I had a good conversation with a fellow conservative last night.
We were discussing the presidential candidates, and I mentioned my indifference to Mitt Romney. Am I enthusiastic about him? No. But do I dislike him? Absolutely not. I’ll vote for him in a heartbeat in the general election. I think he’s a decent enough candidate.
My friend proceeded to blast Romneycare. I tried to explain Mitt’s federalism argument, which is completely valid from a constitutional standpoint. Alas, it ended with my friend alleging, “See, you’re not a conservative. A conservative would never support Mitt Romney.”
The argument quickly devolved into a “You’re not a conservative, you support X.” / “Well you’re not a conservative, you support Y!” affair… and we all know how that ends up.
After a lot of bickering, I came to a startling realization: we can’t win like this. We won’t win like this. We’re never going to find a perfect candidate made in our own image. It’s just not going to happen.
We can’t hold every candidate to an impossible litmus test, refusing to support otherwise excellent candidates who might agree with us on 99% of the issues. That’s no way to advocate conservatism. Really, it’s the equivalent of waving a metaphorical white flag and handing victory to the socialists.
But at the same time… we can’t just sit back and let the Republican Party become a moderate establishment cesspool. That’s not an option.
I think we need a conservative litmus test, but it has to be based on principles, not issues. You can have different opinions on how to tackle individual issues, but the general principles we all adhere to must be the same.
Conservatism is a guiding philosophy, not a set of talking points. You can’t memorize conservatism, you have to BE conservatism.
So here’s what I propose…
Conservatives Under 30 Presents: The Five Principles of Conservatism
1. An adherence to the Constitution of the United States of America
Conservatives believe in the Constitution. We don’t believe in a cafeteria Constitution where we gloss over some parts while embracing others. Conservatives believe in the whole darn thing. Every belief and every policy we advocate should have a constitutional basis.
2. A general understanding that we can’t tax ourselves into prosperity, and that individuals will do great things that benefit society if we don’t take away the means to do so.
Conservatives understand that government has a role and that taxes are a necessary evil. That being said, conservatives know that tax increases devastate the economy and should be avoided at all costs. Conservatives also trust individuals to make their own decisions. We must support innovation and give entrepreneurs the opportunity to succeed. Government should not be a hindrance to economic growth, and it should not stand in the way of the American dream.
3. A belief in fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, and as limited of a government as possible.
Conservatives understand that we can’t spend what we don’t have. A conservative must demonstrate the willingness to make tough decisions on behalf of the taxpayer. With a federal government facing trillion dollar deficits and a downgraded credit rating, continuing down the road of deficit spending simply isn’t an option anymore. Conservatives understand the seriousness of the issue, and advocate for balanced budgets, not just lower deficits.
4. A conviction that individuals are best empowered through freedom and personal responsibility, not by keeping them in a welfare comatose state.
Conservatives believe in the individual. We believe that people rise to the occasion. Conservatives believe that government can provide safety nets, but that the goal should always be to get people on their feet, not keep them down forever.
5. A commitment to protecting life and upholding the sanctity of family, knowing this is paramount to a strong society.
Conservatives believe abortion is wrong, and we believe the family unit must be promoted, not denigrated by government. Seems pretty self-explanatory.
What do you guys think? Should we add some principles? Does this cover it? Join the conversation in the comments below!