In my thoughts, attitudes, and passions relevant to American politics, I am conservative. I find this word to be an increasingly negative way to describe myself. First, because many who are older than I am consider themselves “conservative”–but not in the way I do. They pride themselves in rhetoric which says laziness is the only cause of poverty, individualism and individual liberties are the heartbeat of the nation, government is always the problem, homosexuals are the root of all evil, immigr–YOU MEAN ALIENS are destroying this country! And liberals, you may as well hang them for treason. Second, because many who are my age assume that my self described conservatism means I heartily ascribe to the crude list of aforementioned beliefs–but such an assumption couldn’t be poorer. Although, I do have to be fair here, for many my age, this breed of conservative (which i hope to show isn’t really conservative at all) is the only type they’ve seen in action. Radicals like Michele Bachmann and her Tea Party Caucus in the House often describe themselves and their values as “conservative.” Increasingly, conservative is meaning unfeeling toward the poor, bigoted and hateful towards the homosexual, derogatory and unhelpful towards the immigrant. If you’re not conservative, you are dismissed, after all, you hate the country and you want to destroy it. You’re either ignorant about how government works best, or you’re some sort of domestic terrorist. Since this is the sort of crap that most people my age are used to hearing associated with conservative, I don’t blame them for reacting and taking pride in being themselves liberal. But I would like to make petition here. I am pleading with you my fellow millenial, do not let radicals on the far right, a very small and isolated part of the Right in America, define conservatism for you.
I’d like to consider myself a classical conservative. By that I mean that I see order as a good thing, and as a priority over unrestrained liberty. I would like to see traditional social institutions preserved. I prefer continuity and stability to rapid changes. I think that a good way forward for the United States includes a strong economy, and strong government beginning with the states, and brought to fruition in DC. However, unlike many who also call themselves “conservative”, I do not consider those with a more liberal philosophy to be evil. I admire liberals for their deep concerns about education and their compassion for the poor and the oppressed. I think there is strength in preserving tradition and strength in progress and newness.
Conservatism isn’t about rhetoric and winning arguments and angry old white men (with the exceptions of Palin and Bachmann) getting red in the face. Conservatism isn’t about a crazed mob with signs demonstrating their illiteracy. Conservatism isn’t about a lonely mentally deranged individual that kills an abortion doctor. Conservatism isn’t about cheating the poor and enabling the wealthy to accumulate. Being conservative, is about being moderate. It’s about recognizing the security that comes from tradition, tried and true methods of civil government. Conservatism is respecting and honoring those who brilliantly ensured the survival of our young republic, but that does not demand their divination–something the Tea Party is absolutely guilty of. Conservatism isn’t about smear campaigning, name calling, or elitism. Conservatism is a rich tradition of civility. Beginning with Alexander Hamilton–the father of our economy– and flowing up through the journalism of William F. Buckley. Being conservative, very often, means being contrarian, and holding a vast array of opinions. Thinking well about the issues that face us, and not rushing to harmful solutions. Being conservative is not about being trigger happy and seeking military conflict out. It’s about exhausting every possible alternative and weighing in the balance the morals and virtues at stake in that most dreaded capability of men–but of course recognizing that our ability to end oppression sometimes obligates we do so.
A lot to take in, and in typical fashion, I have not been conservative in my writing. Each of these individual inferences could be developed into its own essay, and perhaps someday after college midterms, when i have the time, I will do so. But for now, dear sister, dear brother, I beg of you to see past the “conservatives” of Washington D.C., and understand that there is goodness and a wealth of opportunity and order– both chief to the flourishing of any nation–in preserving traditions. Conservatism is chiefly required because, as Hamilton, my political hero has said: “The passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.” If conservatism hopes to survive as a popular political philosophy in the United States, we must put down the radicals and establish ourselves as the party that prefers order and security rooted in tradition, over an untamed sea of liberty.