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Posts Tagged ‘Neo-Conservative’

For those of you who spend time on Facebook, you may have noticed an ad with this picture

Image found on VoteiQ ad

asking “Where do you align?” Being the political junkie that I am, I immediately clicked on the link and filled out the survey.  The results were very disappointing.  On several issues, mainly foreign policy, the website claimed that I was a liberal.  As a result, I called the folks at Vote IQ to explain my objections to a few of the questions.  They sent me an email explaining their process, but they didn’t fully address my concerns.  Therefore, I replied with an admittedly rather hastily and passionately written return email which reads as follows:

Thank you for your email.  I suppose I should explain my objections to the quiz.

Unfortunately, on a number of questions, (3,5,7,11) a response labeled as conservative is not really conservative but instead it is neo-conservative response.  These two camps have battling for the heart and soul of the Republican Party for a number of years.  Now one may claim that any policy enacted by George W. Bush’s administration is “conservative” given that he is a Republican, however I believe that to be a rather short sighted approach.  For example, many of his actions, such as No Child Left Behind, the Patriot Act, and the War in Iraq and against terrorism went against traditional conservative values.  Speaking to question #7, although we favor a strong national defense, very few conservatives support a limitless defense budget.  I’m sure we would support eliminating redundancies and outdated equipment especially given the growing national debt.

Turning to a personal level, for quite I have been fighting elements within the Republican Party who promote a vast increase in the size of government at the expense of the states and personal liberty.  Therefore it is rather disheartening to see you define these big government solutions as conservative.  Prior to Bush, recent history agrees.  With the exceptions of neo-conservatives, one only look to the reaction of conservatives during the Clinton era when we were fairly united against entangling foreign wars and nation building in Kosovo.  Back in the 1996 Presidential campaign, Republican Bob Dole spoke of ending the Department of Education.  Now, we have the Tea Parties.  Now some people think that the Tea Party movement sprang up solely in response to President Obama’s administration.  Such a viewpoint is shortsighted, as it is also partially a rejection of neo-conservatives who have vastly increased the power and scope of the national government without regard to the Constitution.

To state simply, conservatives prefer a smaller federal government who defers to state and local government, refrains from economic intervention, and allows for the enforcement of cultural and religious norms.  Although some conservatives (like neo-cons) support a robust foreign policy which involves the U.S. policing the world, such a viewpoint doesn’t represent historical conservatism, but rather adopts many of the same principles as Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.  Now many liberals [are] against grand foreign entanglements too, but so are Paleoconservatives.

Lastly, to switch subjects, I wanted to comment on question #9.  As I’m not a doctor nor I have I researched the subject, I do not pretend to know the medical value of embryonic stem cell research.  I just oppose the process for ethical reasons.  Whether or not you think the process is valuable is not the key question, but rather do you support using stem cells for medical treatment.  Therefore, I would recommend changing the wording of this question.

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Several days ago, I received the following response:

Hi Joshua,

Reading over your thoughtful email this morning was a pleasure.
You have identified limits to the use of labels like liberal and conservative.
William Buckley 50 years ago said in UP FROM LIBERALISM that it is difficult to define conservatism and so it is.
The limitations of the labels and the values people assign to those labels is therefore in constant flux and dispute.
That is as it should be.  Were the labels to become fixed they would quickly become out of date and stale.
We took for our definitions the results of the Pew ideological poll of 2005.
It’s an imperfect approach; I don’t know what a perfect approach would look like.
The goal was to give our visitors something to chew on.  If this leads to a good discussion on Vote iQ, that would be terrific.
We’d welcome it.

You all should check out this website, but take their thoughts and labels with a grain of salt.  I believe that conservatives should always fight against the unconstitutional excesses of government both domestically and abroad.  Even though we must give a small portion of our liberty to the government, we cannot be overrun by fear into sacrificing our supposedly protected rights.  As Ben Franklin reminds us, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

It seems that we must continue to reclaim the mantle of true conservatism.  Neocons have had their day.  Even though we are still in the early stages, I’m hopeful that the age of the Tea Parties and the constitutional conservatives has come to stay.

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As an avid read of the blog would know, one of my major concerns has been to wrest control of the Republican Party away from the neo-conservatives who dominated policy during the presidency of George W. Bush.  I’m pleased to say that we are moving in the right direction.  With each passing day as a result of the legacy of Bush and the quagmire of Obama, more and more Americans reject the philosophy of the nanny state, government interference in the private sector, preemptive war, and the burden of military occupation while clamoring for more federalism and states rights.

Last night, the Southern Avenger posted a video that eloquently addresses the current ideological struggle and I encourage you to watch it.

What surprised me is that so many conservatives who despised the foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson were so quick to embrace his progressive agenda once the neo-conservatives offered a repackaging of basically the same philosophy.  I’ve been stating and restating that point on this blog almost since day one when I tied neo-conservatism to Wilsonianism back in June 30 of 2008.

Worry not fellow lovers of liberty.  With your help, we will once again have a major party that consistently and boldly advocates the policies of personal responsibility and limited, constitutional government.  Not only can we reclaim the Republican Party, we are winning!

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Well…it’s been eight years since the horrific attacks by terrorists on September 11, 2001.  I, like so many Americans, have that morning forever burned into my memory.  I can recall sitting in my dorm room at William and Mary before class reading news of some sort of airplane crash into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.  At the time, I didn’t know what to think.  Was it an unfortunate pilot error?  Was it an attack similar to the 1993 bombing of the very same center?  I remember leaving for class pondering the significance of that event.  However, it was more of a curiosity, like studying an unusual insect that just landed on a nearby windowpane, than anything else.  Certainly I had lived through similar events (the Cole bombing, Oklahoma City, Waco, 1993 as mentioned above, and Columbine to name a few), but they were isolated one-time events and in a part of the country far removed from our fair Virginia.

IMG_1836As I traveled down the stairs heading to the eyesore known as Morton (the Government Department’s building), a fellow member of the College Republicans approached me.  He asked if I had heard of the attacks.  Yes, I said, I did hear of the plane hitting the tower.  I asked him what he thought it meant and if he had any more details. Towers, he corrected me.  Towers?  What?   He told me that the other tower had been struck as well.  I recall feeling a bit queasy as I entered the building.  Both towers?  That couldn’t be a mere accident.  In the government wing every television on my floor broadcast the second plane striking the South tower again and again and again.  As I watched the scene repeatedly, fixated on the fiery impact, my heart sank lower and lower until I felt I could no longer stand.  Then in this dark hour came news of the attack on the Pentagon.  Moments later, the first tower descended into a grey plume of smoke.  I began to wonder if this could be the end, if the country we knew and loved was approaching its finale…if life from that moment would ever be the same again…if all youth and innocence were suddenly and permanently ripped asunder from this world.  Except those were days and worries now eight years in the past.

Prior to 9-11, the national tragedy that haunted my mind was the destruction of the Challenger.  Sitting there in my small plastic chair in my elementary school, my classmates and I eagerly watched the launch.  After all, a schoolteacher was going into space.  How exciting!  My mind swam with the possibilities of space travel.  Oh, wouldn’t it be fun to be an astronaut!  As the shuttle rose into the sky, it carried not only the NASA crew, but my hopes and dreams too.  In a blinding flash both were torn apart and thrown into the cold sea.  I didn’t understand what went wrong at that time, but suddenly becoming an astronaut didn’t seem like such a great idea anymore.  However…that’s another story for another day.

Getting back to 9/11, in the days, weeks, and months that followed fear became a normal part of life.  Runaway airplanes gave way to anthrax letters and no one felt like leaving the relative safety of their plastic encased homes anymore.  The government devised a panic inducing color-coded chart to supposedly assess the terror level.  With danger a shopping mall, bridge, or nuclear power plant away, it felt as if the terrorists had truly won, as if being an American meant living a life of constant fear.

Fortunately, slowly but surely life began to return to a quasi-normal state.  Unfortunately, as is typical, the federal government agency that arose to “deal” with 9/11 remains to this very day.  In our fear, and in the name of temporary security, we bartered away a portion of our freedom to the federal government.  As Ben Franklin reminds us, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.”  What startled me was that many of my conservative allies embraced this new police state as if it were natural.  For sticking to our principles and resisting further government intrusion as I had always done, I was labeled a libertarian and scorned by many of my Republican colleagues.  Of course, the nation-building preemptive conflict in Iraq only deepened this growing divide.  Therefore, I must condemn every last one of the neoconservative bastards who used the hijacking of a handful of planes as a political opportunity to hijack our nation and the Republican Party.  Although the state guards over them, neither true security and liberty are derived from the government.  Rather they spring forth from the society, the individual, and, lest we forget, our creator.

What have we learned in eight years time?  Are we wiser than we were then?  Do we have more liberty?  Are we more secure?  I know that this sentiment will sound naïve, but I long for a return to the days of September 10, 2001 when the government was a bit smaller, our foreign policy slightly less interventionist, our gas considerably cheaper, and our people felt more at ease.  Can it happen? I sorely wish it could.  Nevertheless, like the Kennedy assassination and Pearl Harbor before it, 9/11 has become the tragedy of the present generation.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, so what, if anything, have we learned?

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I’ve met a lot of social conservatives over the years.  It should come as no surprise; after all I’m one too.  For some people, the desire to promote all, or a specific, issue(s) in the social conservative agenda is their modus operandi, his or her specific driving force in politics.  It could be:  abortion, school prayer, gay marriage, obscenity, or a host of other issues relating to social or religious norms.  We believe despite the general liberalization of laws and society that we speak in favor of the “silent majority” of citizens who agree with our positions but do not exercise their political voices.  In addition, most social conservatives support legislation, as an extension of their religious beliefs, to shape the world in a manner, which they believe, would be pleasing to God.

The problem comes when social conservatives look to the federal government to promote their agenda.  By doing so, they put themselves in conflict with both the fiscal conservatives and limited government conservatives.  Under a strict interpretation of the Constitution, the federal government has been severely restricted in its powers and involvement in societal issues.   The 10th Amendment is, without a doubt, the most neglected amendment and yet, so much of our freedoms and liberties rest with this amendment.

Relying on the federal government is a two-fold problem.  First, it grants the government authority that the Constitution doesn’t allow. For example, suppose we pass a pro-prayer in schools law.  Once we allow the federal government the power to act on social or economic issues, what happens when the liberals get into power and enact legislation that is contrary to our own?   Perhaps they pass a law not allowing prayer in schools or a law, which is favorable to some religion other than our own.  What can we do?  What is our defense?  We can no longer claim the government has no authority to act in such a way, because we just used the might of law to enact our own social legislation when we were in power.  And so the federal government continues to grow, at the expense of the rights of the states and the individuals.  I ask you consider also the track record of federal government in social issues.  Do things get better or worse?  Let’s take abortion.  Since the federal government claimed jurisdiction over the issue in 1973, have the number of abortions inn this country increased or decreased?  A silly question I know.  Did it not overturn a number of state laws, including the laws of Virginia, to allow for a far greater number of abortions?  We must strip this power from the federal government and allow the states to decide.  Will abortion still continue?  Yes…I’m certain that a number of states will allow this practice to continue, but at least we can eradicate or vastly reduce this plague in Virginia.

There are a number of otherwise well-meaning social conservatives that will throw the other strains of conservatism aside in order to achieve their social agenda.  Although seemingly well meaning, this line of thinking is dangerous to both the social conservative movement and to freedom and liberty as a whole.  We all have some sort of grand vision for society, but using the might of the federal government to enforce a worldview leads to trouble.  I’d like to see society transformed where violence and profanity are drastically curtailed in the media and the rest of life.  A world without abortion…a world where the family is protected…a world where everyone acts morally and honor God.  A nice vision I think.  But if I use the heavy hand of government to enact such a goal, do I not destroy freedom and create a fascist state?  Some might retort, “Who cares?”  However, what happens when we enact a fascist theocratic state where some faction is in charge? What happens to the protected rights of those people not in power?  Could the Catholics persecute the Protestants?  Or the Protestants persecute the Catholics?  Or how about the Muslims, Jews, or non-believers?  The next thing you know the enemies of the state are quarantined or are even executed in the search for order, uniformity, and stability.  Is this the kind of society you desire?  Alas, as a result of neo-conservatives, both the nation and the conservative movement have been sliding in this direction.  Conservatism can succeed, but, with so many other problems in life, the federal government is the problem, not the solution.

I know the temptation to seek help from the all-powerful federal government, but as citizens in a supposedly free society, we must reject these tactics.  Although we may achieve success via these means, such success will only be temporary.  We will end up yoking ourselves to this totalitarian state and end up begging our masters to promote some sort social order.  Our liberty will be lost and we will have only ourselves to blame.

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Last year, before I worked for the Ron Paul campaign, I spoke to Virginia candidate about his upcoming race. He was searching for a campaign manager and thought I might be a good choice. As part of the interview process, he asked me for a writing sample. I wracked my brain, but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to send him. At the time, I was working primarily on fiction and didn’t want to send him my work. After all, if I couldn’t convince an agent to publish the work, how could I impress him with the same material? Alas, much of my political writings were outdated, a remnant from college. Therefore, I decided to create something new…something that highlighted a very important topic to me, U.S. foreign policy.

I labored for a handful of hours on the piece and then submitted it to the candidate. After he was finished reading it, he asked if I had ever had this work, or something on the same topic, published. I told him that I hadn’t but, intrigued, I asked him why he wanted to know. His reply was quite blunt. He told me that if I had, he would certainly not consider me for the position. It was not so much how it was written (although I think I can improve upon it), but rather the beliefs that I held. Nevertheless, he later offered me the position assuming I agreed to not discuss this issue further, but I declined to accept.

Well…I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. Here is my writing, as it was sent back in 2007 (with one and only one spelling correction) in all its scandalous glory. Enjoy.

“Although I know that I differ greatly with other Republicans that I know, (and my position could cost me personally) I feel compelled to write about the important issue of the conflict in Iraq. Although I think that just about everyone agrees now that the military strategy was mishandled, the larger question we should be asking is, should we have been over there in the first place? I think the answer is no.

If the reader is to recall, after 9-11 and the conflict in Afghanistan, Americans awaited news of the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Certainly any person responsible for the horrid attacks on the world trade center and related targets must be held accountable. As the sweeps of the caves of Afghanistan proved, Osama was a difficult target to catch. It was, during this time, that strong rhetoric from the White House called for the removal of Saddam Hussein. They claimed that he was a threat to national security for he possessed weapons of mass destruction which he was intending to use on the United States, and that he aided to some extent in the 9-11 attacks. If these arguments were correct then certainly one could make the claim for an attack on Iraq. There was just one small problem. As I suspected then, and most everyone now knows, these two premises for conflict proved to be false. Once this realization was made public, the reasons for conflict supposedly changed, stating that instead we wished to free the people of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam and work to protect the free world and democracy. Although these goals sounded lofty, neither is a proper use of our military.

I believe that it is an extraordinary act for a man to lay down his life for his country as our soldiers do, and, in accordance, we should not and must not ask him or her to do so lightly. If, and only if, our people are truly in danger, should this request be made. As events planned out, it was shown that such was simply not the case in Iraq. Although perhaps sounding harsh, the life of just one American soldier is worth more than the supposed freedom of the Iraqi people. That is not to say that I do not support the freedom of the Iraqi people, because I do, but such a movement must come from within, not be delivered by a foreign power.

On another point, one can point to the Constitution rightly claiming that it is our government’s responsibility to protect the citizens of this nation from all threats. One cannot find where it is allowed the same power in regard to the citizens of another sovereign nation. I do not understand how supposed conservatives can embrace the policy of nation building when such a power, to the best of my knowledge, is not enumerated by the Constitution. Are we not strict constructionists? Do we not believe, with a couple exceptions, that the best government is that which governs least? Do we not understand that a continued policy of foreign interventionism, such as the one in Iraq, vilified the United States in the eyes of many, had the potential to create new enemies, and ultimately served the opposite goal of weakening our security? In September of 2000, before 9-11, President Bush spoke against the policy of nation building. I think he phrased it well when he said, “I just don’t think that its the role of the United States to walk into a country to say, ‘We do it this way, so should you.’” It was greatly unfortunate that, as a result of the crisis, this earlier wisdom was abandoned.

Therefore, for the precious lives of our soldiers, the moorings of the Constitution, and the desire for greater security and peace, I believe that most Republicans and all conservatives should have been against the conflict in Iraq before it even began.”

So what do you think? Shocking isn’t it? Despite the fact that a significant majority of Americans agree with my viewpoint, holding such beliefs makes one a quasi-pariah in the Republican ranks. To give you some additional information, the candidate from above mentioned that my writing was more akin to a Democrat that a Republican. Now, I can’t recall the last time that I heard a Democrat call for a limited, constitutional government, but maybe I just missed that somewhere along the way. Let us not forget that the first conflict which called for making the world “safe for democracy” was waged not by a Republican, but by a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. Nevertheless, I know that a great number of Republicans, even many who consider themselves conservatives, hold a differing viewpoint that I do on the issue of foreign policy, but I think it is quite sad that they are not open to discuss this issue either openly or in private. You think not? For example, several months ago while at a Harrisonburg GOP function, Bob McDonnell stated that Republicans disagree all the time, but if we agree at least 80% of the time, we should be united and work together. He then went on to say that we must continue to support the war in Iraq. Was his discussion about unity merely empty rhetoric? Come on Attorney General…I agree with you on more that 80% of the issues, why must I be forced to sit quietly in the corner? Is this issue not up for debate? Have the neo-con hawks kicked the rest of us out of the party? Oh well. Life goes on I suppose. The fight for the party as well as the fight in Iraq goes on. We can’t let them win that easily.

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I realized from a recent comment on my blog that the term “conservative” could mean many things to many people.  Although I consider myself a conservative (hence the name Virginia Conservative), others may consider themselves conservative and have considerably opposing viewpoints.  Like a political Baskin Robbins, conservatism can take many forms, many flavors. The purpose of this article is to sort out some of the differing kinds of conservatism and what type of philosophies or aims that they embody.

Traditional Conservative- Dictionary.com defines conservatism as, “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”  Even though this definition likely applies to all Conservatives to some extent, it is by no means all encompassing.  For example, in the American Revolution those in the colonies who supported the British were called the Tories or Conservatives.  They opposed separating from Great Britain and favored the monarchy.  Now do all conservatives support a return to the monarchy today?  Hardly, though it is true that many of them hold notions of some sort of supposed idyllic past be it the 1980’s, 1950’s, or even the 1850’s.  Classic Conservatives do oppose change for change’s sake and embrace the old ways, customs, and traditions.

Fiscal Conservative- Someone who believes that they have a greater claim to their own money than the government.  Although fiscal liberals would often label them as greedy and selfish, a Scrooge McDuck (if you want a popular culture reference), that negative stereotype is often incorrect.  Many are quite generous with their funds but they believe that they should decide how to use their money, not someone else.  They see any form of wealth distribution as a kind of state sponsored theft.  They favor low taxes and little to no government spending when it comes to aid (be it personal, corporate, or international).  They hold to the ideals of capitalism and free markets and believe the government should neither regulate the supply, demand, or price, of goods.

Social Conservative- These type of conservatives believe that the government should take an active role in protecting and even promoting the traditional cultural values.  Although not necessarily overtly religious, certainly most in the movement wear their beliefs, to some extent, on their sleeves and their activism is an extension of their strongly held convictions.  Key issues to social conservatives include:  opposition to abortion, opposition to gay marriage, school choice/privatization, some level of religious promotion in society and government, support gun ownership, and are against affirmative action.

Constitutional Conservative- A conservative who opposes the significant expansion in governmental power, especially when it comes to the United States, or federal, government.  They favor limiting the government to mainly the expressed powers given to it in the Constitution while curtailing or eliminating the implied powers granted by the courts or outright taken by the legislature and the executive branch.  They also support the system of checks and balances as a means to further restrain the government.  The question for Constitutional conservatives is if these powers were stripped from the federal government, to whom should they go?  States-rights Conservatives would favor greater power to the states and the people, while Libertarian Conservatives would favor giving the power almost exclusively to the people.  Both, I think, support a strengthening/stricter enforcement of the 10th Amendment.

Foreign policy.  When it comes to foreign policy, there are two competing schools of thought, the neo-conservative and the paleoconservative.  Unlike other kinds of conservatism, these two stand in stark contrast to each other as they battle for the title of “true conservatism”.  One cannot be both a neo and a paleo at the same time.

Neo-conservative- Seeks an active role for the United States in world affairs.  Like the Social Conservative, seeks to promote his values on his own nation, as well as others, often tying opinions and relationships of other nations to their internal policies such as form of government and human rights.  In the trend of Woodrow Wilson, believes that we need to make the “world safe for democracy”.  Willing to use various forms of manipulation including diplomacy and military force to affect internal changes in nations.  Supports nation building and instillation of new, pro-U.S. governments.  Wishes to establish bases in many parts of the world, especially volatile regions in order to increase U.S. security.  In domestic affairs, is more tolerant of big government as long as the increase serves some sort of greater good such as to promote society’s values or increase internal stability.  Favor close ties with the state of Israel.  Practically all are strong supporters of the war in Iraq and prefer increased immigration.  Often labeled by its detractors as imperialistic and militaristic.

Paleoconservative
- Wishes in the words of Rep. Ron Paul a “more humble foreign policy”.  Opposes nation building and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations.  Promotes trade with other nations, often times including ones with non-democratic governments and poor track records on human rights.  Against the League of Nations and the United Nations.  Practically all are opponents of the war in Iraq.  Usually support strict limits on immigration.  Labeled by its detractors as isolationists and xenophobic.

Well, it may not be 31 varieties, but my point is that there are many kinds of conservatism out there and that often a person can adhere to one form without embracing another.  So the next time someone calls him or herself a conservative, bear in mind that that does not necessarily mean they support limited government, pro-life legislation, an end to corporate welfare, and winning the war in Iraq.  The simple term “conservative”, just like the word liberal doesn’t hold too much meaning without getting into a discussion on the heart of issues and the individuals who hold them. One last thing, if I’ve failed to include a particular variety of conservatism or you feel I’ve misrepresented any term, please let me know.

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