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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Conservatism: What it's about

The Free Dictionary gives these first two meanings of conservatism:

1. The inclination, especially in politics, to maintain the existing or traditional order.
2. A political philosophy or attitude emphasizing respect for traditional institutions, distrust of government activism, and opposition to sudden change in the established order.
In discussing politics, or conservatism, if you want to have a hope of making sense, you have to define what you mean. That is not always done, unfortunately.
E. J. Dionne, Jr., in a recent syndicated column, wrote recently about conservatism. He seems to agree with the definitions above, and says, I believe correctly, that so-called conservatism, i. e., the Republicans, weren't usually at their finest during the recent debates about healthcare legislation. (The Democrats weren't, either, but that's another story.) Not all Republicans are conservative, and some Democrats are conservative.

Dionne, who is not a conservative himself, says that there have been three good and important characteristics of conservatives in the US. These are:
1) They are suspicious of grand plans to remake things, believing that such plans seldom, if ever, work to achieve the goals they were developed for, and that such plans have unfortunate serious unplanned consequences.
2) They respect traditional ways of doing things. As Dionne points out, this has been one of their largest weaknesses or faults, as in respecting slavery and racism, but it can also be a great strength.
3) A suspicion of human nature -- human nature is inherently prone to evil.

Dionne believes that, when Republicans, or pseudo-conservatives, questioned the effectiveness of plans to revise health care, they were at their conservative best. When they were screaming about "death panels," shouting racial epithets at Democratic legislators, claiming that passing health care legislation was the end of democracy as we know it, trumpeting that this was a government takeover while ignoring that medicare is a government healthcare plan that seems to work, or even threatening Democratic legislators with violence, they were at their non-conservative worst.

I think Dionne is right about all this. Some other cases where the Republicans have neglected conservative principles come to mind, but I'll not explore them here.

Thanks for reading.


atlibertytosay said...

I agree with this completely. I consider myself a conservative but my dad is the radical type you define here - he's to the point no one listens because he states propagandist ideas rather than shares opinion and therefore win minds with friendship and friendly debate. He refuses the other sides attempt at reconciliation. He also (privately) holds on to racist speech and rhetoric.

To be fair about the "death threats" - no conservative did that - it's already been proven that a radical left extremist is actually behind most of the threats - framing conservatives. The story you point to has been covered by alternative media such as FOXNEWS in an entirely different perspective.

Martin LaBar said...


Someone may have taken a shot at a Republican's office, too.

Whoever did these things shouldn't have, and some of the rhetoric, on both sides, fanned the flames, I think. The latest Fox News report on the matter that I've seen doesn't mention any radical left extremist.


atlibertytosay said...

From your link: But top Tea Party leaders from across the country have condemned the threats and said no credible Tea Party group is participating.

While I don't really give Glenn Beck a lot of credit - he has investigated the vandalism of offices and claims (with proof) it was actually a democrat.

Still there's no justification - it is senseless to resort to lawlessness.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks again.

It's senseless to you and me, but, I'm afraid, not to whoever is behind this, be they terrorists from the left, right, or center.

Jason and Kelley said...

Thanks for writing. I always come away having grown from your thoughts and posts! It's much appreciated.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Jason, Kelley, or both. I wonder what Jesus would think of conservatives, liberals, Democrats, or Republicans. Probably not much.