which is tailored after the needs of hunters, collectors and sports shooters but makes it very difficult for anyone else to have access to guns.

* Government and taxes. To be anti-government wouldn't be considered a conservative position in Sweden (or Europe), it would be called anarchism. While many conservatives in Sweden would like to shrink government and reduce taxes, government is not seen as evil. I dare say that most conservatives see government as a constructive force in dealing with collective problems. The present centre-right-government in Sweden has mainly (with some exceptions) reduced taxes in a way that benefit the working poor.

* Government and religion. Swedish conservatives are not comfortable with religion mixing into government, you wouldn't even here a Swedish conservative utter the words "God bless Sweden" (they would be seen as strange and sectarian, why on earth would God bless a nation?) This is true in most of Europe, when Tony Blair wanted to end a speech with "God bless Britain" his staffers protested and stopped him.

* Science. Any conservative politician who denied evolution would be seen as an extremist and wouldn't be electable to any kind of office. He would also be ridiculed within his own party. While there is certainly a fringe debate about the science behind manmade climate change, mainstream conservatives are onboard with the conclusions of the IPCC. A mainstream conservative in Sweden wouldn't oppose reigning in CO2-emissions, the pace and the methods of course are debated but most conservatives no longer oppose cap-and-trade or carbon-taxes.

* Capital punishment. (I am aware that some Democrats support the capital punishment.) A nation which hasn't abolished capital punishment can't join the European Union, that debate was settled a long time ago. A conservative European politician who advocated capital punishment today would be seen as extreme.

* Health care. A European conservative wouldn't question that universal healthcare is a right of every citizen, rich or poor.

More examples could be added (for instance the United Nations, foreign policy in the Middle East, gold buggers, civil unions or same-sex marriage etc.) but my point is that mainstream conservatism in Europe and Republican 'conservatism' don't share a lot of common ground and they are drifting further apart.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  same in the UK, IMO (6+ / 0-)

    there are some issues where the consensus is settled, and to go beyond it is just seen as loopy.

    We certainly don't (publicly) 'do God' (Campbell's expression)at all.  A lot of the 'hang 'em and flog 'em' school of thought, alas, but they are outnumbered.

    The US mainstream impression that we all want to be like you is very inaccurate.

  •  American "Conservatives" have drifted (9+ / 0-)

    away from reality, not to mention from conservatism. What they call conservative is radical, racist and wrongheaded.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 05:57:15 AM PST

  •  There are a lot of euphemists in the U.S. (5+ / 0-)

    They employ nice sounding words to hide their nasty thoughts. U.S. Cons are selfish people who want to be coddled and served by someone else while doing nothing of value in return.
    Wife beaters are a good example in that they not only expect to be served dinner, but the wife to serve as a punching bag whenever frustration rears its head. Punitive is the default mode. When they get selected for public office, where they expect to be paid for doing nothing, withholding punishment is presumably positive. Even austerity is a lesser negative, compared to the damage they could inflict.

    Much depends on our preconceived notions or, as the economists call them, assumptions. Economics, for example, is referred to as the "dismal science," because it presumes that men are created lazy and must be coerced (by being deprived of food) to work--a perspective that's entirely consistent with the expectations of the wife beater. Applying that term to an under garment aims to dissemble.

  •  While I don't have anything to prove this, (5+ / 0-)

    the True Finn party here in Finland seems to take quite a few cues from the Tea Party faction in the States. Much of their rhetoric and stances seem eerily similar.

    Its as if they have hired a few consultants on tea-baggery from the States and brought them over here to Finland.

    But otherwise, everyone else seems to be pretty damn liberal ;)

    •  It's true, (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, whaddaya, sfbob, FinchJ, camlbacker

      anti-immigration, right-wing populism is very much present in Europe. In Sweden we have the Sweden democrats in parliament now with 5-6 percent of the vote and gaining support in the polls.

      It's all very sad but they seldom call themselves conservatives (and mainstream conservatives usually only have contempt for them). However, there are definitely similarities with the anti-immigration, racist aspects of the GOP.

  •  The 17th century gave most Europeans (11+ / 0-)

    all the education anyone could wish on the down side of mixing politics and religion. Matter of fact a number of ' em went off and started a whole new country based on the idea of never mixing the two.

    Wonder what happened to those guys...

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 07:07:59 AM PST

  •  So Tony Blair wanted to end with a speech with (8+ / 0-)

    "God Bless Britain". Did not know that - and it's clear from the Telegraph article linked in the diary that everyone around him knew what a disaster that would be. More or less since Oliver Cromwell the British have not taken kindly to politicians invoking "God" on their behalf. In multi-cultural and atheist Britain it would be downright offensive to say such a thing.

    Blair's comments in the article are classic American conservative - "it's a shame you can't express your faith in public". No Tony, it's not a bug, its a feature on modern democracies that you don't put the weight of government into implicitly endorsing ANY religion. It's ironic that over 230 years ago, the founders of the United States (who knew their Cromwell history as well) put the separation of Church and State into the FIRST amendment of their new Constitution.

    I think what the current GOP has become is essentially the equivalent of the far right in Europe - not mainstream Conservatism as we have been used to seeing. They have become effectively tribal - with no apparent capability of breaking out of the box they've built around themselves. You see some of that in Europe where the inclusive Conservatives are battling with tribal Conservatives. In America this situation has been more long standing because the country has been multi-cultural and thoroughly racist for most of that history. There's a reason "12 years a slave" had to be made by a black British director.

    There have been a number of calls from thinking Conservatives here for a rebuild along the lines of the UK Tories, but no David Cameron or John Huntsman could survive a primary right now. They understand that and almost had it right with the chameleon Mitt Romney - until the 47% speech came out and everyone realised he was just another tribal Conservative.
     

  •  What an American conservative would never say (6+ / 0-)

    Is that what is currently defined as conservatism is in fact fascism: corporatist, militarist, racist, classist, social-darwinist, and messianic / apocalyptic. It is hard to imagine how this cancer on the American body politic can be cured without some cataclysm. Since it is based in fear and delusion, i.e, it is psychotic, there would have to be some kind of mass deprogramming.

  •  @ Swedish liberal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whaddaya

    What do most Swedes really think about mass immigration?  I cant't imagine that most people would be privately happy about it.

    •  Please define mass immigration, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob, Sue B

      most immigrants are Swedes who previously emigrated and return back home from countries like Norway, Denmark, the UK, the US etc.

      If you meen immigration from wartorn countries like Syria, Afghanistan etc, most Swedes I know understand that it is challanging in the short term but that immigration has historically been beneficial to Sweden in the long term.

      Besides, it's the right thing to do if you believe in humanitarian values. Did you know that next to Canada, Sweden was the country which gave political asylum to the greatest number of American Vietnam war deserters?

      I don't think it's right to accept easily adjusted immigrants from countries like the US and shun deserters from al Assad's Syrian army.

      •  I think a government's primary duties (0+ / 0-)

        are the physical safety and economic well-being of its citizens.  If a policy of large-scale immigration from 3rd world countries and failed states harms indigenous Swedes, then it is morally wrong.  I don't speak Swedish, so I cannot read your country's news sources, but I doubt if it is possible to document any tangible economic benefits or increased personal security from having a large minority of non-Swedes resident in your country.  On the other hand, the possible disadvantages are many, including loss of indigenous culture, demographic decline, and increased crime and social costs.

        If the moral benefit of immigration is of value to the majority of Swedish voters, I suppose that would make it OK anyway.  However, as an American of European birth, my observation is that large-scale immigration to Europe from the third world has proceeded in a decidedly undemocratic manner, that is, against the will of the majority of Europeans.

        Of course, mass immigration policies benefit the relatively small numbers of people who are lucky enough to escape to their new first world homes, but what of the vast numbers who remain behind in their economically and politically underdeveloped lands?  Wealthy industrialized countires should do much more to help them where they live.

        Also, consider the case of Japan, which allows virtually no immigration.  Is that an evil policy?  Or are the Japanese people fortunate to remain homogenous and with their culture intact?

        I would not emphasize Sweden's sheltering of deserters, since most Americans, including liberals, do not hold a very positive view of them.  The deserters were mostly children of well-off families who had the resources to travel to Canada or Sweden.  The less fortunate, often African-Americans or other minorities, had no such choice and went to war.

        •  I note the absence of... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          petral

          ...international solidarity and your preference for an indigenous culture to multi-culture.

          I think both are very unbecoming for a liberal, if that is what you are.

          Obviously, helping people in the third world doesn't preclude immigration. Sweden do plenty of both. In 1850-1930 about 1,3 mln swedes emigrated, most of them to the US. The people who remained in Sweden were helped by emigration since land and food supply became less scarce.

          As you may not be aware of, immigration is not an economic drain on most countries, read more in the latest OECD report.

          Finally, is the Swedish policy undemocratic? Not if you believe in representive democracy but perhaps you prefer some other system?

            •  Thanks for the link (0+ / 0-)

              You will find that there are many kinds of liberals in the US and even in the UK.  In contrast to Europe, English-speaking liberals have a greater tolerance for diverging opinions.

              Can the Nordic countries be considered truly representative democracies anymore?  For instance, in Norway the government pays subsidies to newspapers and other media.  Of course, the result is that there is no real public discussion which includes "unpopular" or "incorrect" views, with predictable electoral results.

              "Incorrect" political parties in Europe can even be banned (most famously in Belgium); this is a feature of authoritarianism, not democracy.

              All cultures clearly have value, and things that they can teach others.  But the fallacy of multiculturalism is that foreign parasites (apologies for that!) can be randomly grafted onto a host culture without lasting damage to both.

              And international solidarity is not a real concept, but a political code phrase which means absolutely nothing outside of a uniquely European socialist context.

              •  Interesting, (0+ / 0-)

                so all the Americans who volunteered to fight for democracy and against fascism in Spain in the 1930's thought that international solidarity was just a code phrase?

                I understand where you are coming from Zygoat and like most of your ideological brethren you prefer a debate that isn't reality-based.

                Norway has a very vibrant anti-immigration scene indeed and the populist anti-immigration party in Norway (Fremskrittspartiet) is far stronger and more influential than the Swedish one.

    •  "Mass" immigration? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Swedish liberal

      Talking about "mass" immigration is begging the question. Everyone is against "mass" immigration and everyone is in favour of providing asylum to "victims of tyrannical governments".

      These terms tilt the discussion and you can tell what side of a question a person is just by the adjectives they use so I'm sorry Zygoat but I judge you based solely on the fact you didn't ask about immigration; you asked about mass immigration.

      •  IIRC there was a scandal of sorts in the 1990s (0+ / 0-)

        where numerous immigrants who had come to Denmark as "victims of tyrannical governments" (mostly Somalis, I think) had brought in "family" who were revealed not relations at all but "economic refugees" taking advantage of the Danes' generous social welfare provisions. As I recall, the furore over this triggered a sharp rightward shift in the country's politics.

        (I recall this from conversations with a friend who lived in Copenhagen at the time, now sadly deceased. Maybe our Swedish liberal diarist can confirm &/or elaborate.)

        The greatest trick the GOP ever played was convincing the devil they had a soul to sell.

        by Uncle Cosmo on Fri Nov 15, 2013 at 06:35:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Looking forward to more Swedish Liberal (7+ / 0-)

    perspective

    to supplement sources like Anatole Lieven's "America, Right or Wrong", reviewed here by the Guardian, which summarizes:

    This constituency ... is in a permanent state of ferment. Its values are under constant assault from American popular culture, yet it entrusts itself politically to the representatives of the business elite who profit from and largely drive that culture. The circle is squared by assigning to "liberals" and foreigners a demonic role in undermining family, religion, and nation ...
    ...but also on how Sweden is holding up in the face of its own national and regional challenges.
  •  Most American conservatives are (5+ / 0-)

    not really conservatives at all; many are authoritarian right-wing reactionaries.

    Great diary! I spent a lot of time in Europe during my military career and I agree with your observations regarding conservatives in the UK and on the continent. The conservatives there are tolerable, unlike most of our nutjobs on the right.

    Guns are never the principal in the commission of a crime, but they are usually an accomplice

    by MadGeorgiaDem on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 08:56:29 AM PST

  •  Same in Switzerland... (3+ / 0-)

    Having said that, our SVP/UDC (Swiss People's Party), like apparently some guys in Finland, are copying the methods of the Republicans.  They were riding high until a couple of years ago, but then surprisingly suffered a set-back in the latest parliamentary elections.

    γνωθι σεαυτόν

    by halef on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 10:41:40 AM PST

  •  You might want to reconsider science (0+ / 0-)

    Because it's not just American conservatives that are climate deniers.  

    There's "Lord" Christopher Monckton, who represents England so well in the Upperclass Twit of the Year competition and lectures on the climate denier circuit.

    There's the new Prime Minister of Australia, who was elected on a promise to trash the carbon tax they have there.

    The Murdoch press around the globe lets out a chorus of guffaws anytime they are presented with facts about climate change.

    Conservatives in the Persian Gulf continue to pour their money into skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, oblivious to the sea level rise that will put the first floor below sea level.

    No, American conservatives have a lot of company when it comes to climate denial.

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