There is no such thing as 'Conservatism'

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By John Barnhart

It’s not possible for “conservatism” to decline. That’s because there is no such thing as “conservatism.”

Conservatives don’t comprise a monolithic movement. At the most, we can be roughly categorized into three groupings: social conservatives, defense hawks and fiscal/business conservatives. These are rough categories because they don’t have distinct edges. Social conservatives can also be defense hawks. Fiscal/business conservatives can also be social conservatives. There can also be variations within each group. With relatively rare exceptions, we aren’t single issue voters either.

For social conservatives, issues such as abortion or the homosexual agenda are of primary importance. We believe human life begins at conception, not at birth, and deserves the protection of the law. We believe that abortion on demand is the unjustified taking of a human life and, therefore, is murder.

We also believe that homosexual behavior is sexual immorality. We have a problem with the homosexual agenda because these folks, who define themselves by their sexual behavior, are demanding more than tolerance from the rest of us. We are concerned that, if they have their way, they will use the coercive power of the state to silence any of us who dare say, or even imply, that we believe their lifestyle is immoral.

Social conservatives are also concerned that the public schools will be used to undermine their right to pass on their moral values to their children. Furthermore, we get upset about proposals to make the state, which we must support with our tax money, put its stamp of approval by calling same sex unions a marriage.

Defense hawks give primacy to national defense issues. Those of us who fit in this category aren’t knuckle dragging, head-busting, Neanderthals. Defense hawks would rather have peace and believe that a strong national defense is the only way, other than abject surrender, to achieve that. Along with the spending necessary to keep our armed forces strong, defense hawks look for a foreign policy that is assertive enough to defend America’s national interests, but not so aggressive that it gets us into unnecessary fights.

We can, however, have disagreements among ourselves about whether a particular bit of foreign policy amounts to defending our national interest, or looking for trouble. Many of us are military veterans.

Fiscal/business conservatives are primarily concerned with economic issues. They want low taxes and fiscal responsibility from the government. They believe the economy functions best when the government leaves business alone and, therefore, they dislike government regulation. They also see free trade and economic globalization as beneficial.

There can be tension among these three basic groups. Some business conservatives aren’t happy with social conservatives’ position on abortion and homosexuality. Some social conservatives take a populist view on free trade.

Conservatives of all types tend to vote Republican.

Sometimes the Republican Party gives social conservatives little more than lip service, but the liberals who dominate the “Democratic” Party are openly hostile to us.

The “Democratic” Party, ever since it got hijacked by its anti-military left wing in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s has been soft on defense. Republicans, prior to Donald Rumsfeld’s tenure as secretary of defense, have been willing to spend to make sure we have the best armed forces in the world.

The “Democrats” have a reputation for being the tax and spend party and their left wing gives the impression as being anti-business. Republicans tend to be pro-business and, with the exception of the six years that ended when the current Congress took over in January, 2007, the party of fiscal restraint and responsibility.

Our usual support for Republican candidates is what gives the appearance of a unified movement.