Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Whatever Happened To Conservativism?

Elections are up next. Let’s get political.

Though John Stuart Mill once said "Conservatives aren't stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives," I have the greatest respect for real conservative thought.

Yeah, I know. Hard to believe.

But it’s true.

My mom was a full-on western style libertarian conservative with an ideological and intuitive thing for personal responsibility and a suspicion of too much power of any kind. And an allergy about invading other countries or the smallest whiff of imperial arrogance. Oh, and a commitment to helping people become economically productive. And an even stronger commitment to affirm traditional values while recognizing the democratic (and libertarian) imperative to ‘live and let live.”

I remember walking the streets of San Francisco in 1964 as a 7 year old with my mom campaigning and handing out cans of orange pop labeled “Goldwater.” We were sticking it to The Liberal, Democratic Man. It took some cajones to support Barry Goldwater in the Bay Area in the mid-60’s. :^) My mom sometimes worried that those “crazy students” at Berkeley would follow us home after a Republican Party rally and “make trouble.”

I left ideological conservatism behind a long time ago because the real world version began to strike me as even more bogus than the usual political spin. When the people who talk about encouraging small government end up consistently expanding government more than ‘the crazy liberals’ you know you’re dealing with a shell game and misdirection aimed at getting well meaning folks to vote Republican. And when support for traditional values combined with a politically libertarian commitment to ‘live and let live” becomes weird southern-fried religious extremism it’s well past the time to head for the exits. And that was my take years ago. Probably not hard to guess my views on the current version of conservativism.

Yet old school, western style libertarian conservatism is worthy of respect. I've often thought that traditional conservativism and the best of liberalism are sort of a political ying and yang--you've got to have both if you want constructive and healthy political outcomes. In fact, I'd say traditional conservativism and liberalism go even deeper than politics. In many ways they reflect critical aspects of human personality and the way various people are 'hardwired' to view the world differently.

A bunch of students at the University of Colorado are setting up a new conservative organization aimed at rejecting what they believe is the betrayal of the best of traditional, libertarian conservative values by the current version of the Republican Party. They think Rovian conservatism is little more than gaining and maintaining power at any cost. Wonder how they got that idea?

Good for them. Maybe their approach will catch on. I’d love to have a chance to vote for or against a new (old?) version of real world conservativism I can feel good about again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

At this point, conservatism may be a term that means something only to ideologues. My father voted Republican in every election since Goldwater, but registered as an Independent after 3 years of Bush. These "neo-cons" are divorced from ideology and are distinguished merely by their authoritarian personalities. I really recommend John Dean's excellent Conservatives Without Conscience, a psychological study of the current Republican leaders.


6:54 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

We're on the same page. I'll take a look at Dean's book.

7:37 PM  

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