George Will used to be fond of saying that conservatives are happy because the world is just as it should be. Indeed, if you look at Webster's definition of conservative, it speaks to the impulse to keep things the way they are.
What neither Will nor Webster acknowledges is why conservatives are so fond of the status quo, but it's obvious enough. The privileged like continuity. When social, political and economic conditions favor you, why change things?
Now consider state Senator Glenn Grothman's quarrel with Kwanzaa. Grothman calls himself a conservative. Most all political observers regard him as one. But Grothman clearly doesn't fit the dictionary's definition, or Will's. He is most certainly not happy with the world just as it is. He favors a world that no longer exists.
Today's social order scares him. Men are no longer the sole breadwinners for families, and they no longer are the heads of households. Women no longer are expected to be submissive to their husbands, barefoot and pregnant, tending hearth and home. Gays and lesbians don't have to stay in the closet. Blacks aren't required to sit on the back of the bus anymore.
The Glenn Grothmans of the world are trying to hold on to today's economic order which spectacularly benefits a privileged few at the expense of a great many, but their anxiety is rising as they feel the need to tighten their grip. The lengths to which they need to go to keep things the way they are get longer every day.
Many in and around the Capitol dismiss Glenn Grothman as a kook. But what they fail to realize or at least acknowledge is that Grothman is now mainstream within today's Republican Party. There are hundreds if not thousands of Glenn Grothmans serving in public offices across America.
They carry the conservative label, but they are not conservatives. They are not happy because the world is just as it should be. They do not wish to keep things exactly as they are. They want less religious diversity; they want Christmas and only Christmas. They want "traditional" marriage and "traditional" families, with one man and one submissive woman. They want white people to hold most of the political power and most of the nation's wealth.
They realize the world is less and less what they long for it to be. They want to turn back the clock. Doing so is not a conservative act. It is retrogressive.
I've written a time or two about how today's political labels no longer fit. Calling the legions of Glenn Grothmans on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country conservatives is an apt example of ill-fitting labeling. Grothman and his many compatriots are retrogressives.
The Republican Party has a growing problem. More and more every day, our country is becoming less white, less male-dominated, less Christian, less "traditional." More and more every day, the reach of the GOP's appeal is thus narrowed. Today it is the party of angry white men. Scared, middle aged or older, white men. Men like Glenn Grothman. It has lost the support of most women. It also doesn't have the support of most nonwhite people. It's having a hard time with our nation's youth.
That's why Republicans are continually expanding their war on voting and seeking new ways to rig elections. Their political fortunes, and their hopes for social retrogression, rest on making it harder for certain "untraditional" classes of voters to have a say in the future.
Over the long haul, it is a losing battle. If Glenn Grothman truly represents West Bend, the city might want to consider changing its name to Last Gasp.