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September 16, 2010
Why Conservatives Run for Office
Politicians are a bad lot, generally. But there is a crucial difference between conservative and liberal politicians.
That difference lies in the reason they seek office.
Liberals go into politics for power and money. They have a basic urge to control other people.
Liberals (also called progressive, a euphemism used by liberals, and socialists, a more accurate term favored by conservatives) believe it is the government's role to "protect" people from business and to redistribute wealth from those who have earned it to those who have not.
If this encroaches upon individual freedom and invades the sanctity of private property and the law of contract, so be it.
Conservatives, however, run for office to stop this from happening.
This often requires them to vote against liberal proposals that chip away at the Constitution.
Because most conservatives are Republicans, this gives liberals the opportunity to label the Republican Party "the party of no." The label should be worn with honor.
The problem is that when conservatives get elected to office, they face two kinds of pressure.
One affects all politicians. Think of hall monitors in elementary school.
When a child is given a smattering of authority over other children he often turns into a proto-fascist, abusing his authority by bossing and bullying.
Conservatives are not immune to this but generally are better able to resist.
The other pressure is from constituents, including other politicians. It increases with the distance from the constituents and the apogee is the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.
Voters at home see state and federal legislators throwing money away and they want their "share."
It is difficult for folks in Omaha, for example, to realize that when they get money from voters in other states via redistribution, some of their money goes out in return.
When the money is for legitimate constitutional purposes, there is no problem. But legislators always succumb to the lure of using what seems to be free and unlimited money.
Pork barrel projects are not that difficult to identify, after all. Florida Tax Watch, a watchdog organization in the Sunshine State, identifies hundreds of such projects annually. (They are called "turkeys" in Florida.) The basic definition of a turkey is that the expenditure is a local responsibility, not the state's, and it has not gone through the standard process of being requested and prioritized by the bureaucrats.
The anomaly is that conservative voters at home elect conservatives to limit government and spending and then demand that they bring home the bacon. They adopt the attitude that the money is going to be wasted somewhere, so it might as well be on them.
The best conservative politicians don't turn into hall monitors and they are not shy about saying "no." They run for office, stick to their guns if elected, and return home with honor intact if ungrateful voters turn them out after one term.
In November, many voters will have a choice to elect one of these, or someone who wants to continue taxing and spending, encroaching upon individual freedom while leading America away from what made it great.
Lloyd Brown is a retired editorial page editor and blogger.