Defining Conservatism

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!


48 comments on “Defining Conservatism

  1. Right on the money! Great points

  2. Nice article…this is why I support Newt Gingrich. Is he Ronald Reagan? No…but Reagan wasn’t perfect either. Newt has the best laid out vision and ideas for this country. He’s already balanced the federal budget 4 times. He’s pro-life and for strong in his faith. But he doesn’t want to legislate morality like another candidate wants to do. Don’t listen to the MSM or even other “conservative” pundits have to say…look it up yourself at Newt.org. The man has great bold ideas that will reverse what Obama has done. Newt 2012!

    • to much baggage and the Dems would love him to be the one to go against obama as they know Newt like a book…….Re-read Rush’s intro…..

      • So called baggage???- He has repented on his so called personal baggage, case closed. He was found totally (100%) innocent on his so called leaving Congress in shame, case closed and he has apologized on his Pelosy and Ryan debacle, case closed. The Dems fear him the most, case closed.

  3. I wanted to create this litmus test your talking about as well. This is a great way to define what conservative principles are. But how are we supposed to use this to litmus test our representatives, or each other? I consider myself a conservative but my beliefs in limited government outweigh my beliefs that embryonic stem* cells shouldn’t* be utilized. How about if we make a true/false questionnaire (could be hundreds of questions long, but simple enough for a layman with google at his finger tips to complete) where not only do we find our degree of conservatism, but our degree of belief in the free market from which our ideas are derived. Even Further the questions can find our degree of tolerance to public/private employee assembly rights, and when an industry should be nationalized. The test’s results should not be put on a one dimensional graph or even a two dimensional graph, but a spider graph as to allow differentiation of political conclusions. If religion is what drives your conservatism, or status as a union member drives your pro-union liberalism, that should be revealed. These principles that you have defined could be 5 of the many legs of the spider-hopefully there is enough confluence in some of the legs so they can be combined for a more visually aesthetic graph.

    • Roger, you throw up a straw dog here. Full grown stem cells work nearly as well as embryonic stem cells and there are already a very large body of embryonic stem cells online right now. Why should we support the abortion industry by allowing new harvesting of embryonic stem cells?
      When should an industry be nationalized? When has a nationalized industry prospered? Take away the incentive for profit and advancement, you get stagnation.

    • It’s a set of principles, not a litmus test. All human life, whether potential or realized, has the God given right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. “The Pursuit of Happiness” infers that “happiness” is not garranteed. Therefore, failure not only might, but MUST be an option! Liberalism creeps in through muddy water. Simple, easy to remember, principles clear that water up. All your details serve only to muddy the water!

  4. Perfectly said….

  5. Gee, sounds like Ron Paul!…Vote Ron Paul if this is your view of conservatism….it exactly what he says!

    • And what do you think Ron Paul will do against Iran and against what just happened to Israel. There were rockets fired on them…would he say, we have to turn our backs and sit down and talk? Sorry, nice guy but wrong era…

      • So a single issue is a deal breaker? And that is actually a non-issue, because like the rocket attack that happened yesterday, they used technology they developed in country to develop their “Iron Dome” with a 90% accuracy rate. Israel can defend herself. Hamstringing Israel is more dangerous than what Hamas can do to them.

      • Against Iran? What happened to Israel? Iran has no nuclear weapons & the US has neither cause nor right to attack yet another country.
        Nothing “happened to Israel.” They, being an oppressive apartheid occupier, habitually target civilian populations. In this instance (past weekend) they struck first, struck repeatedly, and struck deadly -killed 25 including 2 children. Soccer ball-sized home-made rockets fired back in retatliation, killed not a single person and hardly supports your ‘what happened to Israel” phrase. This twisted blind support for Israel is the primary reason the allegedly conservative ideology is both hypocritical and morally bankrupt. Do your homework on Palestinians & the occupation of zionists if you care for country, God, and humanity.

  6. Here is the problem with that definition… there are some Conservatives who will declare that to be too permissive a system.. allowing too many liberal things into the mix.

    There are others who will declare that it is overly restrictive and is insufficiently pragmatic.

    And further… there are still others who will say — but none of that fits with the historical concepts of what conservatism was — “back when my granddaddy was a conservative.”

    I have been wrestling with this same issue. What is a conservative? I have done some research on the matter and it has not been entirely unhelpful, but so far, no firm answers have emerged.

    Certainly — Conservatism seems to be an evolving thing — and what used to be liberal may now be Conservative. Possibly also — vice versa.

    But now, to be very specifically critical of your points: I like them. However, I think that they still require something related to that pragmatism that I discussed before. A Conservative does not have to be a take no prisoners kind of person. A Conservative does not have to be a “My Way or the HiWay” kinda guy. A Conservative can compromise — as Reagan often did. Conservative principles in themselves may not be compromised, but Conservatives, seeking to establish that philosophy in a world that does not always agree might find a 6th Principle also useful:

    Political Conservatives recognize what practically, in the real world, works. Thus, we will vote for the most Conservative person who can win. We will support bills that are less than what we win with those bills more than we lose. We are willing to give an inch to get our mile. And always, our compromise is focused on: What Works.

  7. I’m conservative 95%. I’m with you 100% up until the point you throw abortion into the mix! While I am not a fan of abortion, ( I would have 1 less son were it not for the intervention of family on the issue), I also know the government should have NO input on this subject! It is between the individual and their God if they have one! To make a rather lame comparison, how many laws are taking up space on suicide? Will the suicidal fear consequences? I seriously doubt it unless they botch their last intent! Will the felon intent on getting a gun pay attention to the laws prohibiting it? I doubt it! Government has no business in abortion, approving it, using my money to pay for it, denying it!

    • Certainly, Constitutionally, the Federal Government has no place in the abortion issue, but thanks to Lincoln, the Tenth Amendment is just wishful thinking. State Government, as much closler to the Will of the People, is where this belongs. OK in California but illegal in Texas? Yup, that’s fine and in line with the Constitution. The States were supposed to decide such things. The United States weren’t supposed to be all the same… That’s why there were States, not just one big country like those in Europe.

    • The government has the same role in the abortion debate as is has in a debate on infanticide. There is NO argument that can be made for abortion that cannot also be made for infanticide.

      • Nonsense. If a woman’s body is her own, then tenancy in or use thereof is up to her, and her alone. Argue, plead, convince, evangelize. But when you point a gun to back up what are your essentially religious beliefs at the expense of another person’s autonomy in her own body, you are going to be opposed by any honest advocate of freedom.

  8. Birth Control, abortion is a personal choice not the government or anyone else..You can feel the way you do but you have no right to tell others what they should do. That is there life not yours.

    • So then if I see you being robbed, raped, then murdered I will just stand off to the side and watch the show that is your life not mine or others.

    • I agree with you on the idea that birth control and abortion are a personal choice and NOT the government or anyone else, but I seem to feel that going to the far side, of it is my life not yours idea, brings up something my father harped upon when i was growing up, and that was during the era of “it is my life, not yours and what i do affects only me not you ideas, the problem was and this was pointed out by my father, that if you wanted to commit suicide by jumping off a building, you were not affecting anyone else but yourself, but then who gets to see your body on the ground, what if they were standing there when you hit the ground, what about those who responded to clean up the mess, All these were affected, whether you wanted them to be or not. I guess what i’m saying is as the poem goes, “No man is an Island”…. We all affect and effect those that are around us whether we want to or not, And to take a life (as in abortion) must be thoroughly thought out, for the scars and emotional stress will affect one for a life time if you make the wrong choice….

    • Then stop making me pay for it.

    • Birth control is a personal matter, yes. And the primary reason no public funding should be involved (a conservative truth).
      Abortion … no matter how you slice it, there’s no personal right here. The child’s right to live trumps the mother’s right to reject it. It’s not her body & I really wish people would stop repeating such an ignorant statement. It’s the child’s body that will be assaulted violently, not the mother’s. The child has a constitutional right to life but even grander than that, the right is God given. The constitution can only affirm the protection itself.

  9. This person is fat too focused on the “individual” to claim any fealty to our Constitution. It was a cage to restrain Leviathan, not some empowering talisman for the Locke-ean individual. It’s raison-d’etre was to defend the autonomy and the individuality of the states. Of course federalism is the defense for Romney-care; it is the ONLY defense possible. I hurt for the under 30 crowd.

  10. Actually concerning abortion, it’s the babies life and someone has to be a voice for the

    • Preventing abortion is exactly the same as preventing murder, generally speaking. But murder is not a federal crime, unless it happens on federal property.

  11. One thing that the majority of conservatives should and do support is Israel. Out had Bern proven time and again that when we back Israel, our economic and foreign status are generally on a better position. Not to mention that Israel is our strongest ally (if not the only one) in the region. Working with Israel is key to getting ahead of those that would seek harm on this country.

    • You are so Right..God says, if you turn your back on Israel I will turn my back on you..Isn’t that what obama is doing?…Stand strong with Israel and He will stand strong with us…

      • No, God said no such thing. Biblical Israel has NO relationship to the modern state of Israel which is nothing less than an illegal occupation of another people’s land as dictated by, not God, but atheist zionists. Americans amaze me with their dangerous ignorance.

    • It is so important to support Israel, that I bought a jewish star to wear on my neck to show my support visually. I am not jewish, but we must unite to show our support for our one and only ally.

    • Oh please. Israel is not our ally. Israel is the greatest liability we have. Working with (meaning billions annually while Americans go hungry) Israel is what causes harm to the world. Israel is an apartheid state that will eventually see itself before war crime tribunals. No, true conservatives would never support Israel. They’d cut them off and condemn their war crimes.

    • http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=397902
      Oren Beaton presented a photo album of Palestinians he killed during his time as a commander of an undercover Israeli unit operating in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

      Beaton explained that he kept photos of his victims.

      “This is a photo of a Palestinian young man called Basim Subeih who I killed. This is another young man. I shredded his body, and the photo shows the remnants of his body,” he said.

  12. True Conservatism is a belief in “the Government should only do for the people in which they cannot do for themselves” and “A government that governs least governs best”

    Too often we have gotten into petty squabbles about moral issues that sidetrack the main goal of what we need to accomplish. That is to reduce the size and scope of the Federal Government. If we can get the size, scope, and cost of the federal government down then the people will take care of what they need to. With the over-burdensome demands of the government today, people have blindly moved towards a belief that if the government is doing all this then why don’t they take care of this need/want of mine?

  13. These are merely my opinions..

    I agree with many of these points.. but you can’t have limited government, while at the same time making laws to govern what two consenting adults do in a bedroom. I fail to see using the federal government to dictate the personal relationships of adults is anything but enormous government.

    Remember, when we make laws based on religion…no matter how much you might agree with said religion..you are still using government to force your views on others. So at the end of the day you end up with something exactly like sharia law, where laws are fashioned around religion to govern ones life.

    This to me flies in the face of what I think small government, and conservatism to be.

    My two cents.

  14. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”
    ~ Saul Alinsky
    They are trying to define the rules for us, thus defining us…

  15. Conservatives believe in Peace Through Strength, and that a safe and secure world relies on a strong and motivated United States Military.

  16. Something that you didn’t address was evil. The Founding Fathers believed that humanity was evil, and so power must be divided, not concentrated. A government that gives most of the power to a few enables those few to do great evil. But a government that is divided into branches, with much of its power given to states and individuals, is much less likely to do great evil.

  17. Mitt Romney fits into all of these categories. I have always loved you, Rush, but the way you diss on Romney bothers me A LOT. He is a good man, and he is a conservative who has had to work with a state where 85% of the people were liberal. Whoever wins this election will be the President for ALL AMERICANS and cannot be “ultra conservative” unless they are also a dictator style leader, like Obama. They will have to pick their battles and bend in some cases to be fair to all people. Romney has proven he can do this. In my opinion, he is the best choice for this nation at this time because he has the financial experience and expertise needed to change the direction of our economy. He understands that Americans need jobs and is willing to create them. I don’t understand why you are so anti-Romney. And…..your friend has a lot of nerve telling you that you are not a conservative if you vote for him. None of these candidates are ideal to everyone because we are ALL different. I don’t like that kind of manipulation…..and I hope people are smart and do not fall for it.

  18. What about the fact that conservatives understand that capitalism does not work without the ten commandments and Godly morality? America must still hold fast to the motto “In God we trust”. America needs to revere the Judaeo/Christian God.

  19. The problem with conservatives is that THEY allowed their Republican party to become as RINO as it has. It is all conservatives who are responsible for holding to fire to their candidates’ feet and continuously. This means making phone calls to congressmen, senators, etc. This means getting involved.

  20. 1-3 are OK.
    4. Where in the Constitution does it authorize the Federal Government to provided “safety nets?”
    5. “abortion is wrong” is just way too cut & dry. WHAT IF the author was a young white male with a 13 yr old daughter who had been raped by a HIV infected non-white, and now she is pregnant? Oh! BTW the rapist has Down’s Syndrome.

  21. If we were all to adhere to these principles Ron Paul would all ready be the Republican nominee. Unfortunately, most so-called “Conservatives” don’t.

  22. Google>”BLINDED BY THE LEFT” by Trevor Louden. . . And Google”LIBERTARIANISM AND THE LEAP OF FAITH” by Phillip Pilkington. . . . Then Maybe We can be Done With this Ron Paul issue.

  23. If we want a conservative in office, we will get behind Rick Santorum. Otherwise Obama will more than likely get re-elected. Not sure why Romney is being shoved down our throats…he is said to be electible, but there is not real proof except he is a moderate…Oh wait, McCain was a moderate too. Maybe it is because he has never lost a race, oh but, didn’t he lose to Kennedy and didn’t he decide not to run another term because he knew he would not be re-elected. Maybe because he doesn’t stand with Democrats, oops, Kennedy comes to mind. Maybe it is because he will repeal Obamacare…well maybe not, it all depends on how the wind is blowing and he like Romneycare and Kennedy. Then there is talk that he has a plan to get our economy back on track…at who’s expense..oh, that’s right, the working man’s expense, because if you are not an investor, you don’t have a chance. Well, if you are poor there are”safety nets” that can be fixed if they are not working (more entitlements?). Hummm? what could it be? Oh yes, money, media, Wall Street lobbyists and the Washington establishment … great, just what this country needs as our foundation is crumbling. Vote Rick Santorum…vote for all Americans, not just the choice of the money, media and the Washington establishment. Conservatives are losing our voices because of the establishment and our lack of courage to fight back…let this be our time.

    • Lilly, your absolutist POV is disheartening. To compare Romney, who has been elected as a Republican in Mass., but has also done big things outside politics, to career pol & Neo-con McCain, turns my stomach. And, if you fancy Santorum as some kind of “outsider”, detatched from the nebulous “establishment”, well you are miss mis-informed.
      The president is to be the Executive, which is exactly what Romney is. Look, I’m a Buchananite, but I recognize this opportunity for what it is; a chance to have a REAL executive head-up the executive branch, and not some cookie-cutter pol, whose only life experience consists of popularity contests. The “we’ll lose if my guy doesn’t get nominated” is so tired. Who was the last great President who WASN’T a career politician?? Who actually made a living in the real world? Conservatives always whine about “career” politicians, & now, with a chance to elect someone who isn’t, you’re whining because he’s not. We’re known as The Stupid Party for a reason!!!

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