Defining a True Conservative
The commotion surrounding the Oslo terrorist attacks and their apparent political motivation has again brought to the surface a challenging question.
In the last several years, the term “conservative” as used by most mainstream media and political commentators has become little more than a code word for “Christian Fundamentalist Tea Party Whacko.”
Let’s say you didn’t know much about the American political system and you were curious about “conservative values”. As such, you start to research the GOP based on the posts on this blog, most all of which can be verified by other sources.
You’d draw the conclusion that a “conservative” was someone who:
- Hates Barack Obama
- Hates Islam
- Is Christian
- Is Anti-Abortion
- Has a general dislike for gays, Mexicans, immigrants and other minorities
- Has a general dislike for the Federal Government
- Hates Taxes
- Loves the Rich
Now lets compare that assessment to the Wikipedia summation of “conservative” (yes I know it’s not the greatest source but for the purposes of this comparison it will suffice):
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist are generally used to describe support for preserving traditional social orders and hierarchies. The terms Right and Left were coined during the French Revolution, referring to seating arrangements in parliament; those who sat on the right supported preserving the institutions of the Ancien Régime (the monarchy, the aristocracy and the established church). Use of the term “Right” became more prominent after the second restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 with the Ultra-royalists.
Stephen Fisher writes in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics that in liberal democracies the term has been defined as opposition to socialism or social democracy, and that right-wing parties have included the philosophies of conservatism, Christian democracy, liberalism, libertarianism, and nationalism. He says “extreme right parties (have included) elements of racism and fascism” and “In surveys, self-placement on a left-right scale is associated with attitudes on economic policy, especially redistribution and privatization/nationalization and (particularly in Catholic countries) religiosity.”
So there is some crossover, but it’s clear from this definition that “conservative” is a rather broad and general term used by different entities with different objectives.
I feel we’ve gotten the point where Americans are actually afraid to identify themselves as “conservative” because they worry they will be immediately perceived as a racist, homophobic, bigot.
Sadly,t hat’s probably true in a lot of cases simply based on what mainstream conservatism (particularly Fox News) looks like these days.
But there is a more rational, sane and reasonable form of Conservatism that’s been buried beneath the hard right rhetoric and virtually disappeared from most major political dialog these days.
I will use myself as an example since I do consider myself a conservative in many respects.
Here’s a breakdown of some of my beliefs.
- America was never intended to be a Christian nation
- The Constitution is a terrific blueprint for a strong and free country
- Individual liberty is one of the greatest things anyone can have
- Debt is seldom a good thing to have “Spend within your means” should be the golden rule when it comes to ANY Financial matters be they personal, business or governmental. (I absolutely refuse to use the term “Fiscal responsibility” because of how distorted it’s become)
- Treating the earth with respect is an important thing (this is decidedly one of more Liberal leanings)
- ALL men, women and children are created equal and are to be treated with equal respect regardless of if they are straight, gay, black, white, Latino, Muslim, rich or poor
- Islamic EXTREMISM is a threat to America. A high percentage of Muslims are not.
- Stable families create stronger adults. Note: A stable family does not, in my opinion, necessarily need to have two parents.
- I oppose Socialism and Communism. One need look no further than China or Venezuela to see that these are bad ideas that only serve to enrich an entitled few at the expense of an exploited many. (Note that I do NOT feel that “Obamacare” represents socialism)
- I am a Christian, but I am not in favor of most of the Christian inspired social legislation passed by many states in the past year or so.
- I also believe taxation can be beneficial if handled correctly
Although I self identify as a conservative, I do NOT necessarily agree with all the policies and actions of the Republican Party. The GOP does not and should not represent Conservatism as a whole.
It’s unfortunate that an already under siege term like “conservative” has become even more tainted thanks to the actions of the Oslo terrorist, but that is damage that cannot be undone. At least not any time soon.
Despite this, real conservatives still exist and you won’t usually find them at a Tea Party gathering or protesting a Mosque. In fact, you might be surprised at how normal a lot of them are.
I can only hope that those voices grow stronger. The extremism is threatening to snuff out the candle of conservatism. We need to fight to keep it burning.