What remains of conservatism today?
This essay seeks to explain what it means to still be a political conservative in today’s America.
There is no core set of beliefs conservative intellectuals hold in common, nor an ideology that shapes their writings.
If there were a core set of conservative beliefs, they would not be the same beliefs they held in the past, or they would be in tension with one another.
Conservativism was never a monolithic ideological movement. It’s a loosely knit collection of thinkers and a term that became synonymous with them.
As William F. Buckley wrote in 1955: “Conservatism, as a school of thought, is not a coherent set of ideas; it is a collection of divergent ideals, some of which are opposed, while others are conjoined.”
That is not to say, however, that there is no continuity with conservativism of the past. In fact, two of the most prominent conservatives of the past two decades, Grover
Norquist and George Will, have defined conservatism similarly.
Out of touch
Conservatives have, however, lost touch with the voters who agree with them, to a fault.
If you look at a list of the most-liked conservative and liberal books of the past few years, you will see that both books were released by liberal authors.
So if conservative books are to be believed, there is very little difference between conservatism and liberalism. These people are not conservatives in any sense of the word.
And the public disagrees.
When conservatives try to articulate their worldview, it is self-contradictory. If “conservatism” is defined as the “little people,” then clearly conservatives should be on the side of the “little people.”
The “entitlement society”
On the other hand, if conservatism is defined as the “entitlement society,” then clearly they should be in favor of more spending and a strong welfare state.
Conservatives are supposed to be for lower taxes, less regulation, and individual responsibility, yet they are willing to vote to send their own children to daycare or nannies when they are at work. They do not care about those things, but they support those policies when it comes to others.
As a conservative, I am inclined to favor the latter interpretation over the former.
Conservatism is about the little people, and the little people are losing
Conservatives have for the most part lost touch with the people whose problems they were supposed to address: the middle class, working class, and the poor.
Conservatives do not understand the plight of people who are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet, and those who cannot find a job that pays enough to support themselves.
The working poor are the least well-represented among the electorate, and it would seem that the economic policies of conservatives favor the rich and powerful.
In their philosophy, conservatives believe that they, the wealthy, should be rewarded for their work. Their efforts should be rewarded, while those of the working poor should not be.
The idea that a job should not be “unearned,” that someone should be “unpaid” for their labor, is hardly a conservative idea.
All the conservative talk about “pro-growth” economic policies, “trickle-down economics,” and “encouraging competition” has done little more than enrich the wealthy, while increasing inequality and unemployment for the working class.
In order to give their children the best start in life, the working class is forced to leave their homes in order to work in low-paying, long-hours, or service-sector jobs.
Their children are taken away from them and sent to public schools, which serve fewer than 50 percent of the population. They do not have the chance to be taken out of poverty at the early age of child development.
They do not have access to government services, such as Pell Grants and subsidies to attend public universities, as children from the middle class do.
Conservative policies have actually made their situation worse.
It is time to stop thinking of conservatives as being the “desperate” party, and to start looking at them as the party that supports the wealthy.
A liberal person might see something like global warming as an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Whereas a conservative person might view it as a natural process that doesn’t need to be rushed.
Media bias is simply the combination of the inputs above into a single score that we can compute. Most websites have higher bias scores than most Wikipedia articles. This is because news outlets know their audience and its political leanings. Therefore they usually resort to sentiment and trend analysis for verified facts in order to inform their news content.
Conservative view on big government vs. small government
I’m a conservative. I think people should be responsible for themselves, and that big government and big business are bad. I also think that people should be free to do whatever the hell they want as long as they’re not hurting anybody else. Government is not a good thing in and of itself.
The truthful answer is probably somewhere in there. So, for the last few decades, I’ve advocated a middle ground between the protestors and the rioters.
While you should never be afraid to voice your opinion, you should always be aware of your audience. You can be both conservative and liberal, but the important thing is to keep your views to yourself if they’re not relevant to your business or brand.
For more reading ideas, check out these Ben Shapiro books.