The first person I ever campaigned on behalf of was the person whose quote defining a conservative follows, Barry Goldwater:
1) One who espouses a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change.
2) One who believes in less government being better government.
3) One who believes in such “outmoded” ideas as civil liberties (freedom of speech, separation of church and state, right to keep and bear arms, that kind of thing)
4) One for whom the Republican Party no longer truly speaks.
5) A word that today’s so-called “conservatives” don’t know the definition of.
“Today’s so-called ‘conservatives’ don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.” — Barry Goldwater
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There are conservatives in name only and then there are true conservatives. The ‘name only’ conservatives are found regularly espousing conservative ideas when there are reporters around, but are also those who seldom uphold their claim of being conservative when the rubber meets the road and a vote with a name attached to it is taken.
These people are conservative when they are working on getting votes from real conservatives. They can talk the talk but they are unlikely to walk the walk when it comes time for a tough vote. If everyone who claims to be conservative in today’s congress was actually conservative, we would have seen more accomplished than has been accomplished.
They have all kinds of reasons for not actually voting as you and I wanted them to vote. They shroud these reasons in political gobbledygook that makes little or no sense when we reflect back on what we heard. Typically there was this factor or that reason involved which the party wanted them to ignore or protect as the case might have been.
Go along to get along might be the rallying cry of these people. They want to feel loved when they are sitting in Congress and isolated from their constituents. But, they also concoct reasons or adopt party-fed reasons for what they did and why it was ‘necessary’ if you or I question why this vote or that vote was cast.
I suppose that those of us who are not in Washington, D.C. don’t really know what kind of pressure can be brought to bear. We are not in the rooms behind closed doors where the deals are made. We do not understand the ‘quid pro quo’ that may’ve been dangled in order to ‘buy’ the right vote on a certain bill. There is a rarefied atmosphere in the halls of Congress. If you’ve ever walked those halls you know there is a certain feeling that comes to you.
We can hardly imagine how elite we might feel to actually sit in Congress, to be invited to this cocktail parties and made to feel very special and corraled in the ‘smoke-filled room’ if such a room exists today.
Going back to the premise “What is a conservative?”, I’d have to say things have changed significantly since that time when Barry Goldwater was in the game. Those changes have not necessarily been for the better. Our instant communications abilities today have made a significant difference. Television cameras have made a significant difference.
We are in the age where a back-bench Illinois state Senator with 130 votes of “present” could come on like he was the soon-to-be-savior of the Democrat party and be elected President of the United States of America…and then be re-elected. It is interesting that Illinois is virtually bankrupt today although there might not be a direct tie to Barack Obama.
The indirect tie is that of liberals having more seats in that state than have conservatives. That is where the present problems originated. Mega Bucks tickets cannot be purchased in Illinois since the state cannot be trusted to pay-off its share if a person in that state were to win the drawing.
Liberals are very free when spending the money of others since they believe that money ought to be doing good for their constituents thus assuring more votes. And, much of that money comes from the conservatives who earned it so that makes it even better from the liberal point-of-view. They cannot conceive that it is fair that the person who earned the money ought to be able to keep the lion’s share of his or her earnings.
What is a conservative? It is what we need many more of in every elected body. Conservatives understand that there are no magic fountains of largess. They want every person to have the opportunity to make good in this life, and they want government at every level that permits and encourages that to happen. They also understand that some votes may not be popular back home but are the right votes nonetheless, and they’re willing and able to explain that when they’re challenged.