For those of you who spend time on Facebook, you may have noticed an ad with this picture
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 I’m sure we would support eliminating redundancies and outdated equipment especially given the growing national debt.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.