The New Old Conservative


Published: April 2, 2009

We are a couple of months into Obama’s presidency and Republicans are still on the defensive. Everyone seems to be expecting a reinvention of the Republican Party. If you are a conservative, you may have gone into hiding.

Some are still out in the open but are too busy barking to have any real bite. Some think conservatives are expected to keep quiet, since that’s what they expected from liberals after Bush’s first election. Some feel the need to avoid conflict by watering down their positions and, in debate, probably bite their tongues as soon as someone throws Bush’s name into the conversation. Even though it may seem like we have to walk on eggshells for the time being, there is a way to be conservative in the 21st century.

First, celebrate your vision. Liberals often portray Republicans as uneducated, warmongering bigots. As a conservative in the 21st century, the first thing you need to do is be clear about what you really believe, and then celebrate it! Conservative ideology has always promoted both individual liberty and individual responsibility. We believe that the best society rests on individual freedom and accountability. We believe that the state has very little business in our affairs. We believe that the vast potential of every individual, whether Hispanic, black, white, male, female, old, young, rich or poor, is too often hampered by the federal government, which meddles ineffectively and rarely has the individual’s best interests at heart.

Second, resist the urge to moderate your ideals. I find that a lot of young people, if you dig a little deeper into their ideologies, actually hold some pretty conservative opinions; however, pressure from their peers and social circles cause them to identify either as liberal or as moderate, especially on social issues.

Don’t be ashamed of your position on abortion. Too often have I encountered young people who have watered down their position on this issue over time. I am not going to tell you what to believe, but conservatives need not be ashamed of this issue. We have honest and noble motives for believing what we believe. We believe in human dignity, and we want to protect that dignity even in the smallest members of our society. Don’t let someone else tell you that your values are less than honorable.

Another sensitive issue is gay marriage, but as far as I’m concerned, there is no single stance on this issue that conservatives must take. Of course, the religious far right leaves no room for debate on this subject. Many Republicans, however, feel that this is an issue best left to the states and not the federal government. On this issue, John McCain’s stance was indistinguishable from Obama’s in the 2008 Presidential Campaign. If this is the issue keeping you from identifying as a conservative, please think again!

Finally, stay positive. Obama certainly isn’t off to a perfect start in the presidency. While his approval rating is still high, it has sunk to 58 percent since he took office. He’s faced some criticism over his cabinet picks, and he is certainly feeling the pain of the global economic crisis. Nattering from the right, however, will not get this country anywhere.

You may, however, feel that a conservative approach to the financial crisis might better improve the economic situation. You may feel that giving failed banks and companies like AIG big bailout checks with no strings attached is morally problematic and only serves to perpetuate the crisis. You may feel, as I do, that lower taxes would make it easier for companies to hire and for consumers to spend. With lower taxes and less intervention, we would still suffer an economic downturn for a while, but the market would correct itself with a much stronger foundation than it will with unconditional bailouts from the federal government.

Obama is not taking a conservative approach because, let’s face it, he’s not a conservative. Even though I may not have voted for Obama, and even though I don’t want him to succeed in some of his more liberal endeavors (especially the Freedom of Choice Act), I do want him to lead this country in the right direction. If half the country doesn’t think he can, he won’t. The best thing to do is to recognize common goals: we all want to fix this economic mess. Hopefully Obama can help fix it. If he can’t, please don’t say “I told you so.” What good has that ever done?

We really can be conservative in the 21st century, even if the trend is to move leftward. By maintaining a positive outlook and staying true to the principles of individualism, free markets and human dignity, conservatives will have something of value to offer America. So if you’re a conservative, don’t be afraid to come out of hiding.