Will Real Conservatism Please Stand Up?
I have always considered myself conservative. I think of it as a good thing, sort of a perfectionist idealism tempered by healthy cynicism. As a confirmed political junkie, I spend a good chunk of my time watching shows such as ABC’s Politically Incorrect and CNN’s Talkback Live. I have always taken television spin on conservatism with a grain of salt, but lately it has become more vicious. Because I don’t want anyone to think I am the evil, heartless, cold, -insert random nasty adjective here-, person that liberals say I am, I will explain here and now what conservatism means to me.
To begin, allow me to tell the reader what conservatism is not. Conservatism is
not a bunch of cranky old men trying to take away the rights of women
and minorities (would I, a young female, call myself conservative if
that were true?). Conservatism
is not the wealthiest among us stifling the indigent (Oh yeah, I’m
also broke). Conservatism is not even about keeping things the way they
were when our fathers’ fathers were in charge.
Conservatism is much, much smarter than that.
Conservatism has a kind of ‘show me’ savvy that many in
this nation would do well to pay attention to.
Conservatism does not say “change not,” it says, “why
should this change?” It is not a blind following of the latest trend, but a
cautious optimism which begs proof before decision making. Simply put, conservatism in its purest form declares,
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
This careful approach to policy making is what makes
conservative politics so appealing to freedom-minded people.
It is not that some people inherently distrust the government,
it is just that many taxpayers want concrete evidence that a policy is
for the good of the country before they give up their hard-earned
money to pay for it.
For example, conservatives do not believe that there are no
problems with racial division in this country.
Racism is an obvious social ailment that many people must deal
with every day. That
said, just because there is a problem does not mean that we should be
expected to throw our money at every proposed solution.
Before I turn over one cent to support a racial policy, I want
to know it will work. I
do not want to waste my money or minorities’ time on programs with
little guarantee of success.
The conservative idea about new policy is to try it on the
local level first (policy should really be made at the local level
Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis, demonstrated this approach
marvelously when he worked with faith-based groups and private
organizations to start limited voucher programs and other community
efforts to improve education and the quality of life for children in
the urban portions of his city. In
the opinion of the author, his experiment was a success (those details
will be the subject of a future column), and if he were someday in a
position to influence national policy, I would support any effort to
expand that kind of public-private sector cooperation. When policy is proven at home first, it is far easier to
support with a clear conscience.
Conservatism protects the nation from rash decisions and flawed
ideas. A liberal is much
more likely to make a decision from the heart instead of the head.
Decisions of the heart are fine, that is what day-to-day life
is all about, but policy making is not day to day—it is forever.
Rare is the law that is repealed because it was bad policy.
Does that mean that lawmakers never make bad decisions?
Of course not. It
just means that by the time they finally realize that they made a
mistake, they are too busy with their next mistake to do anything
Conservatism is not about looking backward (as many members of
the media would have us believe).
Conservatism is just about seeing the big picture—not only
how decisions will affect us personally, but those around us, and
those yet to come. It is
about being sure an answer is correct before making it our ‘final
liberalism stays in the here and now, making sure our immediate needs
are met (even if it means stealing from the future), conservatism
looks to our fathers for guidance and our children for perspective,
searching for the truth and the right
way of doing things.