I am often called a conservative though I consider myself a liberal in the classical definition of the word. The only thing I want to conserve politically is liberty. But I must admit that personally speaking I would love to conserve strong families with both parents and there are probably some other social things I want to conserve on a purely personal level, but as I write this, I struggle to think of any. That leaves me wondering just what it means to be conservative. What is it that conservatives are trying to conserve? If you consider yourself a conservative have you ever thought it out and made a list of what you are trying to conserve? Also, on that list, how many of those things do you feel it is right and proper to conserve using the force of law?
I don’t think people should use drugs. I think drugs are bad things that alter the mind and put the substance, rather than the person, in control. Because I am a platypus that likes to have self-control, the idea of drugs and booze does not appeal to me. That’s all personal though. I don’t believe that my personal feeling on the subject gives me the right to use the law on others to make them conform.
When I think of conservatives, that’s what I think of. People who think that they have a right to use the force of law to promote their social ideas. I do know that is not how conservatives see themselves. Talking with conservatives they will focus on being fiscally conservative. They might add into that having a strong military and a focus on capitalism. Maybe today’s conservatives do focus more on the economy but sometimes they do so using bad methods such as cronyism and bombs for even that.
Conservatism, as I think about it, is likely the worst thing about Republicans.
Republicans, as a party, the Grand Old Party or GOP, began for the purpose of fighting slavery. First to stop it from expanding into new territories and eventually to abolish it all together. “The name “Republican” was chosen, alluding to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party and conveying a commitment to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That is why I say it’s better to be a Republican than it is to be a conservative. Those are values worth supporting and defending.
Conserving morality, certainly is something worth supporting and defending too but the methods of doing it should be different. The kind of morality that promotes men marrying women, or condemns violence in movies or games, or cursing in songs, should be promoted using persuasion. You convince people that it’s a good way to live and encourage them to live that way. If it is a good way then they will find out soon enough. And really most standards of reasonable morality really do make a person happier and make life easier.
Conserving those moral principles though the power and force of law, however, isn’t righteousness at all. If a person acts a certain way because they are forced to then there is no moral victory there for those proponents of that certain moral system. In Islam or Christianity no convert is gained through force. You cannot look at a land ruled by the fist, gaze out and see all the people lined up and orderly, and believe that they are a righteous people. They aren’t. They are a beaten people. You may see behavior that fits into your box but in their minds still roil the same wicked thoughts that existed before and added to them is likely a deep and abiding hatred for the fist.
That is why I like the word “liberal”.
We’ve warped and destroyed that word in America. It’s gone from meaning someone who was in favor of maximum freedom for individuals to meaning someone who supports leftist ideas and politics. We’ve had to stick the word “classical” in front of liberal to make it mean what it used to. That’s fine as long as people get the difference. Resting in the root of the word is liberty and that’s what I’m in favor of as much as humanly possible.
You don’t have to choose between conservatism and being a Republican, you can choose not to be either one. You can choose to teach people how to live through example instead of forcing them to. It’s very likely that people, when left to their own choice, will actually pick the path you want them to anyway. It is true people are prone to immorality but it is also true that, given time, they most often realize that they aren’t happy living that way. Law should protect rights and persuasion should protect the kind of moral choices typically associated with religion which get twisted into conservatism.
Today’s G.O.P. sells out communitarian roots for tribalism and market worship.