I have spent a very, very long time among American political conservatives. I would wager that I have spent more time in their midst than the vast majority of people reading this post. I have both friends and family who are near the right-most limits of the political spectrum. I’m not of them, but I do feel as though I know them reasonably well.
One of their most-common characteristics is a love of the American founding fathers that approaches reverence. Almost all of the strong conservatives I’ve met believe that the founders were divinely-inspired in their penning of the U.S Constitution. They believe that these men were of greater character than today’s political class and that their work should be considered so close to perfect as to warrant painstakingly literal interpretation. Did I say “approaches reverence?” I was obviously under-selling it.
Here’s the bit that I find so baffling: The American founding fathers were the radical liberals of their day.* They were about as anti-establishment as you could get. By the standards of their day, they made bold strides in distributing political power out of the hands of the legacy establishment and into that of the (again, this is relative) the “common man.” There’s a reason why democracies based on this model are referred to as “liberal democracies.”
That being the case, I imagine these founders would be appalled at the reverence they’ve been afforded. It seems to go against everything in the character of these 18th century progressives. I’m not historian, let alone a time-traveling mind reader, but I suspect the founders would have wanted those who followed them to embrace their spirit of trying to improve on their groundwork Instead, those who claim to love the founders so much set their words in amber and place them on an altar.
That’s it in a nutshell. The conservatives love the people who broke the mold so much that they turned the founders into a new mold. If you see any parallel between the political conservatives and, say, the movements within science fiction devoted to ensuring that works which embrace the values of the revolutionaries of the genre, that’s on you.
* Just out of curiosity, who are the heroes of American liberalism? The conservatives seem to have co-opted many of the obvious candidates. The founders, who broke away from monarchy and laid the groundwork for representative democracy? Lincoln, who, among other things, ended slavery? Theodore Roosevelt, the trust-buster? There are good answers to this question, but you do have to dig a little deeper, don’t you?