Thursday, May 28, 2009

History of Conservatism: How every party has abandoned the conservative

The first thing one must do in an undertaking of this nature is define his terms. What exactly is a conservative? The Free Online Dictionary defines conservative as “favoring traditional views and values:; tending to oppose change.” This is a fair enough definition, but what exactly does it mean to have a traditional view of government since we are talking about conservatives in government? There are two main philosophies of government. One is Natural Law, which is the idea that the people get their rights from their Creator or nature and the government is there to protect those rights and follow the Natural Law. The second view is Positivism, which states that the government gives you your rights. I do not think it necessary to prove the Natural Law view is the one that is the traditional view. The Magna Charta was a Natural Law document so what the American Colonists were fighting for in the American Revolution was their Natural Rights. This is exactly what the opening of the Declaration of Independence teaches us. We have inalienable rights from our creator. Thus, the American Revolution was about the protection of Natural Rights. So the traditional view in American government and politics is Natural Law. The tending to oppose change part of conservatism is easy enough in America. A conservative is one then who wishes to stick to the constitution and not change it or the ways we govern. Thus, the people that are so often called ‘strict constructionists’ and ‘originalists’ in their view of the constitution then are conservatives. However, one might notice from the definition of conservative that they can be slow to act. They tend to oppose change and thus are better at opposing plans and action than actually coming up with a positive plan on how to proceed. This will be easily seen as we trace the history of conservatism in America and how often it is used and then betrayed by the political parties.

It should be noted up front as well that the Conservatives are the majority. I think the historical survey will bear that out in full. But seeing as this will be a highly debated point, I will return to it in a later chapter.

This history of the Conservative movement in America then is one riddled with failure, but they bring only success to the party they support. This may seem like a contradiction, but I assure it is not. Conservatives themselves fail more often than not to stop the growth of government, and the invention of new ways to govern outside of the Constitution. They have failed to keep Natural Law as the basis for our society, and they have failed to control the organs of government for all, but extremely short periods of time. Yet, the support and the votes of the conservatives have brought success to the party that currently woos the conservative vote. Again the historical survey will bring this more the forefront, but it needs to be said now. It needs to be said now because we need to understand that the Conservative movement is not attached to a particular party. Conservative and Republican are not synonyms. In fact the Republican Party was founded to be against the Conservatives in America. The Conservatives spent a long time in the Democratic Party, but again, the Democratic Party was founded ton the back of a man who was only slightly conservative, and thus it was not a party for the Conservatives.

Why then do the Conservatives win their party elections, but not ever control the parties themselves? This fundamental question is answered again in the definition of conservative. Conservatives do not want power, they want stability. Political parties are founded to get and keep power, and dare I say it, even grow their own power. Conservatives do not wish to see a growth in power and are not willing to do whatever it takes to get the power. Thus, they cannot control a political party. They will not be able take the reigns of power and keep them because their message is usually “no”. It is hard to win people over to “no”. But it is easy to win people over to “I will give you money if you are poor” or “I will give you money not to grow corn.” That is a much easier sell. Add in the fact that Conservatives argue for and believe in Natural Law, and their goose is cooked. Believing in natural law means their ethical standards are fixed. They cannot change. The non-conservatives whether we call them liberals or progressives or whatever are not bound by traditional morals. Sure, some believe in them and follow them, but the party or group that holds to Postivism is by definition not bound by morals. They are able to change morality in order to serve their needs. A good example of this is all of the lying that is now so common in politics. How often does someone come out and say “I did not have sex with that woman” and it turns out they did. Or say “I was not briefed on that issue”, and they were. Lying is a means to an end, not a violation of a moral code. That is why so many people in power have no problem with cheating on taxes because they do not believe in moral codes, they believe in changing codes. Which also means they believe that ethical standards do not apply to them. Only governmental standards apply to them, and sometimes those do not apply either because those standards can be changed.

The goal of this endeavor is to show that Conservatism is a major force in America, indeed a necessary force. But also to show the flaws in the Conservative movement and it current way of operating. Historical awareness is important in anything, and judging from how loosely the word "conservative" is thrown around these days, a good dose of historical awareness is necessary. This I hope to accomplish in upcoming posts.