Being Conservative

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.

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The Founders vs. Libertarians: They aren’t allies.

It is truly a wonder that so many Americans who call themselves libertarians hold the founding fathers and the constitution in such high regard, even sacred reservoirs. A simple review of history demonstrates that the founders who supported the ratification of the constitution were the Federalists like Hamilton, Washington, Adams, Jay, etc. The most significant tenant of their political platform, in fact the reason they existed as a distinguishable party, is because they saw a strong central government as essential for the survival of the nation. The federalists also viewed the constitution as a document that could be interpreted broadly and with “elasticity,” in order that future generations would not be bound by the confines of the laws necessary in their own (the founder’s) era. Remarkably, this view favoring broad interpretation and the principle of elasticity is not similar to the view held by most libertarians and “constitutionalists” today, just the opposite. Most libertarians/constitutionalists support a strict adherence to the constitution as it was written, and have the gull to suggest that anything otherwise is in violation of the founder’s (which ones?)  intentions for the document. That would be true for founder’s like Jefferson, but here it is critical to remember that Jefferson opposed the ratification of the constitution in the first place! It was only afterwards that Jefferson adopted the ideals of “strict construction” in which the constitution must be viewed literally and without room for elasticity. It would be just wonderful, if the folks who claim to stand with our founders would truly do that and support a strong central government and a loose construction view of interpreting the constitution. Those of you who consider yourselves “dedicated constitutionalists” and people who support “liberty over order” should really begin to consider that your view of history may be skewed, your understanding of the founder’s opinions could be tainted, and the alliances you find in history are illegitimate. Do you really stand with the founders that supported the ratification of the constitution? “Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things. And furthermore, why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.”- Alexander Hamilton
*This is merely an introduction to what will become several posts against what the author believes to be the most volatile, destructive, and bewilderingly popular political movement in modern American history.