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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.

Frank Lee Speaking is a Concerned Citizen and Sr. Political Polemicist at Occupy Slurve.

Originally posted to Frank Lee Speaking on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 10:53 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Hippie.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm for damm sure a fiscal conservative (12+ / 0-)

    And if you are too, you'd be crazy to consider voting for spendthrift, irresponsible Republicans.

    But sure, you can be progressive and conservative at the same time.  Teddy was perhaps the first well-known example, and we tend to think very highly of him here.

    Try this sometime.  Go down your list, issue by issue with the diverse denizens here at the Great Orange Satan.  I'll bet you'd be in perhaps 90% agreement - a lot greater percentage than you'd get over at Redstate.

    “Are you calling the Koch brothers during the recess?” - Henry Waxman

    by thenekkidtruth on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 11:05:30 PM PST

  •  Sounds like you are one of us (8+ / 0-)

    Given the way the Repubs are going these days, it appears you are a Democrat. (shhh... it's okay. I won't tell anyone :)

  •  Perhaps As a Conservative You Could Explain..... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IreGyre, skohayes, AnnieR, Wee Mama

    why the national debt didn't matter to Republicans from 2000-2008.  In fact, Dick Cheney said during that time "deficits don't matter".

    Oddly......the day Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office deficits started to really matter to Republicans.

    And one last question.  If Republicans are so against big government & government intervention, why are they so into monitoring every single pregnancy, every single vagina & every single bedroom in the country?  

    •  sure, i can explain that (6+ / 0-)

      It's called political opportunism. You don't need to be a conservative to know that.

      The second question, I have no idea. I think it has to do with some really old book they like to waive around and selectively quote from.

      99% isn't enough. We're all in this together.

      by Frank Lee Speaking on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 11:17:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  snapples - magnitude (0+ / 0-)

      Until his last fiscal year, F2008, the highest Bush deficit was approximately $400 billion. For the last four years the deficit has been more than $1 Trillion and as high as $1.6 Trillion. It's not that hard to understand the difference.  

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 10:08:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  right but the problem is (0+ / 0-)

        too many people especially on the right just look at the numbers on the surface, get angry with "big government" and tune out of the conversation.

        I think most of us here know the counterarguments pretty well...1) accounting tricks...that $400 billion under Bush was really much larger since he hid the cost of the wars in a supplemental budget. 2) economic circumstances...when the bubbles we had under Bush popped, it a) reduced govt revenue, and b) forced us to spend even more borrowed money to prevent an even larger economic downturn

        99% isn't enough. We're all in this together.

        by Frank Lee Speaking on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 10:46:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Are You Including the Cost of the Bush Tax Cuts... (0+ / 0-)

        in 200l & 2003?  And.....the amount added to the national debt for the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 aka Medicare Part D, the infamous donut hole?

        All three were not paid for, & all three added to the national debt.  $400 Billion, my foot.  The Bush policies from 200l-2008 added trillions to our national debt.  And Bush started out w/ a surplus.  

  •  Sort of a Teddy Roosevelt conservative (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, kyril, AnnieR

    or even an Eisenhower one. It wasn't all that long ago we had honest differences in opinions on how to achieve common goals. But these days I think we have to admit that "conservative" has been coopted by some rather ugly groups with rather ugly agendas. Some folks around here have taken to calling people like that "regressives" but I don't that label will catch on. I'm curious, why do you think the label "conservative" is important to reclaim? Maybe it would find a new way to state these beliefs?

    "What profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" Paul 8:36

    From the Gospel of St. Ron Paul in the Teachings and Misunderstandings of the Words of Adam Smith

    by ontheleftcoast on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 11:12:23 PM PST

  •  You're ordering unicorns and lollipops and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    have no coherent plan for reaching your goal.

    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.

    Raising a stand of living is progressing. But you are looking for a "tool" where you can conserve and progress to a future of conserved progress. If you figure out how to do this without taxing someone, I -- and many others --  have a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.

    Really want you want . . .

    I’m primarily concerned with deficit reduction, cutting spending, and shrinking government

    For the most part, that is regressing.

    Either you want to grow via progress or you want to shrink via regressing. Each approach has a process and each has their own end game.

    Somewhere there is price to pay when you order progressive unicorns and lollipops and pay with regressive cash.

    Privatizing government, via privatizing things like prisons and schools, is a no win. The private world CEOs just take take 100 times more than a government department head and then they dump the union middle class cog government workers into a non-union working cog world. The worker cogs drop from from a middle class salary to the barely making it working poor salary. They drop out of the spending world because they can't afford entertainment and other extras. The CEOs? They just stash the money oversees.

    •  That's kinda been going on (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      ...since the fall of Rome.

      For future reference: "Psychopaths" are born that way. "Sociopaths" are created by their culture. Both lack human empathy and both make suberb CEOs and bold leaders of nations.

      by Pluto on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 12:27:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  troll much? (9+ / 0-)

      You clearly have no idea what you're taking about.

      Your misquote is about the worst I've ever seen. What I said was this:

      This does not however mean I’m primarily concerned with deficit reduction, cutting spending, and shrinking government

      Exactly the OPPOSITE of what you quoted me as saying.

      I never mentioned a damn thing about taxes, and

      Growing government = progress = a false equivalency, as does shrinking government = regression. Progress to me would be more effective, more efficient, smarter government.

      Lastly, just because I don't lay out a coherent plan here doesn't mean I don't have one. This is just a primer.

      Now go back under the bridge from whence you came.

      99% isn't enough. We're all in this together.

      by Frank Lee Speaking on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 12:28:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think you missed the point of the diary. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Frank Lee Speaking

      And certainly you misread the sentence about deficit reduction.

      I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you just knee jerkedly reacted to the title which led to your just skimming, rather than reading. Go back and read what was actually said. I suspect you will agree with it.

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 05:58:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  thank you, exactly... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        after my initial response I almost continued to say I don't think ms and pluto actually read the article, but rather took the title at face value and projected their definition of conservatism onto me, and then went on to try and pick a fight when really we're likely on the same side.

        If you read much of my stuff you'll quickly discover a slightly tongue in cheek approach that can be a little deceptive at first. I try to come at the problem from a slightly different angle than most...because I want to be able to lure actual conservatives into the conversation as well.

        99% isn't enough. We're all in this together.

        by Frank Lee Speaking on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 11:03:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  So "drill, baby, drill" isn't conservative policy? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    se portland, pHunbalanced

    Or free markets? Thanks for laying out what I've been saying for years about so-called 'conservatives' adopting these policies.

    I'm no philosopher, I am no poet, I'm just trying to help you out - Gomez (from the song Hamoa Beach)

    by jhecht on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 05:23:37 AM PST

    •  Well (0+ / 0-)

      Drill baby drill is certainly not conservative when it comes to the environment...there is the argument however that reducing dependence on foreign oil in order to conserve our security, which is valid, however my counterargument would be yes, but we need to do it responsibly, and have a comprehensive long-term energy plan that drastically reduces fossil fuel consumption.

      and the free market is the free market. without constraint, I would probably say it tends to be pretty liberal.

      99% isn't enough. We're all in this together.

      by Frank Lee Speaking on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 10:38:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Maybe we find ourselves labeling because we're (3+ / 0-)

    working within the constraints of a two party system and not necessarily out of nature.  Your ideals and values sound like mine, and I've labeled myself a liberal all my life, though now the proper word is progressive since liberal has been demonized, strangely.  I am,  however, a Democrat.  You sound like a progressive conservationist based on your self-description.  I think there's a lot of room at both ends of the spectrum and all the in-betweens for who we are.  And reasonable discussions are not only something I yearn, but I think something this country desperately needs.


    "They love the founding fathers so much they will destroy everything they created and remake it in Rush Limbaughs image." MinistryofTruth, 9/29/11

    by AnnieR on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 05:35:21 AM PST

    •  Amen! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AnnieR, Frank Lee Speaking
      And reasonable discussions are not only something I yearn, but I think something this country desperately needs.

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 06:00:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Winner take all (3+ / 0-)

      In every state except Maine and Nebraska all electoral votes go to the presidential candidate with the most votes. This leads to a two party system because a third party candidate might get 30% of the vote nationally, but zero electoral votes. The same is true of Congress. legislators are not divvied up by the percentage of the votes, but by the most votes for each individual race. So, as Frank says people with diverging beliefs are forced to align with one of the two parties. Every so often the parties realign. The South use to be solidly Democratic, but now constitutes the Red States. It was the Northern 'liberal' Republicans that first champion civil rights.

      Lincoln who was pro tariffs and pro government investment would be shock to see the party he founded today.


      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 06:07:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  most definitely Annie (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and that's what I'm working on.

      you're pretty much spot on with the labels...liberals, democrats and progressives certainly identify with me, and I can identify with them, but what I'm trying to do is get the other side to identify with me too.

      one thing though, I can absolutely assure you it is in our nature. the primary way we understand things is through language. to describe something is to label it. I guess one of the larger points that I'm trying to make is not necessarily that labels are bad, but that when we start to label things, we end up compartmentalizing them, and separating them from each other.  All of the words you mention give people certain preconceived notions of what a person's political beliefs are, and that helps us immediately categorize a person to the degree which they are "like us" or "not like us," which is a very useful evolutionary skill. The problem is that language is a poor substitute for reality, and the reality is that no single word can encapsulate a person's entire belief system...that all those words don't belong in separate little boxes where many people put them, but on an overlapping continuum that is the political spectrum, which many seem to have forgotten is housed inside something even larger--the common values we all share as Americans. If more people understood this, I think you'd find those reasonable discussions would become a little more frequent.

      99% isn't enough. We're all in this together.

      by Frank Lee Speaking on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 11:26:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One of my favorite quotes, which I bring out (0+ / 0-)

        when someone from the other side of the aisle is trying to shout over or plying me with insults:

        "To say my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, 'Your end of the boat is sinking'."--Hugh Downs

        We all want the same things (well, at least most of us), and would do well to remember that, especially in times like this when the toxic rhetoric is being encouraged and at such a high point and the economic times are so low.  And now we're heading into full on campaign season, and that toxicity is only going to get worse.

        "They love the founding fathers so much they will destroy everything they created and remake it in Rush Limbaughs image." MinistryofTruth, 9/29/11

        by AnnieR on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 07:45:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I had never heard of it (0+ / 0-)

    until I moved South with my wife and she explained that many Republicans in the South were socially liberal and financially conservative... until the religious zealots took over the party and now there's nowhere for them to "fit in."

    Hopefully one day the GOP will stop acting like the moral police and get back to basics so we can start having real conversations with each other again.

    This is it. I've found it. I'm in hell. - Ouiser Boudreaux

    by jnww on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 07:50:37 AM PST

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