Sunday, February 10, 2008

Am I Still a Conservative?

In today’s political climate, I find myself unable to identify with the “conservative” wing of the Republican Party. What passes for conservative is a collection of neoconservative foreign policy adventurers, holy rollers, and right wing populist who advocate the politics of resentment and envy.

I have always considered myself a conservative. I have not just been a casual Republican, but felt myself part of the conservative movement. I have the credentials. I subscribed to National Review for over twenty years. I read the journals and the books. I have belonged to dozens of conservative organizations. I wrote a conservative column for my college newspaper. I was chairman of a Young Americans for Freedom chapter. I admired and loved Ronald Reagan and had his picture on my wall for years. I have contributed money to candidates, causes, and the party, and have worked the polls and the phone banks. I have even shaken hands with Jesse Helms and Spiro Agnew.

In recent years, I have moved to the center, but I really don’t feel like I’ve moved at all, but that the political spectrum has shifted beneath my feet.

I believe global warming is real and we should do something about it. I don’t think that that is any more of a liberal position than believing the world is round is a liberal position. I believe we must use market mechanism such as a carbon tax or a system of cap and trade if we are going to accomplish any curtailment of global warming. To deny the science and assume nothing needs to be done should not be a measure of one’s conservatism.

I do not believe we should trade our freedom for security but believe we can have both. I do not believe it is a measure of conservatism to advocate the use of torture.

I believe we need to be rational regarding immigration policy. You cannot humanely round up and deport 16 million people. We need immigration reform similar to that proposed by President Bush and Senator John McCain.

I think we were misled into an unnecessary war in Iraq. Now that we are in it however, I think we must stabilize the region before we can withdraw. To withdraw prematurely would be as equally foolish as the original invasion. I do not see any continuity between the defense policies that led to victory in the cold war and the Neocon policies that led us into Iraq. I would not define conservatism by one’s support for the invasion of Iraq.

I oppose gay marriage but personally am tolerant of homosexuals and don’t really care what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom. I see no need to amend the Constitution to define marriage.

I oppose abortion and hope that eventually a conservative Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade or so weakens it that its impact is greatly restricted. I think it is foolish and a waste of time to attempt to amend the constitution to define life as beginning at conception. This issue needs to gradually be returned to the political arena of each state. I believe in federalism and do not think every state has to have the same policy.

I support the second Amendment, but think guns in bars and guns in the hands of lunatics is a bad idea.

I support smaller government so I generally support tax cuts but I do not automatically think every tax cut is wise. At some point, the next tax cut could result in less revenue, not more. Some tax cuts need to be matched by spending cuts or they do not need to occur. Tax policy is economics, not religion.

I disagree with many Republican on these issue and in today’s political climate some of those Republicans would therefore classify me as a liberal. In many areas however, I think I am much more conservative than those who define conservatism today. I am often critical of the Republicans for their failure to be conservative enough.

A Republican President and Republican Congress that allow runaway pork barrel spending and special earmarks are not conservative. In a divided government, Republicans would have opposed this runaway, out of control spending.

I believe deficits matter. The Republican Party used to be the party that railed against deficits. When Bush came to office the country had a budget surplus; by the time Bush leaves office we will have a deficit approaching $413 billion. To run up huge deficits as if they do not matter is not conservative.

Welfare reform was one of the conservative victories of the last century and it happened under a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. Republicans should have continued welfare reform and other measures to dismantle the Great Society and the destruction it has brought to the Black community. Changing the culture of Black poverty and despair should be a “conservative” cause. I do not advocate programs that subsidize and perpetuate poverty, but we need to put in place programs that can help break the cycle of poverty. We need more Jack Kemps in the Republican Party of today. Ending welfare should be a conservative value.

Free Trade is a Conservative principle. It is not conservative to demonize multinational corporations, Chinese imports, NAFTA, and immigration.

Republicans have not done enough to advocate market solutions to the health care problem. For starters, we need to divorce health insurance from employment, we need to institute health savings accounts, and find other innovative market solutions to lower health care cost expand health care coverage. Conservatives have to do more than simply deny we do have a problem. Advocating for the status quo and simply proclaiming we have the best health care system in the world will insure the adoption of “liberal” solutions.

I also do not believe that every issue neatly fits a “liberal” or “conservative” pigeonhole. Potholes aren’t “Republican” or “Democratic”. Many problems may need a pragmatic solution that may be a little liberal and a little conservative nor neither. By trial and error we sometime need to find out what works and go with that. We actually have very few true socialist or libertarians in America and most of us are somewhere in the middle. We should not be afraid to engage those who wear a different political label, and political pundits and activist should not demonize those who may have a slightly different opinion than their own.

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  1. Thank you for your voice of reason. I do not agree with all that you wrote, but at least you are not advocating that people park common sense at the door in order to support your party. You commented sensibly regarding immigration, the war, freedom v. security (we CAN have both!), and the budget. So, when are you running for office?

    Mary Neal
    Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
    P.O. Box 7222
    Atlanta, GA 30357

  2. Refreshing to read your blog - I was watching the returns in VA and beginning to wonder if I was all alone out there! I agree with all that you said except the part about being misled into an unnecessary war. Given the intelligence at the time, the war was necessary and we couldn't afford the risk of leaving Saddam in power.

    I am also a bit of a sceptic about global warming, but I like John McCain's approach.