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Posts Tagged ‘Paleoconservative’

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  I’m sure we would support eliminating redundancies and outdated equipment especially given the growing national debt.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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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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