I’ve made it a point the last few years of talking to a lot of self-described Libertarians, and the increasingly rare breed known as moderate Republicans in order to understand their thoughts on the variety of complex issues we face as a society. Now most of them know I’m not a Democrat, but being politically to their left, almost of all them consider me a liberal, and as you know, in some circles that can be quite a dirty word. Frankly speaking though, this baffles me, because I’m not even really sure what a liberal is.
Thankfully however, I’ve been talking to some of these self-described liberals lately, and they don’t tend to think I’m one of them either. The fact is my political views don’t fit neatly into one box, and I don’t think anyone’s should. We need more independent thinkers in this country…not people who care about their party so much as people who care about the kind of society they want to live in, and who support a democratic government by, of, and for the people.
If we could drop the labels, it would be easier to have a conversation, but unfortunately labeling things is part of human nature. And so, I’m going to help everyone out here and confess: I’m a closet conservative…and I think you might be too.
I want to conserve our environment and our natural resources. I want to conserve our wealth as a nation, the value of our currency, and our position of global leadership. I want to conserve our freedom and our security, and our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I want a conservative constitutional government that represents the people, and their highest ideals. I want to conserve the American Dream.
This does not however mean I’m primarily concerned with deficit reduction, cutting spending, and shrinking government, or that I think the government should be involved in issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. No, my definition of what it means to be conservative is focused more on the true meaning of the word.
So what does it mean, for example, to be an economic conservative? It means our economy should be a tool for not only conserving our standard of living, but for raising it, and conserving our future prosperity. It means we should make sound conservative investments in our future, and not overextend ourselves. It does not however mean that free market and laissez faire capitalism can solve all our problems, or that our government should not have any role in regulating our economy. In fact quite the opposite—government most certainly has a role to play in conserving the people’s safety and security, and some regulation and enforcement are necessary to conserve a sense of fairness and ensure our economic system works to the benefit of everyone.
When it comes to environmental conservatism, I think that it pretty simple. I would like our environment to be around for future generations to enjoy. As such, I think we should all recognize that for the last 100 years, humans have been putting an enormous amount of carbon into our atmosphere, and significant majority of us agree this is not a good thing. In fact, most people who understand the effect that it’s having on our biosphere think it’s a bad thing. There is a very small minority who do not think it is significant enough to worry about, but as a conservative, I think that we should exercise caution here. If there’s even a slight chance that the amount of carbon we release into the atmosphere could cause the average global temperature to rise significantly enough that our weather patterns begin to spiral wildly out of control, producing massive storms, droughts, fire, flooding, and famine, then I think that is something we ought to take measures to prevent.
Next, let’s talk about conserving life. And I’m not talking about conserving the life of a bunch of cells that has attached itself to the inside of a woman’s uterus—that will be the topic of another conversation. I’m talking about conserving life among things that are already capable of sustaining their own lives, which means everything from preventing hunger and disease to helping victims of natural disasters to protecting endangered species. It means treating all life with the respect it deserves.
Finally, let us discuss conserving America’s position as a global leader. A conservative foreign policy means leading by the strength of our ideals, and letting other countries solve their own problems whenever possible. Diplomacy is always the preferred course, and should be pursued at all times. Military intervention in the case of humanitarian crises should be by international consensus. Intelligence used to justify any initial offense or aggression should be double and triple verified. Shows of force should always be a last resort, and should be strategically planned to minimalize casualties on both sides while meeting clearly defined objectives, and include a well-thought-out exit strategy.
Framed this way, it is hard to argue against the case for conservatism, and easy to see that it is possible to be progressive and conservative at the same time. And progressive is one label I will not shy away from. After all, the alternative to progressive would be regressive, and I definitely prefer going forward to going backward.