Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Leaving Conservatism

While I'm sure that the title of this post might have some of you scratching your heads, you need have no real fears (beyond the usual ones) that I have gone stark, raving mad. (OK I have, but that's ancient history.) I am not, and will not in fact be announcing significant changes any of my core beliefs in this bit of writing, but perhaps that's the problem. 

You see compromise is very popular these days, and abandoning one's principles in the true spirit of bi-partisanship demanded by the shrill voices of the mainstream media and illustrated so wonderfully by the Congressional 'dates' from the recent SOTU is the prevailing spirit of the day. Then again, I've never been very popular. 

In fact, it's this lack of compromising spirit that causes me a certain amount of discomfort. It's not enough that I should be beset by the accusatory tone of the media and the double standard of a political left who suddenly seem to find compromise much more interesting now that they are no longer in clear majorities in both Houses of Congress. I am equally assailed by many calling themselves Conservatives, and who though now in the majority in one house of the national legislature sometimes appear to have backbones of the firmness of licorice sticks. 

The lack of character and principle being demonstrated quite frankly makes me want to leave today's Conservatism further behind than leisure suits and disco balls. Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal is often quoted as saying that: "Republicans never pass up an opportunity to pass up an opportunity". The same may apply to Conservatives. What's more, it seems that many who call themselves one cannot be happy when in power and seem to undergo distinct personality changes when they are. It's only when being demonized and victimized by their opponents, only when they can do little more than shout at the rain, that they can see fit to raise their voices. When finally in a position to do more than stand stoically on principle, they fold like like a pair of deuces in a Texas Holdem game. 

 In fact, once taking the reins of the national agenda, they seem to forget (if they ever really understood) what real Conservatism is. They speak of pursuing a spirit of self-reliance and personal responsibility, but attempt to try and legislate such behaviors in others. Though this might be considered altruistic in some circles, it is actually done in the same misguided belief as the left that someone without the exact same moral code as theirs should somehow be forced into compliance with the force of government behind them. 

They talk about wanting a smaller government, but define the term as either slowing its growth or nibbling at its edges, rather than actually whittling the beast down to size. They cannot seem to propose a vote for the elimination of departments, programs, and subsidies that have proven to be utter failures; let alone those that had no place in government to begin with. Even when they have their noses rubbed in the waste and abuse that has gone on in their watch, they manage to look the other way. When it falls to them to make the tough choices, they have long since run for the cover of political expediency, claiming that the ideological changes that they once spoke of will simply take more time. 

They become more concerned with playing nice or playing fair, and fear being held in a bad light by people and groups who hate everything about them. When finally presented with the opportunity to act on their principles, they seemingly become embarrassed by them. 

And then there are those who call themselves Conservatives, but who are more concerned with the success of the Republican Party than with the ideals that they claim to hold dear. They appear to be too wrapped up in scoring points in a pointless game of politics between D's and R's than actually standing up for the things that they said they believed when running for office. Of course a name is just a name, and Conservatives have gone by others in the past, including liberal; but the Classical Liberalism that inspired many of the Founding Fathers was something far different. And just as this political philosophy has nothing to do with the political left of today, it sometimes seems that to be equally distant from the form of Conservatism being practiced. 

Perhaps the truth of the matter is that I may not in fact be leaving Conservatism so much as it has left me. Unless and until it begins to practice what it used to preach however, I expect to remain outside of it; committed to the ideals that it once stood for.


Maggie Thurber said...

Tim - the point to remember that calling yourself a conservative does not a conservative make.

You are so right - too many people in elective office, or looked to as leaders of the philosophy, fail to carry through on the principles once they attain the office or position. But that just means they weren't true conservatives in the first place - merely executing a strategy in the game they are playing in order to gain the goal of power/control/winning.

What they fail to understand is that they *win* by espousing the conservative principles and they *lead* when they abide by them. They also fail to realize that it's so much easier to just stand on the principles than it is to constantly maneuver for something else.

Rep. Ron Paul once told me that he found making decisions about votes was very easy - he looked to the Constitution and, when he found no authority, he just voted no. Since so much of what came before him was contrary to the limits on the federal government, he voted 'no' quite often. But he explained that it was the easiest thing to do and he never had to worry about how to justify a vote to his constituents.

Standing on principle is the easiest thing to do - if they'd just do it. And if they don't, then they really didn't have or believe in the principles in the first place.

Timothy W Higgins said...


I think we're just going to have to come up with a new name for someone who believes in limited government and Constitutional principles. I know some would say that it's already out there and called 'Libertarian', but I don't think that political philosophy should be confused with political affiliation.

As Sherlock Holmes would say, it's quite the "three pipe problem".