I've recently read two articles (here and here) that have as their theme the fact that liberals, while currently riding the anti-War, anti-George Bush juggernaut, are defined by negativity and, in fact, offer no new ideas to replace the doctrines and people they seek to defeat. In that regard, modern liberalism (or, as liberals have restyled the movement, Progressivism) is a political movement akin to the person who rips down an ugly house, but has no idea how to rebuild a new one, leaving the former residents homeless. Nevertheless, for all their anti-this and anti-that attitude, Progressives at least have the virtue of offering an ostensibly powerful and well-funded united front to swing voters who are often confused or disinterested.
Conservatives seem to face the opposite problem. They're awash in ideas, but can't seem to cobble together a platform of ideas that appeal to the largest numbers of people. Instead, they're like high school cliques, with the Pro-Life crowd holding itself aloof from the Hawks, who, in turn, want nothing to do with the Fair Tax group. Cliques are great, of course, if you actually belong to one, but to the American voters, looking at these disparate groups that can't seem to find a common bond, they don't look like a great bet to win either the White House or Congressional in 2008.
Since I would like to see a Conservative win in 2008, it occurred to me that it would be a useful exercise to examine myriad hot button issues to find core beliefs that will appeal to the greatest number of conservatives. That is, I wanted to find lowest common denominator beliefs that, I think, still define the way most Americans think. You can layer on the details later, but I do believe that there are certain conservative ideas underlying most issues that will resonate with the greatest number of voters.
Obviously, since I'm just one person, I couldn't undertake this task alone. I started a post with my idea about Conservative and Progressive beliefs regarding core issues. I then asked my readers to contribute, which they did, intelligently and vigorously. I've now worked their ideas and mine into this article, and hope to take it to the next step, with contributions from the larger pool of readers available here - or, at least, with a larger group of people thinking about positive, unifying ideas to counter the relentless nihilism that characterizes today's Progressives.
So, without further explanation or ado, and in no particular order, here's the list:
Core Conservative Belief: Conservatives believe in immigration as an important part of American vibrancy. They also believe that America is weakening itself by allowing illegal immigrants to stream into the country unchecked, both because this influx saps America's sovereignty over her citizens and because the illegal immigrant pathways can also serve terrorists.
Progressive Belief: It's racist to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. For that reason, there should not be any hurdles in the illegal immigrant's path to the full panoply of American rights and welfare services.
The Supreme Court
Core Conservative Belief: Conservatives believe that the role of the Supreme Court is to examine state and federal laws, and lower court decisions to determine whether they comport with the written Constitution. An even lowest common denominator belief is that the Supreme Court should examine only whether federal matters comport with the written Constitution, and to interfere with states only if the states enact laws that conflict or overlap with federal matters.
Progressive Belief: The Supreme Court is to decide what is right and what is wrong - and it can get help for this by looking to each justice's own private standards of morality, to dominant cultural trends, and to foreign systems. Having examined the moral position, the Court should then direct policy consistent with its findings.
Core Conservative Belief: Whether you're pro-Choice or pro-Life, Conservatives who are being honest with themselves admit that Roe v. Wade was a badly decided opinion that, without any Constitutional authorization, represented a federal power grab of something that ought to be a states' rights issue. Roe v. Wade should be overturned, so that the question of abortion can be returned to the states, where it belongs. An alternative, of course, is to amend the Constitution so that it specifically allows or disallows abortion.
Progressive Belief: Abortion is an absolute, fundamental right that must remain inviolate. The main reason Progressives must win the White House is to put a stop to the Originalist Supreme Court justices that Conservatives have placed, and will continue to place, on the Supreme Court. Only a Democratic President will appoint justices who will maintain Roe v. Wade's existence.
The Iraq War
Core Conservative Belief: Conservatives believe that, whether or not we made the right decision in 2003 to invade Iraq, it is a done deal. Our only responsibility now is to fight wholeheartedly and to win.
Progressive Belief: President Bush got us into the War to for nefarious reasons, mostly to satisfy his oil buddies in Texas and Cheney's friends at Halliburton. Now, to punish the President and the whole corrupt Bush Administration, we must leave Iraq immediately, regardless of the consequences to America, to Iraq, or to world security.
Core Conservative Belief: (a) Islamic terrorism is real, (b) it is the product of a totalitarian religious ideology that has as its ultimate goal the destruction of non-Muslim Western culture, (c) there is no middle ground given its goal, and (d) we must fight it.
Progressive Belief: Islamic terrorism is the work of a few people angry at the US (and especially at George Bush), and the best thing we can do to placate these people is to (a) leave Iraq; (b) abandon Israel; (c) dump George Bush; and (d) engage in dialogue with the Islamic leaders.
Core Conservative Belief: Government is a bad money manager. People make money grow, and lower taxes allow for a livelier, growing economy. The inevitable result of trusting people with their own money is that the government, despite lower taxes, sees increased revenue (which is nicely balanced out by lower costs).
Progressive Belief: People cannot be trusted to make the right decisions with their money. It's better if the government takes and redistributes wealth, notwithstanding the fact that doing so slows the economy.
Lowest common denominator Conservative beliefs: (a) Religion is a good thing; (b) It's okay if people's religious values shape their political beliefs; (c) It's okay to acknowledge America's predominant Christianity by nodding to Christmas and Easter, as long as no one is forced to observe those holidays or discriminated against for not observing those holidays; (d) People should be free to worship without government interference in their beliefs; (e) Neither government nor business should be forced to change their practices to accommodate one belief system over others (see here and here for examples of some of the changes demanded).
Progressive Belief: Traditional Christianity is dangerous and must be stifled at all costs, everywhere. Islam has some problems but, to make up for the damage the Bush Administration has done to our standing in the Muslim world, we must accommodate Islamic demands in America.
Core Conservative Belief: While America has flaws, we are proud of her, since we believe that the American system and American values are the best human systems of governance yet created.
Progressive Belief: America is an imperialist bully that seeks to destroy non-white people, whether within or outside of America. Her power must be reined in at all costs.
Core Conservative Belief: Conservatives believe in Thoreau's dictum that "That government is best which governs least." Much as they are proud of America, Conservatives trust American people more than any government. To them, government is an artifice that can only legitimately govern with the consent of the governed. Conservatives also believe that individuals are smarter with respect to their own interest than the collective wisdom of government.
Progressive Belief: Progressives believe that government is responsible for fulfilling all citizen needs in all ways. They also believe that the government's collective wisdom about individual interests is greater than individuals' own knowledge about themselves.
Core Conservative Belief: Conservatives believe that the only way a people can remain free is to have their Second Amendment right to carry arms. They like to point to Nazi Germany as an example of what can happen when a government with totalitarian tendencies successfully denies its people the right to carry arms. Conservatives also believe that, when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. They like to point to London and Washington, D.C., as examples of what happens when ordinary citizens are denied access to arms.
Progressive Belief: The risks associated with guns are so high that it is government's moral obligation to try to remove them from the population entirely, even if that effort is imperfect (see, e.g., London and Washington, D.C.)
The Nature of Human Beings
Core Conservative Belief: Conservatives believe that human nature is a combination of good and bad and that society's role is to control people's bad impulses through checks and balances that permit people's good sides to flourish.
Progressive Belief: Progressives believe that humans and society are products of their environment and, therefore, perfectible. The role of society is to mold people into better individuals and, ergo, better societies.
Core Conservative Belief: Conservatives' idea of multiculturalism is still the old Melting Pot idea: people who want to come here should buy into our basic systems of values and history, learn to speak English, and enrich our culture with their background while merging with the whole.
Progressive Belief: Progressives believe that every other culture is superior to American culture, so immigrants and ethnic enclaves should be encouraged to remain separate and distinct. Not only that, they believe that it is the responsibility of ordinary Americans to yield in every instance when there is a conflict between the dominant American culture and an ethnic subculture.
Core Conservative Belief: Conservatives believe that climate change is happening, but they do not believe that the debate is settled as to the anthropocentric idea that it is entirely the West's fault. They recognize that the earth's climate is in a constant state of flux, and want more, less politically charged, information before panic begins. They like the idea of alternative energy sources, since they not only enjoy clean air and water, but would also like to see fewer Petrodollars flow to tyrannically governed nations. Again, though, they do not believe in going off half cocked.
Progressive Belief: Progressives believe that humans are entirely responsible for climate change, that it is an impending catastrophe that could potentially end our way of life, and that the only thing to be done is to take drastic measures, even if they undermine entirely modern civilization.
Bookworm is a crypto-conservative living in hostile teritory, and proprietor of the website Bookworm Room.