Specifically, the legacy of the sainted Ronald Reagan.
Let there be no mistaking my position: I think he was a charming man who was good to his friends, gave the American public a soothing image of leadership, and committed great harm first to California, and then the US and the world.
This harm was due to his following of basic real-world conservative ideology. In surface terms it's "small government and personal responsibility". In real-world action, its "Winners call the shots, and losers can go fuck themselves". Where "Loser" is defined as anyone who is not powerful to begin with.
To provide cover for this core ideology takes a lot of work. The many smokescreens involve "State's rights", "Big government is always bad", "activist judges are a travesty". But you can tell they're smokescreens because such issues are never problems when they can result in something conservatives like. The outcome of Bush v. Gore in 2000, for instance. The huge expansion of Federal government power and removal of constitutional restrictions on executive power under Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes. The many activist judgements of Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas.
With inconsistencies like this, to follow conservative "philosophy" thus becomes an emotional matter. Following any one of the many items that make up the current conservative movement to a logical conclusion results in unacceptable cognitive dissonance. So any logical thought is cut off immediately once it reaches a certain point. This is literally mental illness by choice. It explains how Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have any listeners, let alone Sarah Palin. It also explains how the GOP is paralyzed in terms of providing actual solutions - trying to solve any single problem will alienate most of their constituency.
This is not something new. It dates back to conservative intellectual William F. Buckley and before. For good fun, look up the debates of Noam Chomsky vs Buckley. The match was the logical equivalent of Bruce Lee vs. an angry fat kid.
And this is because holding the tenets that Buckley did, logic was *impossible*. Don't get me wrong, Buckley was a very smart man. His skill was in wording conservatism so that it actually *sounded* reasonable. Instead of a bunch of emotionally-based crap meant to support the status quo of keeping WASP's in power. (And I say this as a WASP.)
What is particularly interesting to me, then, is the result of this actual chosen mental illness in action: an increase of *unchosen*, untreated and potentially dangerous mental illness in the streets.
This is on my mind because yesterday a woman lost her mind, cut loose and stabbed 4 people in a Target. A target that a friend of mine almost went to that same day. Here in Los Angeles - which has more than its share of truly crazy people with nowhere to live but on the streets.
One of the main reasons for this is California's legacy of conservative policy in action: the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act which Ronald Reagan as governor passed in 1972. It made involuntary commitment much more difficult - so the truly crazy who don't think they're crazy can roam the streets *until* they do something defined as criminally insane.
This same act also pushed the mentally ill onto community centers, i.e. off of state budgets - and also without increasing any of the local or community budgets. Thus also allowing Reagan to cut the state budget.
Which is what really matters - lower taxes. Because who cares about some people who are so crazy they might hurt themselves or others? They should have chosen to be born healthy, or at least rich.
Does that sound like a prescription for a society that works well - for anybody, including the rich?
If you said no, congratulations. You have chosen a sane outlook on social policy.