Is a conservative someone who is against the rights of homosexuals? Are they individuals who promote segregation of the races or mandate that everyone pray in schools? Such beliefs do not make for a conservative, they account for the opinions and policies of bigots.
Are you a conservative if you believe in respect of the flag or citing the pledge of allegiance? Many liberals have an appreciation for such things.
Are you a conservative if you oppose deficit spending? Many conservatives have participated in spending more than we have and some liberals oppose such practices.
So obviously none of these things make one a conservative.
Is opposition to abortion a defining prerequisite for qualification as a conservative? If one is not certain of when a constitutional definition of life begins, the conservative value of freedom of choice and strict adherence to the Constitution might force some who consider themselves conservative to support abortion rights on the basis that a women has the right to choose what to do with her body or what is contained in her body.
There are many different views to conservatism that are open for individual definitions of itself.
Many conservatives put more weight in a moral standard than a legal standard when it comes to abortion. Others might take a strictly constitutional approach and claim that until there is a constitutional amendment that defines life as beginning at the moment of conception or at some other stage in the womb, it has no legal identity or rights until born.
Individual interpretations on many issues will always produce a spin that could question the results of any litmus test that seeks to define one as a conservative and this fact makes it impossible to consistently define conservatism in a foolproof manner.
Then of course you have different types of conservatives to add to the improbability of any accurate litmus test.
There are neo-conservatives who emphasize strong security, paleo-conservatives who put the emphasis on faith and values and then you also have libertarian conservatives who have a focus on individual rights.
You can slice and dice any political line of thought into any myriad of categories but true conservatives believe in a balance between all of those identified focuses.
One thing that all conservatives agree upon is the size of government. They believe it should be smaller. But even there what makes for a smaller and still appropriate government is not agreed upon. But it is the basic point of smaller government that is at the heart of conservatism. It stems from the shared belief that more government means more control and that more control means less freedom.
That single shared belief goes deeper than it sounds and at its depth is what differentiates conservatives from liberals and Republicans from Democrats. And for all the things that do not define one as a conservative the philosophical depth of and reasoning behind small government leads us to what does help to make one a conservative to one degree or another.
Conservatives are actually individual thinkers who have both a social and economic outlook that stems from one basic principle…….freedom. It is a belief in the Declaration of Independence and the writings of the United States Constitution along with an understanding of its intended path for symmetry between life, society and government. True conservatives strike a balance between governance and natural rights They understand that Sir Edmund Burke was in many ways one of the original conservatives and they understand his writings as they pertain to the relationship of religion, free markets, authority and liberty. They know that the correct balance of these relationships allows for the respect of the individual and their natural rights while maintaining a civil society or ordered liberty.
A real conservative understands that government, especially a federal government, exists to preserve order by recognizing the uniqueness of each individual and their freedoms while maintaining a moral order through an ethical judgment that is based upon our Constitution. They understand that this ethical order exists to allow the individual to pursue their own interests and avenues to happiness and full potential without man made government obstacles and they understand the need to protect, preserve and defend the national environment for such pursuits.
With these understandings and beliefs, true conservatives seek not to deny rights to homosexuals. They seek to insure that the rights of gay individuals are protected along with those of heterosexuals. On this issue a true conservative approach respects tradition by preserving the sanctity of marriage as a union between a man and a woman while also preserving the rights of same sex individuals to enter a legally contractually union that provides the equal legal recognition required of our constitution.
True conservatives do not define how society must think or what they should believe but they insure that one is free to follow their heart and to insure the opportunity to do so. Conservatives do not mandate prayer, they seek to insure that prayer is not prohibited or that religious expression is not denied.
For one to be a real conservative they must understand the right to legitimately obtain and own property or accumulate wealth through the fruits of their own labors without penalty for their effort.
They also understand that the rule of law is not a tool to be used to enforce any religious standard or personal opinion but to maintain a moral order that is based upon restraint, honor, respect and ethical judgment that insures that no ones rights are abridged or denied. Being human, the application of this order is not always perfect but, for virtuous men, conservatives believe that it is the closest we can come to perfection with any man made system of governance that seeks to preserve a fair, free, prosperous and civil society.
With these beliefs I too call myself a conservative and as a conservative I find my place within the ranks of the Republican Party a perfect fit. There may be differences within the Republican Party but while these differences exist, each differing opinion stems from their individual interpretation of how best to enact all that I have described which makes one a conservative.
Voters and activists can try to paint themselves as more conservative or as true conservatives by tattooing the label of a conservative party or the libertarian label on their foreheads but labels do not make a philosophy or ideology. A strict adherence to the values of freedom and a civil society that does not deny rights to any segment of society or promote special rights for any segment of society help to make you a conservative. If you believe that government must defend and protect our equal natural rights and apply that belief to the practical application of government than you may be a conservative. If you do not, you are most definitely not a conservative and you are also not a real Republican.
Defending the sanctity of marriage alone does not make you a Republican or a conservative. Standing up only for the right to bear arms does not make you a conservative or a Republican. Nor does simply supporting Sarah Palin or a robust national defense make you one. And neither does simply joining an organization that calls itself a Conservative Party make you a true conservative.
What makes one a true conservative is an inherent belief in freedom and an attempt to maintain it in an orderly society through judgment that is rooted in objective applications of our founding principles and the U.S. Constitution.
Conservatives believe in the supremacy of man while providing for the proper checks and balances to account for all his frailties and imperfections while liberals believe in the supremacy of the state and producing more of it to make up for any imperfections or frailties.
While conservatives believe that an all powerful government leads to the few dictating to the many which limits freedom, liberals believe that freedom must be limited because man is too imperfect to regulate himself and so the state must do it for him.
That liberal approach to government is what we see more and more of with the passage of each and every day that this administration maintains it power. And as they seek to consolidate power it is becoming increasingly important for those with conservative values to consolidate their voices and their power in a unified front.
Despite the characterizations from the left which try claim that Republican Party is losing popularity because it is too extreme, the truth is that over the past six years or so, the G.O.P. has been losing more so-called conservatives than moderates. We have lost more Republicans to the Libertarian Party than we have to the Democrat Party. This would indicate that we must recapture the conservative spirit which I have described.
This does not necessarily mean that we will move more to the proverbial right. In fact what it means is if we can get back to basics, through the framework established by the Constitution and our fundamental conservative belief in and understanding of the balance between ordered liberty, respect, religion, ethical judgment and individual natural rights, we can unite the most divided wings of the party….. the social liberals and social conservatives.
Through a renewed conservative appreciation for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights we can create a harmonious union of the two and consolidate our energy as one unified voice as we try to overcome the current liberal attempt to consolidate power and advance an agenda that is antithetical to the founding principles that have made America great.
That is why although it may be easier for one to call themselves something other than a Republican these days, I seek to fight for the right changes and policies from within not from without. I reject the notion that the party of Reagan is a left leaning institution at heart and I reject the notion that if so-called Conservatives or Constitutionalists or Libertarians occupied the halls of power that they too would not succumb to the same failings that electoral politics causes Republicans or Democrats to fall victim to.
Those that have given up on the Republican because they feel that it is no longer any different than the other major party, they must understand that it may be enticing to join a different affiliation with a clean slate and an that has has an unblemushed record simply because it has no track record at all. The grass always seems greener on the other side. But those perceived greener pastures are just that,………. perceptions. In truth they are no greener than the land you occupy and they must go through the same process to keep the grass green that you have to go through. You must remember though, that it is easy for any organization that does not have power to claim purity when it is not tried or tested. It would be easy for me to unburden myself of a tarnished party label but my senses do not allow me to simply take on a new identity while working towards the same goal.
As a Caucasian, in some ethereal way, I can still be blamed for slavery, but that does not make me claim that I am tan rather than white. The people have elected their share of liberal Republicans but that does not mean that the true Republican ideology and approach to government is liberal. Nor am I.
There may be some with liberal tendencies within the G.O.P. but I refuse to leave my political home because some visitors occupy it. And as for those conservatives who breakaway from the Republican Party and battle to fight on a separate front, you must understand that the main front will only continue to weaken and that will only enable the left to continue breaking through. If the G.O.P. is left to liberals it will indeed become a liberal organization and if conservatives are not willing to fight to have their voices heard within the Republican Party than I have little hope for them to effectively fight to be heard in the nation.
As we wittness the current level of political discourse exceed the levels that we thought could not have gotten worse when George W. Bush was President, it is clear that the Republican Party must get back to basics. Those basics include the fundmentals principles of the conservatism that is an inherent party of the Republican Party. And if we look at the Constitution of the United States and acknowledge the value of freeedom, true conservatism applied correctly, can be a source of unity for the party and the nation.
Applied incorrectly it will continue to be a source for division.