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Conservatism Heads for Fernando’s Hideway

We’ve all read about the controversy stemming from Fernando C. de Baca’s comments about Hispanics and African Americans, resulting in C. de Baca’s resignation on Thursday as head of the Republican Party of Bernalillo County.

While initial media stories focused on his original comment to the BBC, it’s his second comment that really caught my attention:

I feel strongly that Hispanics will not support, in my generation and the generation around my age, are not going to support the Democratic candidate for president primarily because there is a strong feeling that African-Americans during the civil rights movement took advantage, full advantage, of all the benefits and programs that the government offered, that were supposed to be offered to all minorities. But we were left behind, we were left sucking air, and we resented that ever since the 60s, and I don’t see how a black president is going to change that.

C. de Baca’s statement seems to suggest that Hispanics should have taken better advantage of “all the benefits and programs that the government offered.” Whatever happened to the conservative philosophy to which C. de Baca ostensibly subscribed? What of the Grover Norquist doctrine of “shrink government so small you can drown it in a bathtub” or the personal responsibility credo of “pull yourself-by-your-own-bootstraps”?

Back when C. de Baca campaigned for his Republican Party leadership post, I rather doubt that his rhetoric featured complaints about LBJ’s Great Society big government safety net not being big enough.

Forty years later, we have the conservative president pitching a safety net for failed Wall Street investment banks – underwritten by the American people. It’s time the conservative ideologues folded up their tents. It’s over. Conservatives have lost the argument.

Not to be outdone by Fernando in playing the race care, the free market fundamentalists at Fox News used it to explain the cause of the Wall Street meltdown. Neil Caputo of Fox News blamed the crisis all on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for …

“pushing for more minority lending and more expanded lending to folks who heretofore couldn’t get mortgages, when you were pushing homeownership… Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster.”

My, oh my! Talk about a last rhetorical refuge for scoundrels.

Four years ago, President Bush was touting “the Ownership Society” and the rise of home ownership. That’s when the executives at Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers were all riding high, eagerly financing those non-bank mortgage lenders who were just as eager to sell all those mortgages to guileless consumers. Wall Street then sold bonds backed by subprime mortgages to overseas investors.

But today conservatives choose to scapegoat minority homeowners instead of owning up to the mess their philosophy created.

So here we are today. The incomes of most Americans have been static or have declined. Tens of millions of working Americans are vulnerable to layoffs and outsourcing. Health care and retirement burdens have been shifted from employers to individuals. As wealth has become more concentrated, the economy fell victim to reckless speculation.

While the controversy over C. de Baca’s comments captured perfectly the inconsistencies within the conservative movement, most New Mexicans understand the clear need to rebuild the governmental institutions that can broaden American prosperity and fill the gaps where markets have failed.

Now more than ever, we need regulatory policies that harness capitalism for the public good. And we need public investment to rebuild crumbling infrastructure and expand access to health care.

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