When one declares oneself to be a conservative, one is not, unfortunately, thereupon visited by tongues of fire that leave one omniscient. The acceptance of a series of premises is just the beginning. After that, we need constantly to inform ourselves, to analyze and to think through our premises and their ramifications. We need to ponder, in the light of the evidence, the strengths and the weaknesses, the consistencies and the inconsistencies, the glory and the frailty of our position, week in and week out. Otherwise, we will not hold our own in a world where informed dedication, not just dedication, is necessary for survival and growth.

William F. Buckley Jr., Feb 8, 1956, NR

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What is Conservatism?

Before we get too involved in discussions about what has happened to conservatism and how we can change it, I feel we need to define it. Defining conservatism is very difficult because it is not just a simple belief. It is a set of principles and ideals that make up our vision for the future or America. The most accurate definition I found at Answers.com......
  1. A political philosophy or attitude emphasizing respect for traditional institutions, distrust of government activism, and opposition to sudden change in the established order.
  2. The inclination, especially in politics, to maintain the existing or traditional order.
For way too long, conservatism has been associated with resistance to change, and an opposition to progress, when in reality, it is nothing like that. When I think about conservatism in the United States, three words come to mind, freedom, tradition, and personal responsibility. Ronald Reagan epitomized what it meant to be a conservative. The GOP has to return to the conservative principles and ideals that haven't been seen since.

"The ultimate determinant in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas-a trial of spiritual resolve: the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish and the ideals to which we are dedicated." Ronald Reagan

We want smaller government. Our goal is to give the power back to the states, community and the individual, where it belongs. By looking at our past, we see that we have been the most successful when we have made the individual accountable and given them the power to decide their own fate. We love freedom and liberty and are thankful for those that fought to protect it. The least we can do is preserve it for our generation and those to come. There are a great deal of responsibilities that come with freedom. When we delegate them to the government we are basically saying that politicians are more capable and honest than we are and there is nothing further from the truth.

"The preamble to the Constitution states: "We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare..."

In that statement it does not say that we should give the government the right to decide how that it is accomplished. Government does not produce the wealth nor should it decide how it is spent. One of the biggest issues I had with Obama's policies is the Distributing the wealth. If the government takes from the wealthy they will be less inclined to produce it. If you then distribute it to the poor freely, they become less inclined to work for it. That is not beneficial to anyone. Personal responsibility becomes null and void. I am not willing to sacrifice the right of the individual and in doing so increasing the power of the government. We need to get back to the basics laid out in the Constitution, promoting free will, and personal responsibility. We feel a sense of duty to those before us and a deep respect for the history of this country. We feel that our rights are given from God and not the government.

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children what it was once like in the United States when men were free." Ronald Reagan

We realize tradition is what makes this country so special and unique. It is what sets us apart from other countries. To destroy that, is to change who we are and what has made us so great. Ronald Reagan once said "if we forget what we did, we won't know who we are"

Conservatism will never succeed on a national level if it isn't fought for on a personal level. It is different for each individual and there are many different varieties, (ex Social, Fiscal, Libertarian, Compassionate.) but they all need to be fought for by us as individuals.

On a personal level, I feel that a family is responsible for raising children, not the schools. I believe that there is a fundamental right to life, not just when it is convenient. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe that if I make the money I should decide where it is spent. I believe that our flag is a symbol of our liberty and should be cherished and respected. I am against illegal immigration, if you come to the land of freedom do it legally. I believe that I have every right to own a gun, period! I believe that everyone is created equal and there is no need for Affirmative Action. Being American is a blessing and I resent those that come here and want to turn it into another country. Regardless of what you think about my personal beliefs, conservatism is the common ground we all share and what brings us together as fellow Americans, and partners in our fight to bring back the principles and ideals, that are slowly being chipped away.

I invite you all to share what conservatism means to you. Together we will fight, to preserve the history, integrity and traditions of America and bring back the nation she once was.

"The root of conservatism lies in the second greatest commandment: "...'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt. 22:39 NIV) and in the Golden Rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31 NIV)"

ACU statement of principles listed here.

Another great site is the Conservative Movement.


Robert said...

An excellent post, my friend. I think you have selected excellent points and I cannot find much in the way of disagreement from my own perspective. Of course, that might be why we are doing this together....lol.

I think you have identified one of the main problems of the GOP in regard to the loss of our conservative principles as a party. First I should say that the GOP is far more diverse and a much more open party than is the dem party. Stepping outside the party line such as the positions taken over the years by Zell Miller and Joe Leiberman make them enemies of their own party.

However, the presence of "hyphenated conseravtives" has watered down our broader message. The religious right has garnered the bulk of the attention given to the GOP that a significant number of people can only see the party as religious extremists. Were it not for abortion and gun control, no one under the age of 25 understands anything about where we stand on issues. Those are important issues, but not the issues that should exclusively define us, as there are many more priorities on the table.

As you have begun to do here. defining who we are is important. Discussions between hyphenated conservatives, i.e. social-conservative, fiscal-conservative, etc. must begin so that we can find that common ground and common principle as we move forward.

Again, nice work, I am looking forward to seeing a dozen posts here in response.

TAO said...

I have trouble with the definition of Conservative from answers.com because based upon this definition Ronald Reagan was a radical.

He did not maintain the existing or traditional order and his administration was very active.

I believe that Conservatives and Liberals begin with a set of belief systems. I respect the belief systems of the Liberals as much as I do the Conservatives. I recognize that Liberals have fought and died for the freedoms this country enjoys as much as Conservatives have.

That is why I am disgusted with the current administration and this last election. I believe we let ourselves down.

Just because one loves their country does not mean that one blindly supports the policies of the side that they support.

I believe that we attacked Iraq not because they represented an imminent threat to our country (forget WMD because at that time we knew Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran had Nukes, which are WMD but rather because Iraq was low lying fruit.)

I am not against helping the poor or against government welfare, but I am against a system that keeps people poor. Government assistance actually stops once people work too much and realistically we want people to work so I believe that we need to pay people MORE who are working their way out of welfare until such point that they are able to stand on their own two feet.

I am also against wealth distribution but I am also against wealth concentration. When you study economics you realize that the reason our middle class is disappearing is because we have actually witnessed a lowering of income for the middle class. That is where supply side economics and our blind belief in this theory hurt us, and we need to address those issues. If you believe that government does not owe the poor a living then you must also agree that government does not owe the rich protection for their wealth. With the bailout plan we have guaranteed wealth.

I do not get richer when fellow americans are getting poorer...if my fellow citizens are struggling then I am going to struggle likewise.

No one should be surprised with the success of Obama and his policies because we created his opportunity because we lost our sense of fundamental fairness. We worshipped wealth and success without coming to grips with the fact that there is a right and wrong way to grow wealthy and successful.

We lost sight of the golden rule, we do not want government to cram things down our throats but we had no problem cramming our own beliefs down the throats of others.

Is their discrimination in the United States? Of course there is and as long as we discriminate then there will be demands for programs like affirmative action.

When you claim to respect traditional institutions and oppose change in the established order or desire to maintain the existing or tradtional order then you are basically claiming that you support the inequality of the past that you support the segregation of the past. We value a set of principles that are the basis of this country but we also realize that when our constitution claims to believe that all men are created equal we also accept the reality that in our past all men were not perceived as being created equal.

Conservatives should never look at their history and or their current motives through rose colored glasses. It is great to be able to blame liberalism for everyting that is wrong with this country and to fear liberalism as destroying our country but we too have created mistakes and we too are culpable in the destruction of this country.

We rant about welfare but we support corporate and agriculture welfare. We rant about a balanced budget, lower taxes, and cutting spending yet we want a strong military and we say NOTHING about government borrowing. We cheered Bush for cutting taxes but not one of us marched on Washington when he increased the government debt.

Traditional conservatives are isolationist not interventionists. It was Eisenhower, a conservative, who told us to fear the military industrial complex. It is Guillani who pimped 9/11 for his own personal gain.

It was Alan Greenspan, a disciple of Ayn Rand, who romantized over wall street and the fact that institutional respect would keep personal greed in check....

Now we have squandered more wealth than any liberal administration could ever dream of doing.

Joe said...

Great definitions, which, if you don't mind, I will procede to steal.

Robert said...

Tao, I am not sure we see conservatism in the same light. I agree that there are no politics in combat, and I admire and respect and appreciate the service of all who wear the uniform and bear those sacrifices. Trust me, unless you have lived it then you do cannot totally understand the sacrifices made by our armed forces. The sacrifice of life and limb are obvious; the day to day existence in the military presents sacrifices large and small that are unknown to the general public.

That being said, I cannot respect the belief systems of liberals. I respect their right to be wrong, but not the system or the outcome of that system.

A rising tide does indeed lift all boats. Tax cuts, whenever they are applied, increase the revenue to the federal government. We can engage in rhetorical questions here such as “when was the last time a poor person created a job?” but I am going to avoid all of those. The fact is that if we craft tax policies that insure that the “wealthy” are given the opportunity to invest their money, everyone benefits.

Looking at bailouts and tax cuts is simplistic as there are numerous reasons for the decline of middle class income. (Anecdotally, I have made more gain from the current administration than ever before. It might have something to do with the statistical fact that I am in my peak earning years, but it also has something to do with the choices I have made for myself and my family regarding education and career path). Company X pays their employees $10.00 per hour, and then moves their jobs to another country and reduces hourly wages to workers by $4.00 and now pays $6.00. Company Y then has no possibility to compete, and then moves their company to another country. Company Z starts up to offer the same product. Will they be competitive in a market where they are forced to pay $7.50 per hour? Add to that an increased tax burden because of a desire to distribute the wealth.

I disagree with the assertion that true conservatives are isolationists. "Our interest [is] to throw open the doors of commerce and to knock off all its shackles, giving perfect freedom to all persons for the vent of whatever they may choose to bring into our ports, and asking the same in theirs." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XXII, 1782. ME 2:240 Which is not to say that there cannot be a difference between the philosophical and the actual discretionary expenditure of indivdual resources, for Jefferson also said "I have come to a resolution myself as I hope every good citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make, be the difference of price what it may." --Thomas Jefferson to B. S. Barton, 1815. ME 19:223

I am not sure where you have been reading that conservatives say nothing about debt. We have been disappointed in the Bush Administration and the growth of government spending. I am appalled that we just added almost a trillion dollars to the debt with a bailout. I personally believe as Jefferson believed: "I sincerely believe... that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1816. ME 15:23

Squandered wealth? I think not. I am taking advantage of this down market to purchase as many stocks as I can. I am taking money from the “Ice Cream Truck” jar that we keep so that I can make purchases while these amazing bargains are out there. Not only am I refusing to participate in a recession, I am going to take advantage of it and place myself in position where I can benefit. Your take on wealth is situational. The libs can sit and decry the rich and wealthy; I am trying to become one of them.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Conservatism in the sense that Answers.com defined, "The inclination, especially in politics, to maintain the existing or traditional order," is true ONLY in the fact that conservatism politically speaking follows traditional ideology as outlined in the Constitution.

For those who beleive as Obama that the Constitution is a list of," negative liberties," that only defines what the government cannot do and neglects to state what the government must to on behalf of the people forget the Bill of Rights.

Not only does the Bill of Rights state our personal and individual rights as Americans but the Tenth Amendment defines limited government and a non-interventionist government and that is the Constitution that Conservatives embrace and liberals forget. The true and original intent within the Constitution as it is written and not through liberal interpretation.

The Tenth Amendment states, "The powers NOT delegated to The United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are RESERVED to the STates respectively, ot to the PEOPLE."

This Amendment is the key to political conservatism because not only does it speak of limited government but it also calls for personal responsibility. That is why conservatism in the sense that it follows the principles and traditons set forth in the Constitution sekks to ," maintain the traditional order," because it stands firm on the foundational principles of the Constitution which is the foundation of our Nation and estabilishes the laws by which we live in freedom.

The reason that Reagan was considered against the, "traditional," ideas of government when he was elected is because liberal ideology had drifted so far from the Constitutional principles of limited government, personal responsibility and freedon to achieve without government involvement in the lives of Americans, that his ideas seemed radicla to the traditional liberal establishement who I believe STILL do not understand the Constitution or who and what this country truly is.

The Constitution sets limitation as to what government is and established our freedoms as defined by law and liberals cannot stand abiding by that because it does not allow themn control and unlimited power.

Conservative just as the Founders beleive that the power of this Nation is found in the people and as such the governemtn must get out of the way in order to allow the people to achieve, find success and as such bring prosperity and freedom to this Nation.

Faith, freedom, individual responsibility, limited government which also means less spending and lower taxes, strong defense and through the liberties established by our Constitution , "promoting the general welfare," which means allowing an atmosphere of liberty to allow the people to porsper and achieve finding success and freedom. That is Conservatism and that is the fight we face in order to keep to those principles under a liberal agenda that seeks to change the foundational principles of this land and take away our liberties and freedom through Socialism.

Anonymous said...

TAO - "I have trouble with the definition of Conservative from answers.com because based upon this definition Ronald Reagan was a radical.

He did not maintain the existing or traditional order and his administration was very active."

After giving it some thought, I have to agree with you. (which I think, from seeing your views, may not happen very often) :-)

Trying to find an official definition for the post was very difficult considering most of them came off very negatively. That is why I tried putting it into my own words throughout the post.

I know that liberals have fought and died for this country, and no where did I exclude them from my appreciation. Unlike you though, I do not respect liberals beliefs. I think they are wrong, plain and simple.

[Just because one loves their country does not mean that one blindly supports the policies of the side that they support.]

No, to follow something blindly is foolish. To use history as a guide doesn't mean that you can't or won't oppose what you see as wrong.

The government should not protect the wealthy and I think you will find few if any here that approved of it.

[I do not get richer when fellow americans are getting poorer...if my fellow citizens are struggling then I am going to struggle likewise.]

I have no idea what this means. If people are poor you feel the need to be poor also? I am going to all I can to reach my full potential and though I don't want to see anyone poor, that won't hinder my effort.

[We lost sight of the golden rule, we do not want government to cram things down our throats but we had no problem cramming our own beliefs down the throats of others.]

I don't know of anyone who does that. We have a strong sense of principles and ideals and we stand by them. I don't see how that is cramming anything down anyone else's throats? We need a certain level of government or else there would be chaos and anarchy.

Affirmative Action degrades minorities by saying they don't have the ability to do it themselves so the government has to help them. I find that offensive.

I think that ultimately we just really differ on what conservatism is. I have been to your site and quite frankly haven't agreed with a lot of what you post, so that really doesn't surprise me.

There is a lot I disagree with in regards to the current administration and I believe that he does not represent conservatism although he says he does. I'll leave it there for now, I'm curious to see what others definitions are.

Anonymous said...

Joe, steal away, although I wish I could fine a perfect definition!

Ken, I completely agree with you. Like I said above the definition is lacking....

"Faith, freedom, individual responsibility, limited government which also means less spending and lower taxes, strong defense and through the liberties established by our Constitution , "promoting the general welfare," which means allowing an atmosphere of liberty to allow the people to porsper and achieve finding success and freedom"

I think that statement is spot on.

Anonymous said...

This is one of those, “What did you mean when you said” threads. I don’t pretend to speak for anyone else, but I have a good idea what a conservative ought to be. If anyone asked me to identify the MOST conservative president in the twentieth century, it would be Ronald Reagan.

Was he perfect in any way? No. But he was supremely decent, and he dearly loved America in the way our founding fathers loved it. He didn’t seek to change the people’s relationship with their Constitution, nor convert America into a socialist state. He wasn’t a perfect parent, but he was a darn good one. He used “tough love” to get Americans to stand on their own two feet again – which is the best avenue toward a truly free society. Teach a man to fish . . . there is nothing better than that.

With regard to issues of foreign policy, Reagan made mistakes. So what? He was human. But he and Maggie Thatcher did more to defeat communism than our hundreds of stockpiled nuclear missiles. Were he president today, he would not countenance any business from radical Islamacists. He also wouldn’t put up with Medvedev and Putin’s plan to re-militarize the Russian border.

What do I want from conservativism? I want the government out of my business. I want the government to at least adopt the oath we require of physicians: “First, do no harm.” I want massive cuts in government spending in all areas except for those things ONLY the federal government can do. I want tax levels so low that they help to create opportunities for small business owners, encourage personal savings and investment, and if the federal government wants a “Department of Education,” one retired teacher with a desk ought to do it.

There is no such thing as half-communist. If anyone supports socialism, they are a de facto communist. That isn’t my America. That’s not the America of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. That isn’t the America my grandfather fought for in World War I, or my father in World War II. It isn’t the America I fought for. No sir. It is not.

Clay Bowler said...

Kudos! This blog needs to be posted everywhere!

Robert said...

Thanks Clay...help us out, spread the word! We want this to be the conservative rally point for serious discussion and actionable dialogue!