Gina Cobb makes an interesting observation:
But the left is still missing the most important part of what conservatism has to offer. They've missed out on the optimism, the realistic hope, and the belief in the competency of individuals that is at the heart of conservatism.
(In the next paragraph, she destroys her argument by equating individualism with anti-abortion. More on this below.)
Hillary Clinton does try for optimism, but she thinks it comes from state intervention in the economy.
During the debate on climate change, that we finally got onto the floor thanks to Senators McCain and Lieberman, although we were only given three hours to debate climate change, I was struck by the pessimism and the fatalism from the other side. This was a problem that they either didn't believe existed, or if it existed, would somehow fix itself at the appropriate time, somewhere in the future. That has never been America's attitude. And when I was speaking on the floor that day, I said, you know, I can't believe what I'm hearing. There are, I suppose, still a few people left somewhere who believe that climate change is not a problem, but the vast scientific established opinion is that it is, and we should go about dealing with it now. And guess what? We can make money and create jobs if we do. That's the kind of can-do spirit that I was raised with, that I believe in. And it's that loss of spirit, as much as the loss of jobs, that deeply troubles me.
As I wrote about Clinton's equating the can-do spirit with collectivism:
She is equating the positive American sense of life that is a heritage of Enlightenment individualism with big government. She uses America's can-do spirit, which developed when America was a free country and when Americans were expected to be self-reliant, to defend the one thing that is destroying that spirit -- the welfare state! How's that for an example of the parasitic nature of evil?
It seems to be one of the most striking differences between liberalism and conservatism: liberals believe that individuals are metaphysically helpless and need to be controlled by the state for their own good, whereas conservatives believe individuals should be left free to pursue and achieve their own happiness. Liberals are collectivist; conservatives are individualist.
But are conservatives really individualist? Certainly, when Rush Limbaugh is at his best he extols individualism and talks about how everyone can better himself with initiative and hard work. Unlike Senator Clinton, Limbaugh understands that individual freedom, not the wretched welfare state, made America great.
So why is it that the nanny state has grown under every conservative president? Why did government double in size under Reagan? Why didn't Reagan at least dismantle the Departments of Energy and Education, which our country lived just fine without for 200 years until Jimmy Carter saw a need for state meddling in these areas? Why did George H.W. Bush sign the Americans for Disabilities Act, one of the costliest nanny state measures of the last 30 years?
If conservatives believe individuals should be left to run their own lives, why did George W. Bush outlaw the incandescent light bulb? Shouldn't the individual be left to decide for himself what kind of light he wants in his home?
Conservatives talk individualist but govern collectivist. They're all hat and no cattle when it comes to individualism.
Conservatives think their religion supports individualism, because God creates every human with a unique soul. But that same religion undercuts individualism with its morality of altruism. God says the strong must sacrifice for the weak. When religious conservatives such as Bush or Huckabee get into power, they feel a duty to use that power to serve God. Morality trumps everything else; individualism is a hazy, abstract idea next to the moral imperative that people have a duty to help their fellow sinners. Individualism comes from pride; the humble Christian equates pride with the Devil.
To add to the confusion, conservatives betray individualism throughout the mixed economy, then appease their conscience by equating individualism with anti-abortionism (or what they call in an Orwellian twist of language, "pro-life"). They sacrifice an actual woman to a potential human and call that individualism because they believe their supernatural being has injected a soul into the fetus at conception. This metaphysical fantasy keeps them from seeing the contradiction between their morality and individualism.
So what is worse, the Democrat who believes collectivism is good and governs in accordance with his belief? Or the Republican who says individualism is good, but does not fully understand the word and betrays his belief the moment he acquires power?
Well, it's a hell of a choice, isn't it? Welcome to the 21st century.