Have conservatives historically most often been on the wrong side of history?

Abolishment of slavery, women’s right to vote, women’s rights in general, minority rights, interracial marriages, etc, were all things that, if you were a social conservative of the day, you would not have liked to see happen.

Yet in the end, not only did they happen, but it’s now clearly faux pas to be or have been against them.

In our lifetime, a similar thing is happening with gay rights, and definitely within a generation it will seem outdated to be against it.

It seems there is a pattern here, and if I were a social conservative I’d question if what I consider the ‘proper way’ or ‘God intended it that way’ will just become an outdated and backward position to have, and the behavior I abhor will be accepted as perfectly normal by the majority of society.

The only thing I can think of that progressives got wrong is the idea of ‘free love’. I wasn’t alive during that time in the sixties, but if I’m not mistaken, people have turned out to be more marriage-minded (or at least monogamous-minded) than the have-sex-with-everyone-freely-and-openly attitude of the free love movement. (Can someone correct me if my impression of this movement is incorrect?)

My questions are:

  1. Have social conservatives historically been on the wrong side of history much more often than social progressives?
  2. If the above is yes, how does this affect today’s social conservatives, in how they see their pet issues fairing in the long term?
  3. What examples are there of progressive movements that were rejected by society?

There is also Prohibition of alcohol which was largely advocated by Unitarian social activists along with stuff like abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage. That was needless to say a miserable failure.

Edmund Burke was considered a great conservative. He was an Englishman in favor of American Independence. History proved him correct on that matter.

I don’t know how things lined up ideologically in those days, but isn’t “Prohibition of alcohol” akin to “Prohibition of drugs” in our time, which is mostly favored by social conservatives?

How come social conservatives of today are against the dangers of mind-altering substances but the social conservatives of those days were for mind-altering substances? (Of course I can see that alcohol is not in the same league as some drugs, but still)

Or, to put it another way, how come progressives of today are for legalizing the ‘milder drugs’ like marijuana, but progressives of those days were for making alcohol illegal?

Conservatives have traditionally *embraced *the fact that they are on the wrong side of history. They consider social reforms to have been the cause of the collapse of a God-fearin’ country where the women and black folk knew their place.

They construct a fictional nation inhabited by millions of Ward and June Cleavers and dream of one day creating it. They worship the values of the Founding Fathers, such as slavery, the notion that a black person is 3/5 of a white person, the denial of the vote to women, and the Alien and Sedition Act.

Remember, the very definition of “conservative” is, “opposes change.” If you regard the past as some kind of utopia, then resisting change makes sense, as change moves us farther away from the past. To be a true conservative, then, you have to believe that the country is getting worse, not better, and things such as freeing the slaves, giving the vote to women, integrating the Army, the Civil Rights Act, welfare, disability payments, unemployment insurance, Social Security, environmental legislation, women’s rights and health care reform should all be opposed and lamented.

The march of history in the US has been toward a more rigorous codification of human rights, an increasing concern for the disavantaged, and yes, a growth in the size and scope of the government that makes such things possible. Conservatives hate this. The fact of the matter is that most social legislation takes time for the public to fully accept. That doesn’t mean we should wait for it to become universally acceptable before we enact it. Conservatives want us to wait forever, and continue to party like it’s 1829.

Conservatives end up on the wrong side almost by definition. A conservative wants to preserve the status-quo. But for some centuries, our societies have constantly evolved. What was the norm yesterday is now considered as morally unacceptable, or outdated and unapplicable in the modern world.

A progressist can be wrong, and even very wrong on a particular issue. But a conservative will essentially always eventually end up being on the wrong side of history and reviled. Meanwhile, those progressists who were right will be hailed as heroes and those who were wrong will just be forgotten.

Note that conservatives have their usefulness (else, our societies would change with every fad) and that a leftist can be a conservative by stubornly refusing to abandon an outdated social model.
It’s a bit like in wars : that’s the victors who write history books. And the victors in this case are always the progressists whose views are now validated.

Logically-minded people evolve; those tied to religion and dogma don’t.

Well, I’m pretty sure whatever Cambodia had before the Khmer Rouge was preferable. Truth be told, I’d rather have a monarchy than go communist, so… yes… some leftist ideas are indeed bad.

Good point… Communism is indeed a progressive idea that has been rejected by society.

However, the conservatives who have opposed it have also been wrong; just in different ways.

The only trouble is that religion’s relationship with political alignment hasn’t been static throughout history. At the turn of the last century, progressive movements were almost all motivated by religious considerations, whereas free-market conservatives were often influenced by allegedly scientific ideas like social darwinism.

Nixon opened up China, started the EPA, got off the gold standard, got out of Vietnam with something resembling a success etc. I would say he was on the right and he was right.

The EPA and so on aren’t conservative positions. And Vietnam was a complete loss.

Neither was China (not recognizing it) a conservative position. Nixon just realized that ONLY a hardline right-winger like him with impeccable non-appeaser cred could ever dare to acknowledge the legitimacy of a gigantic Communist country without being accused of being a Commie himself, so no Democratic president could do that for decades. IOW, recognizing China was a grave insult to the conservative position and Nixon was being anything BUT conservative in doing that.

But, nice try.

Prohibition in those days was seen as social progress, a path towards a more healthful society.

It is the only case I can think of where the conservatives where clearly right.

Saying that conservatives are on the wrong side of history is like saying brakes prevent a car from going forward. Of course they do. That’s what they’re there for.

Liberals are the engine, conservatives are the brakes. I prefer my cars with both.

Historically, you are correct. But recently, conservatives have discovered they can damage the engine by applying the right brake without the left brake, and sent the car into a ditch. When the brakes are broken, they are as dangerous as no brakes at all.

Well, I wouldn’t say they were wrong in that sense. Clearly we would be a more healthy society without alcohol. Drunk driving, alcoholism, and alcohol related diseases are significant problems for us.

Prohibition was the wrong way to go about achieving the desired ends, however.

I’m not sure it was a particularly progressive movement, though.

In general, people with conservative views are also more fearful people. They are afraid of change, so of course they oppose it. They are also more authoritarian, so they prefer to follow a prescribed set of rules.

No; as a rule conservatives fight only for evil causes, and generally work to make societies worse; not stay the same. Conservatives fight to preserve and promote greed and cruelty, injustice and bigotry; to keep the powerful in power and enhance their power, while grinding down everyone else. If they ever do good it’s by accident. They aren’t the “brakes”; they are quicksand, trying to drag all of humanity down into a pit of vileness.

I see this old piece of claptrap often, and often it’s foisted by a liberal. It’s the biggest steaming pile of patronizing horse shit.

What, liberals are stupid? They have no restraint? “Ooh, universal health care worked so well, why don’t we have free money Fridays?”

It also suggests that conservatives have a benign effect of just slowing progress down a bit, like Starving Artists theory that you really don’t want to give people their civil rights all at once, but in drips and drabs over decades. Even the pace taken in the US gave us the sociological bends.

And what was the invasion of Iraq? A nice gentle braking to keep us at the speed limit?

Yeah, I’d really rather see that saying get a stake through the heart.