If you have a television in your home you can’t help but have noticed that a great deal of attention is being given the Republican candidates as they seek their party’s nomination for the upcoming presidential election. One would think that with all the coverage being given the Republicans, and Donald Trump in particular, that the Democrats were sitting this election out and letting the Republicans win it without a fight.
One would think that with all the attention being given the Republicans the news media is hoping for a conservative victory in November. My question is how do people define conservatism? According to Wikipedia conservatism is defined as: a political and social philosophy promotes retaining traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others, called reactionaries, oppose modernism and seek a return to “the way things were”.
The thing is, conservative is a relative term. I remember once in science class one of my teachers was trying to explain how time can be a relative thing as well. He explained it thusly; say you were at a railroad crossing and a train was passing by. The car immediately in front of you is the present; the cars that had already passed by you were the past; and the cars yet to pass by you were the future. All existed at the same moment in time, but calling one the present and the other ones past and present was merely relative to where you were at the moment. The same can be said about calling oneself conservative, or liberal for that matter; it really is relevant to where you are in history. Allow me to explain.
If conservatism is an adherence to traditional values and liberalism is defined as seeking change from those values; then wouldn’t the definition for both conservatism and liberalism be relevant to what were considered traditional values at that specific moment in time? What does one use as a guide in determining what is considered traditional values when distinguishing between a conservative and a liberal? Are traditional values those which were held by people who lived ten years ago, fifty years ago, or a century ago? What we consider conservative values today may very well have been considered a liberal way of thinking two centuries ago.
For instance, when our country was in its infancy and fought for its independence the belief that a country be allowed to govern itself without a monarch ruling over it was considered a liberal way of thinking. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America, “In that land the great experiment of the attempt to construct society on a new basis was to be made by civilized man; and it was for the first time, that theories hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable, were to exhibit a spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by the history of the past.”
At that particular moment in time our Founders beliefs were considered very liberal, very forward thinking. Yet today they are what some consider as conservative thinking; while others believe them to be old fashioned and incompatible in modern society.
When John Locke wrote his Second Treatise on Civil Governments his thoughts were considered liberal and those who were educated based upon the writings of men like Locke, Newton, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Bacon were said to have been given a liberal education. Yet it was upon the ideologies of those who lived during the Age of Enlightenment that our Founders erected our Republic. So, if the things men like Locke wrote were considered liberal in the 18th century, yet are considered conservative today, what does that tell you about the fluid nature of what is considered liberal or conservative thought?
Today, when people speak of conservatives and liberals they automatically assume that being Republican means you are conservative, and being a Democrat means you are liberal. This is not always the case because your definition of conservative or liberal may not be based upon what someone like me considers traditional or established values.
Why all the discussion on conservatism and liberalism? Well if you share the common belief that Republicans are conservatives and that Democrats are liberals, then limit yourself as to what beliefs you consider to be either liberal or conservative based upon what each political party states as its platform, or agenda.
On the other hand, people such as myself who claim no allegiance, or support for a political party, are not bound by whatever the party declares to be conservative or liberal ideology. Far too many people, especially Republicans, consider themselves conservatives when compared to the ideology of Democrats. This is where the whole lesser of two evils ideology comes from; that it is better to vote for a Republican because they are less liberal than a Democrat.
As we go through time the status quo, or what is accepted as traditional values continues to creep further and further away from the values held by the men who sacrificed so much to establish a Republic based upon individual liberty. As the new values are accepted as the status quo the adherence to them becomes what is considered conservative belief; although in reality what is considered conservative beliefs today was considered as liberal beliefs in the past.
What America needs is not more Republicans, or conservatives as you like to call yourselves; what America needs is to go back to the beliefs this country was founded upon. Also, when I say founded upon I am not talking about what the Constitution says either; as what that says is vastly different than the beliefs held by many who fought so hard to gain their independence from Great Britain.
People need to understand that when our nation gained its independence the States were recognized as independent nations in a confederation with each State retaining its sovereignty and dominion over the people residing within their borders. This was upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of Bank of Augusta vs. Earle in 1839, “The States between each other are sovereign and independent. They are distinct and separate sovereignties except so far as they have parted with some of the attributes of sovereignty by the Constitution. THEY CONTINUE TO BE NATIONS, with all their rights, and under all their national obligations and with all the rights of nations in particular except in the surrender by each to the common purposes and objects of the Union under the Constitution. The rights of each state, when not so yielded up remain absolute.”
When our Constitution was being written one of the major concerns was that it would deprive the States of their sovereignty; placing the Federal Government above the States in terms of power and authority. James Madison wanted the federal government to have an absolute veto over all laws passed by the States; such was his desire for a strong centralized government. When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were sent there by their respective states they were told that they were only to amend the Articles of Confederation to provide the existing government the powers to better run the young Republic.
The fact that the people were to either approve of or reject this new constitution left open the question of whether this new government was to be a national or a federal government. Today those terms are considered to be synonymous with each other, when back then they were vastly different concepts.
When our Founders fought for their independence from England they fought to severe the ties which bound them to a strong national government; a government where the governing body was supreme over all the constituent parts. When they wrote the Articles of Confederation they established a federal system where there was a central government, but the States retained all their sovereignty.
The issue at hand when the convention gathered together in Philadelphia was to amend the Articles of Confederation in such a way as to empower the existing government so that it could perform the powers granted it; not to create a completely new and stronger centralized government.
The great fear among many of those who opposed this new form of government was that it would strip the states of all their sovereignty and instead of being a union of distinct sovereignties they would become subjects under the will of a centralized form of government.
Among those most vocal against the ratification of the Constitution was one Patrick Henry, the same Patrick Henry who in 1775 declared, “Give me liberty or give me death.” It was Mr. Henry’s belief that by allowing the people to choose whether or not to accept the proposed Constitution the system was in fact a national government and not a federal one. On a speech delivered to the Virginia Assembly on June 5, 1788 Mr. Henry stated, “I rose yesterday to ask a question which arose in my own mind. When I asked that question, I thought the meaning of my interrogation was obvious: The fate of this question and of America may depend on this: Have they said, we, the States? Have they made a proposal of a compact between states? If they had, this would be a confederation: it is otherwise most clearly a consolidated government. The question turns, Sir, on that poor little thing-the expression, We, the people, instead of the States, of America. I need not take much pains to show that the principles of this system are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like England-a compact between prince and people, with checks upon the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a Confederacy, like Holland-an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely.”
Henry went on to say, “Here is a revolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished: And cannot we plainly see that this is actually the case?”
This right here is why I say being conservative is a relative thing; because for Patrick Henry being conservative meant allowing the States to retain their independence and sovereignty, while accepting the Constitution, and making the States susceptible to oppression by a strong central government was a liberal concept. You see, there is something else Patrick Henry said that day in his speech to the Virginia Assembly, “Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings-give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else: But I am fearful I have lived long enough to become an fellow: Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man, may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old fashioned: If so, I am contented to be so: I say, the time has been when every pore of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American.”
If, in his sarcasm, Patrick Henry could say that about how he felt about defending the very thing they had fought for just a decade prior, how do you think he would respond to what we tolerate today from our government? How do you think he would respond to the claims of so-called conservatives who say they stand up for traditional values when they support laws that blatantly violate their rights and overstep the limits of the Constitution which he himself opposed?
I can’t speak for Patrick Henry, but I can tell you what John Adams would say; he would be disgusted with what we have allowed our government to do with the freedom they fought to give their posterity. He stated as much in a letter to his wife Abigail, “Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
You can continue to vote for whomever you choose, but don’t you dare call yourselves conservatives when you don’t know the first thing about true conservative values. You want to know what it means to be a conservative you should read how our Founders felt about liberty; what few powers granted government by this Constitution you speak of so reverently, yet so blindly ignore; you should read the Bill of Rights and see how many laws you tolerate which trample all over that document written to protect those most sacred of rights. Then you can tell me what it means to be a conservative.
But as far as I’m concerned; as long as you continue to participate in the charade that is the election process, and cast your votes for Republican candidates, you have no right to consider yourself a true conservative; you’re just as bad as the Democrats as far as I’m concerned!