So what does conservative mean these days?

I don’t think I understand the term anymore. For years, I considered myself fairly conservative. I believe in limiting the power of the State to only that granted in the Constitution. I believe in keeping the government out of the private lives of it’s citizens. I believe in the Bill of Rights, including the separation of Church and State. I believe in a strong national defense, and strictly controlled government spending. Years ago, the party for me was the GoP. First presidential election after my 18th birthday, I voted for Reagan. I renounced all ties to the GoP during the summer of 2003. It was an accumulation of things that just didn’t work for me. When did “conservative” polymorph into the Religous Right? Why is an allegedly conservative President grossly expanding the power of the State, and particularly the Executive Branch? Why is he spending money hand over fist? When did the Bill of Rights become a list of nice suggestions that doom us to defeat in a “war” that has never been declared? How can an alleged conservative justify monitoring private phone calls?

I don’t know what to call myself anymore. I’m not a liberal…got way too many guns for that. I’m not at all in agreement with the current administration–I’d allow women to make the choice regarding abortion, and I’d allow gay marriage, among other issues.

Someone enlighten me, please.

Um, “because 9/11 changed everything”?

OK, so that’s not it.

I date the demise of my preference for the Republicans to the time that they allied themselves with the religious right, back in the late 80’s. Before that, I was pretty cool with the idea of limited government, fiscal responsibility, etc. I liked Bush the Elder!

I was never too fond of Reagan, tho.

To me (and obviously not being an American, likely my view is pretty far off) it seems that conservative over there has changed from “conservative with laws” into “conservative with morals”. Quite a big change, really; from leaving states and people to get on with their own affairs into aiming to control their very souls (to be melodramatic). I’m not entirely sure what started this huge swing in control, but I have to lay some of the blame at the feet of a well-organised religious right and a left which didn’t recognise in time that it could have absorbed the better parts of old-style conservatism into itself.

You’re still a conservative - with a pretty strong libertarian leaning. It ain’t conservatism that’s changed. What’s happened is the Republican party has changed - and abandoned the conservatives like you (and me).

That’s a piercingly succinct and accurate analysis, Mr. Threshold.

You’re a small “l” libertarian, probably. There are quite a few on this board.

I’d have to agree that “conservative” means the same thing it has always meant…whether or not the Republican party upholds conservative ideals is another story.

To me, conservativism should stand for basic liberty, and is best expressed by limited government interference in peoples’ lives, as is necessary for people to be free. This includes economic freedom (a market-driven economy, low taxation/minimal redistribution of wealth) and upholding states’ rights, including severely restricting judicial activism, especially at the federal level.

Progressive libertarian, perhaps?

Hmmm. Interesting essay.

Some of them may potentialy have reservations on some of our social issues. Realisticly however once they know which “Liberal” goals we do have and which we don’t, I’d be surprised if anyone didn’t find whatever concessions they would make to us more acceptable than ones previously made to the Fundies and Elitests. These types are also highly unlikely to be the knee jerk single/wedge issue voters. If there is disagreement over government regulation or socilization of energy/healhtcare, a potential compramize would be to mandate that sutch industries exist as non-profits. The only potential for us confict would be over guns

Wish he’d provided details about the “liberal goals”. Apparrently something to do with taking over the energy and healthcare industries…yet doing it through a non-profit??? Not real sure what he’s trying to say here…but I’m more than a little leery, without more information.

Also think he overstates the case for hemp. I have no problem with the idea of doing it, but I don’t see legalized hemp eliminating “at least 25% of our various oil needs.”

I have to disagree. The title “conservative” has been attached to the Republican Party for a long time. In its original sense, it literally meant conservative - desirous of conserving the status quo (i.e., opposed to progressive reforms). For this reason, “conservative” was an epithet for much of the 60s and 70s, a way to label someone who was old, and stodgy, and resistant to change.

It seems to me that beginning in the 80s Republican leadership began courting and grooming libertarians, and libertarians at some point began calling themselves “conservative” when they weren’t conservative in the traditional sense at all.

What’s happening in my view is that the Republican Party is the same as it always was at heart, and more newly-minted “conservatives” are realizing that maybe “conservative” isn’t what they are after all.

To me, libertarians sort of straddle the two parties, finding areas of agreement with each, but complete agreement with neither.

But that’s just an impression I have.

I wouldn’t disagree with any of what you say. I would say that conservativism now is more of what you might call classical liberalism. In fact, I read a book recently by Tammy Bruce wherein she defends herself as a liberal…that is, she explains why she considers herself a liberal, when most people these days would call her a conservative. She believes that modern liberalism has sold out liberal ideals, and it has forced people like her to call themselves libertarians, because they don’t fit into either party.

Get stoned enough, and you won’t wanna go anywhere! DUH!

:confused: Where are you getting that?! Conservatism in America right now is about as far as you can get from classical liberalism!

Well yeah, but then the pizza guy is gonna burn gas to bring the inevitable delivery.

I hate to say it, but the accumulation started under Reagan.

Reagan ran on balanced budgets, higher defense spending and lower taxes for the rich. Of course these were contradictory and record budget deficits were the result.

Still, the US has a strong economy that can take a lot of abuse. The real problem was that Reagan built a movement of “Free-lunch conservatives”, who found it easy to detach themselves from facts and analysis. For example, Reagan would propose budgets with deficits to Congress, who would rearrange his spending priorities and return the paperwork with nearly the same deficit. Blinkered Movement Conservatives convinced themselves that these deficits were the Democrat’s fault. Never mind that deficits would decline during Democratic administrations.

Ironically, Reagan had a liberal streak to him. He fought to keep George Shultz on his team, because he actually wanted to sign treaties with the Soviets: Reagan thought that nuclear weapons were ultimately immoral.

He had a factual streak as well: he signed an executive order mandating “Cost-benefit analysis” - an approach that actually respects expertise.

But all that is beside the point: Reagan’s key legacy was promoting free-lunch ideological conservatives at the expense of the tough-minded traditional kind. Ideology was all that mattered: never mind your argument, just give us the desired conclusions. This legacy had its worst effects under GWBush and (separately) Tom DeLay.

Here are 2 more links on this topic:

Lots of conservatives blather that GWBush isn’t a “real” conservative. Of course, many felt differently when W had better poll figures:

And here’s another link:

I think that there are two kinds of conservatism these days: political conservatism and social conservatism. I’m the former, and I have no problem with the latter. I even identify with a lot of the things the latter espouses.

The problem I see with politics these days is that liberalism and social conservatism are in a battle because both sides seem to have forgotten that the essence of freedom is to live and let live and not forcibly inflict your personal beliefs on others.

The GOP currently seems occupied on promoting the social conservative agenda, while paying lip service to political conservatives. It also seems to be making an effort to take away the social agenda of the Democratic party.

It does a poor job of being all things to all people. It’s got the worst of what I fear in Democrats (big intrusive government that “takes care of me”) it intrudes along moralistic lines, and really the only thing I identify with is the strong foreign policy.

The Republican party remains (and will continue to remain) in power so long as it can keep up the illusion of being all things to all people. I think this is made easier by the general incoherence of the Democrats/liberals who really have failed to articulate just what it is they stand for. Recently, they don’t stand for much other than trying to regain power and undermine the Republicans.

In my opinion the Democrats have put themselves in a terrible position. By automatically taking the opposite tack as the Republicans they depend on failure or the appearance of failure to win power.

They can only win back power if Iraq, foreign policy, of the economy fall apart. They find themselves in the inauspicious position of rooting against their country or of at least trying to portray the country as on a path to ruin.

Unfortunately for them, the economy is doing very very well, and it appears that conquering a third world country is going to prove (just barely) within the scope of the adminstration’s competance, so I think this is a losing strategy.

I think they know it, too, generally speaking. The Democrats tend to be bitter and focussed on criticizing and complaining and looking for scapegoats. The common thread of the Democratic party’s out put has been to cry “Cheater!” The Republicans stole the 2000 election. They waged an illegal war in Iraq, they stole Ohio in '04. They waged an illegal campaign to asassinate Kerry in '04. They are doing illegal wiretaps, illegal detention, unfair judicial appointments, bully tactics. “Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!”

In the end though, nobody really likes a whiner, and you need a coherent political agenda to win elections and gain back power. The Democrats know this and they are desperately trying to come up with one. The problem is that they are trying to come up with a winning agenda. As a result, it is always changing based on what they think will work or be popular. What they need to do is not tell us what they are against, but to stand up for what they are for. Not because it will be popular, but because they believe it.

It is this political environment that the Conservative finds himself in today.

The Republican party is a false friend and the Democrats are an incoherent, disgruntled, and disorganized enemy.

The funny thing is that I don’t know where all these nutjob conservatives/right wingers are. I have lots and lots of conservative friends, and none of them really beleive in pushing religion by legislation or in bigger government.

Heh. Oakminster asked a question I’ve been thinking of asking on here for some time.

My beliefs about politics are very much a composite of my mother and father’s. My father was born in '32 and grew up under FDR; he thinks the government should stay out of people’s lives as much as possible, except to provide a variety of safety nets in the form of social welfare. My mother was born in '47, and grew up through the '50’s and early-mid '60’s; she believes in a moralistic, “Father-knows-best” type government that’s tight on it’s purse-strings…

I believe in a a gov’t much like the OP seems to desire. I’m for the death penalty, I want a strong military, I don’t think we should wait for Pearl Harbours and 9/11’s when dealing with hostile powers. But the government should NOT legislate morality; gay marriage should be legal, abortion is a matter of choice, etc. The government should try to keep it’s expenditures down. It should provide a minimum of welfar, and discourage monopolies and corporate cartels that try to circumvent free-market economics (RIAA, telecoms, I’m looking at you), but otherwise stay out of economics. Things of this nature. The Constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights, is the only bible or holy writ the government should ever consider.

At any rate, I’m enjoying this thread and am curious to see if it can find a party and/or politicians I can really agree with.

*the handling of things with the USSR; keeping one step ahead militarily while drinking them under the table economically and avoiding actual conflict seems like the ideal to me though. But a little “wet-work” seems acceptable.

You’re a libertarian. You believe in conservative politics, but not when it means taking people’s rights away or in issues like religious morality.

George Lakoff is a political thinker who has written on the idealogical differences between liberals & conservatives. He feels it mostly comes down to how you look at the world and he uses metaphors for raising a family to describe liberal vs. conservative politics.

The main difference seems to be that conservatives feel the way to deal with problems is through self discipline and self interest. Liberals feel it is through creating environments that are conductive to success. Conservatives also seem to have less faith in the goodness of man, whereas liberals have more. Taken to extremes you have conservatives who insult charity workers as ‘bleeding hearts’ and liberals who want to ‘give peace a chance’ with dictators like Bin Ladin and Kim Jong Il.

How would you call someone who is:

  1. pro gay marriage
  2. pro soft-drugs
  3. pro-choice
  4. atheïst
  5. against war [any war]
  6. against death-penalty
  7. against discrimination [of any sort]
  8. against islam