Serious analysis of conservative politics developing world and tiger
economies is desperately needed, writes Dr Brandon Hamber.
of Americans feel that the moral world is crumbling around them.
When asked shortly before the election last year what issues mattered
most in choosing a president, a New York Times survey revealed that
"moral values" ranked top with the economy and jobs, followed
by terrorism and the Iraq war.
education and healthcare were not ranked so highly. In the eyes
of many Americans, a strong, principled leader that can oppose abortion,
stem-cell research, and gay marriage is needed. Just over half of
voting Americans feel that George Bush is such a person. To the
remainder, Bush as a moral icon is laughable given his warmongering
democracy has spoken and Bush is now embedding the conservative
revolution he began in his first term. This is typified by the nomination
and subsequent appointment of Paul Wolfowitz, a staunch advocate
for military action, as head of the World Bank.
is easy to treat the conservative turn in US politics as the result
of misguided support for Bush by foolish Bible-bashers.
the problem is more complex. It is time to face the fact that the
right-wing in the US is organised. The Republicans moved door-to-door
securing their position utilising 1.2 million volunteers to win
votes. They sold "faith, family and flag" and most voters
bought it. This suggests many fear a global moral vacuum that they
think the Republicans can fill.
views litter internet chat rooms. As one Bush supporter put it,
"I'm sorry but I don't lose sleep over Iraq. What I do lose
sleep over is my children's future in the immoral cesspit that this
country is becoming".
all want a safe and decent world that embodies good values. This
is why Bush has the support of some moderates as well as his traditional
neo-conservatives and Christian fundamentalists. Their votes have
endorsed, whether knowingly or not, an approach whereby the language
of moral values will continue to be used to hide a value-free political
and economic agenda.
politics of morality is the new global battleground. The results
can be disastrous. Estimates put the death toll in Iraq at between
20,000 and 100,000 civilians. They were killed in the name of freedom,
democracy and to allegedly make the world a safer place.
who has really benefited from this "moral" campaign?
those who sell weapons, reconstruction contractors and private security
firms, many close to the Bush regime. Defence contracts worth $76
billion have been connected to nine out of 30 members of the US
defence policy group.
developing world, too, cannot ignore this situation. The influence
of the Bush administration is going to be increasingly felt in the
coming years. Negotiating investment may soon not only be about
crude economic negotiations. Is it possible that, for example, South
African constitutional approaches to issues such as gay marriage
could be on the table in future trade talks?
language of morality may find resonance in conservative parts of
Africa and Ireland alike. Think of the views of some churches on
homosexuality. Will these confluences of interest be used to open
more doors for Republican-aligned companies that give little back
to local economies?
analysis of the politics of morality and conservatism, and its implications
for the developing world and tiger economies such as Ireland, is
is time for new alliances with liberals and progressives in the
US, many of whom feel besieged in their own country right now. After
all, there are only about 1,000 days to the next US election.
Brandon Hamber, a South African living in Belfast, is a consultant
on conflict resolution and political transition-related issues.