In a recent opinion piece targeting Speaker Paul Ryan, Chauncey DeVega, a politics staff writer at Salon, decries conservatism as "hostile to members of groups on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy" and the ultimate source of "the deep moral rot at the heart of American society." DeVega’s baseless criticism of conservatives as elitist, biologically inferior brutes is a desperate attempt to avoid discussing his own ideology’s regressive hostility toward the poor.
Ryan, claims DeVega, "has dreamed of slashing Medicaid since his keg-party days — and that blithe hostility is widespread." Conservatives, he claims, are biologically wired to "exhibit social dominance and bullying behavior," with no bigger culprit than Ryan, who "has combined meanness, cruelty and callousness toward the weak and the vulnerable with gross and unapologetic hypocrisy."
"The bad news is that conservatives’ brains cannot be modified to make them more empathetic and sympathetic toward their fellow human beings," he writes. "Nor is the harmful messaging and narratives from the right-wing media about poor folks — and ‘the other’ more generally — likely to change in the foreseeable future."
According to DeVega, anyone who believes in a society that values free markets, less government bureaucracy, and individual liberties is guilty of "greed and a slavish devotion to a revanchist right-wing ideology." He compares the conservative voting block to "Pavlov’s dogs, seeking out abuse from their masters in the hope that the latter will hurt other Americans even more."
"Conservatism is a type of motivated social cognition that by its very nature is hostile to members of groups on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy," which is a function of its "authoritarian tendencies," he asserts. Because conservatives want to make government smaller and more accountable to the people, DeVega declares that conservatives are conspiring "to take food, shelter and health care away from poor people."
DeVega’s only criticism of actual conservative thought was the unevidenced claim that right-wing media outlets have maliciously suppressed information about the "success" of the New Deal and Great Society to sway the American public. If "success" is defined by prolonged unemployment and economic devastation in the first case, and the erosion of families and poor communities in the second, then they’ve both been quite successful. No just individual would support an ideology that treats society’s most vulnerable like expendable government serfs, dependent on the state for their basic provisions.
DeVega attempts to use the rest of his piece to blame conservatives for all of society’s ills, from income inequality, to moral decline, to robbing the poor of their "individuality, humanity, and dignity." Not once does he develop a robust policy argument, instead resorting to ad hominem slanders as a substitute for supporting evidence.
DeVega’s criticism of conservatives as "the deep moral rot at the heart of American society" is a feeble attempt to ignore the reality that he represents the true moral rot. Shifting the blame onto the political right may make him feel better about his own regressive ideology, but it won’t change the facts. If America is really in decline, it’s because of people like him, not because of conservatives.