A house divided against itself cannot stand. Abraham Lincoln
The likes of Bill O'Reilly and Newt Gingrich have long railed against 'San Francisco Values' as a cause of America's ills. I sat down with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at the Netroots Nation Conference in Austin, Texas to talk about conservative values. Gavin articulated the case for how the conservative value of division has failed. He listed case after case of failed results and finally likened conservative values to schizophrenic and bipolar Tasmanian Devils.
Edwin: I’ve been asking people how conservative values have failed. I’m wondering what your thoughts are.
Gavin: I guess I’m all about evidence and results. Let’s take a look at the evidence of the last eight years, where you had a Republican Congress and a Republican President, and a conservative agenda, that was being carried on every talk show and almost every single cable news network that reconciled the fact that they needed to be more conservative in order to justify a market share in terms of an audience.
What you have are the largest deficits in the history of mankind, a debt that has grown exponentially. You have income disparity, the likes of which we have never seen, and never could have imagined coming out of World War II, where we had a vibrant middle class.
You’ve got jobs that are being outsourced overseas, and you’ve got all sorts of issues of insecurity at home which relates to energy costs and the challenges associated with people trying to live the American Dream by keeping their home, let alone affording to purchase a home.
You’ve got stagnant wages. You’ve got health care crisis, the likes of which none of us could have imagined ten or fifteen years ago – 46.6 million Americans without health insurance, and tens of millions more who can barely make ends meet keeping their existing insurance, and then those who have insurance, questions about the efficacy and the value of that insurance.
We’ve got an environmental policy that is an embarrassment to this country and its values. We’ve always been on the leading and cutting edge of environmental stewardship. We’re no longer the pacesetter in the nation and the world. And so in the world we are looked down upon, not looked up to, as we have historically been looked up to.
So I don’t know. That’s a pretty damning record. And we’re fighting two, arguably three wars with no ends in sight. We’re spending at a degree that our great-grandkids are going to only be asked to reconcile this.
And there’s less confidence and less security in people’s minds. And that’s the record, it seems to me, of this conservative movement and conservative agenda that has been forced on us and advanced in the last decade. It’s pretty dismal, from my humble perspective.
Edwin: What is their underlying values that is causing that?
Gavin: Well, I come from the City of San Francisco, where people are pretty focused on the things that unite us, not on our differences. And it seems to me that one of the precepts of the conservative movement as it relates to the political manifestation of that movement is to divide, to focus on the things that divide us, not the things that unit us. To pit one group against another group. That we’re in this, because one group has forced us into it – there’s a notion that we’re not all in this together. That our strength is not our composite.
So I see the manifestation of the conservative movement as a very divisive manifestation, and I think it has done a tremendous amount of harm. I also find it wonderfully ironic that you have a conservative movement that has morphed into being involved into making personal decisions, from being involved in the Terry Schiavo case to decisions about who you can marry, to decisions about whether you are given the freedom to choose.
These don’t seem very consistent with the words – the actions of the conservative movement seems to be inconsistent with the words of the conservative movement. And certainly, you’ve seen government used as a blunt instrument, in some cases, and then completely abandoning in other cases.