What does it mean to be a conservative?
A few days ago I was texting my friend Victor, and we got to talking about politics. He’s normally not the type to care much about what’s going on in Washington, but when I told him about my blog, he seemed interested. He asked me exactly what it means to be a conservative. I defined a few key issues (namely small government) pretty succinctly, trying to squeeze an explanation into one text message.
But I realized later that I had defined conservatism incorrectly. Here is what I should have said:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
That is the essence of conservatism.
We believe in the principles on which this country was created. The founders, who were ordinary men like us, are perhaps – excepting God – our greatest inspirations. We believe in their vision of a nation free from tyranny.
We believe in the Constitution, the foundation of our country. We believe that it is a set of restrictions on government activity, and that is the way it should be. It is not open to reinterpretation. It is what it is.
We believe in values like diligence, charity, and hard, honest work. We shape our lives by these virtues and strive to do well in all aspects of our lives. We believe that it is our duty to help out others in need – when we can and when we want to, not when the government tells us to.
We believe in life above all. We believe that every life – no matter how young, how weak, or how seemingly insignificant – is a miracle. We fight to preserve it in any way we can.
And while we do not smile on death or war, we believe in a strong military. Only by maintaining our strength can we bring that same strength to others. We will not accept indecisiveness or pandering to our enemies. We believe in the men and women who willingly sacrifice their lives to keep us safe. We pray for them, we cry for them, and we support our soldiers with everything we have.
We believe that all citizens deserve the great opportunities that America can give them. We will stand for neither hatred nor preferential treatment because of skin color. We enjoy the many cultures we are exposed to in this melting pot of a nation, and we hope that people can embrace both their ethnic background and their American citizenship.
We understand that this country was founded mainly by Christian men and mainly upon Christian values. Even if we don’t believe in the same God, we think it’s all right to acknowledge our religious roots. We are grateful that we have the right to practice whatever faith we see fit.
We do not believe that the government should have unlimited spending powers. We do not believe that bailing out those who fail will solve anything. Tax money should be spent responsibly, and the government should not be allowed to accrue $13 trillion in debt. We believe in fiscal sanity, in basic capitalistic principles, in spending only what we can afford.
We believe that the government’s role is to serve and protect its people, not the other way around. We elect our officials in the hopes that they will respect and protect us, not lord over us. When they disappoint us, we show up at the next election to vote them out of office.
We believe that America is the greatest country on this Earth. We believe that all Americans are keepers of freedom, and that somehow we may be able to bring liberty to other nations. We love our country.
To me, at least, that is what being a conservative means.