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April 01, 2005

On Being a Conservative

#1 – I believe government is owned by the electorate.

#2 – I believe the government has no business interfering in private matters.

#3 – I believe the government is there to protect us from each other in predatory matters.

#4 – I believe in the Constitution, including and most specifically the Bill of Rights, as a means of guaranteeing both the rule of the majority and the rights of all minorities.

#5 – I believe the government should act in stewardship for our common environment and is bound to protect it on behalf of the people both current and future, without respect to borders.

#6 – When it comes to protecting the common good, the government must play a limited role. It can advise us on health issues and other concerns that are beneath the big business profit bar, but it has no right to protect us from ourselves.

#7 – I believe the government has no business ramming any religious philosophy down anybody’s throat, and is Constitution-bound to respect every person’s individual religion philosophies and their lack of same.
#8 – The rights of the individuals are superior to the rights of big business.

#9 – The United States of America, by definition, has no right to empire building.

#10 – I believe that we cannot be free as a people unless each of us is free as individuals.

Posted by Mike Gold at April 1, 2005 09:53 AM

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Equating strong religious beliefs with conservatives (i.e., Republicans) is exactly why the Democratic Party is floundering right now. I believe it is this view in particular, voiced by a sizeable portion of Democrats, which has alienated many moderate and conservative Democrats, prompting many to vote as independents, or switch parties altogether.

For example, in the past week, many pious Democrats have made it clear they were squarely on the side of Terri Schaivo's parents. Yet a disturbing number of Democrats continue to pretend that the only people who wanted the feeding tube to stay in were conservative Republican religious fanatics. The main conservative demon most often cited is Tom DeLay (or even one or more of the Bush family), yet Jesse Jackson and many other religious Democrats were just as vocal as many Republicans about not letting Schaivo die.

It is this myopia that has splintered the Democratic Party and put it on life support, and if things don’t change soon, the radical Democrats will find they have not just pulled the plug on people like Terri Schaivo, they have pulled the plug on the party itself.

Posted by: R. Maheras at April 1, 2005 11:33 AM

But what happens if your desire to protect the environment, "without respect to borders" conflicts with the desire not to impose our will on other countries? (no right to empire building)

#6 is interesting but think of all the laws we'd have to eliminate--the tobacco lobby would rejoice but I can't imagine reversing almost 50 years of nannystate propaganda. (and no, I don't smoke. Seems an idiotic thing to do. But anyone so stupid as to not know that smoking is bad for you really ought to be encouraged to engage in as many dangerous activities as possible, before they get a chance to breed).

Posted by: Bill Mulligan at April 1, 2005 01:03 PM

Russ's comments are, I think, built under two false assumptions: 1) the Democratic Party is in the hands of people who completely equate the Religious Right with the Republicans, and 2) that the Democratic Party is some sort of monolithic force.

With respect to the first point, the election results clearly show there are Democrats who fit into the category of the Religion Right. With respect to the second, the Democratic party is not now, nor never was, a monolithic force. Hell, even Will Rogers made jokes about that. Today, it's more of a gaggle of dying old hound dogs barely interested in raising their heads out of their own puke to voice a soft "woof."

But, in their defense, the radical Democrats did not pull the plug on Terri Schaivo. The majority of people in this country clearly indicated support in the decision of getting the government out of a family squabble, and the majority of the 20 judges who made the decision, time and time again, to stay out of the squabble were either appointed by Republicans or ran for prior office as Republicans.

By labeling all those who were in favor of pulling the plug (tube, actually), you're making a hell of a mistake. If you were right, we'd be in the eighth term of the Ted Kennedy administration and the presidential limousine would, out of necessity, be an old Volkswagen beetle. (Thank you, Michael O'Donoghue)

With respect to Bill's comments, I think we should clean up our own environment before we even think about asking other nations to do the same -- we can begin by stopping our dumping of toxic wastes overseas. And I have no love for the tobacco lobby and they certainly fit my definition of big business (indeed, they qualify as its poster boy), but I believe the First Amendment gives them the right to advertise where and how they choose.

Swallow that, you radical Democrats!

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 1, 2005 04:32 PM

"#9 – The United States of America, by definition, has no right to empire building."

Unfortunately, we weren't given the choice. With the collapse of other global empires, we're it. We're the last super-power, and that makes us the empire that rules the world.

I like that no better than you do, but it's a fact.

The only choice we have is whether to be a hands-on or a hands-off empire. We tried to be hands-off. It hasn't worked out very well.

I know a fella named Parker, says, "With great power, comes great responsibility."


Jonathan Andrew Sheen

Leviathan of the GEI (Detached.)

"What'dya expect? I'm a New Yorker!"
-Anonymous New York Firefighter, 9/12/01

Posted by: Leviathan [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2005 07:19 PM

The only choice we have is whether to be a hands-on or a hands-off empire. We tried to be hands-off. It hasn't worked out very well.

That is news to me. I don't think the U.S. has ever been hands-off in anything in the past century. Even if we were militarily neutral (in the beginning of both World Wars), we were funding the Allies both times. If we were truly hands-off, we'd basically be Finland (I'm not going for Switzerland, because despite their neutrality, they're hands-on in world affairs. Even-handed, but hands-on. Finland, on the other hand, is pretty isolationist, which is what you could probably say about the other Nordic countries as well...)

Posted by: Grev at April 1, 2005 08:03 PM

Well Mike, I guess it turns out that I'm a conservative! That list is a great piece of work. I agree completely. But I've got to admit I find it comical when people pretending to be conservative argue with your views.

As an example, they don't care about the protection of marriage when it comes to removing feeding tubes. Adult choices made within a binding, chosen life-relationship, and they think that parental rights supersede the wedding vow! How comical!

They have no interest in the stewardship of the planet, the current destruction of the Constitution, (only Congress may declare war. Congress doesn't have the right to give up its authority, even if the press doesn't care) or the sabotage that has been done to our voting process... voting, the cornerstone of democracy and they don't even care that it has been corrupted.

Thank you for your fine blog!

Posted by: chuckfiala at April 1, 2005 11:30 PM

I love it. The leadership of the Republican party is presently dancing to the tune of an extremely vocal, highly politicized, highly organized fundamentalist sect determined to turn this country into a Christian theocracy, but daring to call this tune is seen as radical, Democratic liberal myopia and the result of dismissing all strongly held religious beliefs as the monopoly of political conservatives. I for one understand that there were many different motivations, personal, and religious beliefs among those who wanted to keep Terri Schiavo's feeding tube connected. But if you claim you can't recognize the crass opportunism of those who were using this for political gain when it bites you in the ass, I have to question who is actually being blinded by their political affiliations here. What's pulling the plug on the Democratic party is that they don't have the balls to make a unified stand against the thugery of Republican party leadership. Which unfairly demonized party member was it, by the way, who made a not too thinly veiled threat against the judiciary whose rulings he happened to disagree with? Hint: it wasn't Jesse Jackson.

Posted by: Jim Chadwick at April 2, 2005 04:25 AM

re: "With great power, comes great responsibility."

Perhaps a more apt quote comes from Lord Acton (who does not have his own comic book): "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

I think the apparent ease with which we casually shrug off the horrors of Abu Ghraib may be indicative of this.

And aside from being the only remaining superpower, we're also one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and we consume the majority of the world's natural resources with rabid gusto and self-serving sanctimonious justification.

I would argue that we have a moral obligation to do something more constructive with our wealth than generate more oil-based blister packs.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 3, 2005 05:40 PM

"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

That quote never made a whole lot of sense. Did Lincoln become more corrupt as he gained power (I suppose some Southern Rights fans would say yes.). Did Jimmy Carter go bad once he got in office? Hitler was certainly more dangerous once he had power but I don't know that he got corrupted by the power--he was pretty damn bad by that time. The quote suggests that strong leaders should be more corrupt than weak ones but that hardly seems the case (look at the massive corruption in third world countries that have weak revolving governments).

It's a good quote but nobody should treat it like profound insight.

Posted by: Bill Mulligan at April 3, 2005 07:21 PM

Actually, I think it's a better insight than it is a quote.

Neither Lincoln nor Carter had absolute power; Lincoln less so than Carter. Did either become more corrupt? Well, your point about the Confederate States is well taken -- after all, there was no Constitutional provision that prevented the South from leaving. Carter was something less than competent as President, and thus couldn't weird his power successfully. I don't think it corrupted him, but my judgment of his Presidency tends to be mitigated by his post-Presidencial actions. This makes me a nice guy.

Was Hitler corrupted by his power? Hmmmm. The movie I reviewed last week makes a decent argument in favor of that. It certainly corrupted him as a person.

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 3, 2005 07:39 PM

And Lincoln suspended habeus corpus and threw opposition newspaper editors in jail.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 4, 2005 07:51 AM

I like that list a lot. I think it's very old-school Conservative, when the term actually meant what it means in the dictionary: the opposite of a Radical.

I consider myself more Liberal than Conservative, so I find it surprising how many of the items on your list I agree with. Sadly, both political parties seem to be becoming more polarized, leaving middle-of-the-road folks often forced to choose the lesser of two evils.

Posted by: Andy Holman at April 4, 2005 11:21 AM

Mike Gold wrote:

>>>1) the Democratic Party is in the hands of people who completely equate the Religious Right with the Republicans, and 2) that the Democratic Party is some sort of monolithic force. With respect to the first point, the election results clearly show there are Democrats who fit into the category of the Religion Right. With respect to the second, the Democratic party is not now, nor never was, a monolithic force.

The Democratic Party IS being led by a radical minority that DOES seem to equate the Religious Right with the Republicans -- which is what I originally said. And I clearly understand that the Democratic Party, like the Republican Party is made up of a wide cross-section of people with a myriad of views, and neither party is a "monolith" voting bloc on all issues. I also understand that both parties have extremists in power. But, like you, I lived in Chicago -- the heart of Democrat Country -- and I haven’t seen a Democratic leadership so unpopular with moderate Democrats since the latter days of the Carter Administration.

In my opinion, this unpopularity has little to do with any shenanigans by the Republicans, which is what the radical left keeps blaming for its ills. After all, blaming all the Party’s problems on the Republicans is a heckuva lot easier than critical self-examination, and possibly admitting that one’s radical viewpoint is not, in fact, as universal as one had hoped.

No, I believe the current unpopularity of Democratic leadership has more to do with weak leadership candidates, lack of a strong unifying vision, and the public perception that Republican leadership is less radical than the Democrat’s. And I think one of the main reasons the last two presidential elections have been so close is that the Democratic candidates cannot shake the latter perception from moderates in both parties, as well as with the independent voters. Clinton, despite his flaws, was a populist candidate; Gore and Kerry were not.

Someone mentioned on PAD’s blog that there is a significant group of people in the U.S. who will vote for either party, if the party’s candidate is perceived as the lesser of two evils. That person is absolutely right, in my opinion. And unless the Democratic Party can distance itself soon from its radical minority, to a degree where the DP is perceived by bi-party moderates and independents as the lesser of two evils, the Democrats are going to find themselves on the losing end of the White House race in 2008.

Posted by: R. Maheras at April 4, 2005 01:22 PM

It's all about perception, not reality. Neither party has any truly inspired or particularly admirable leaders. But the Republicans have much better spin control. Hitler and Goebbels understood the importance of effective propaganda. So do the masterminds of the Republican party.

If you truly believe the Democratic party is in the hands of a "radical" minority, then IMHO this is simply evidence of the effectiveness of the Republican propaganda machine.

John Kerry and Al Gore are "radicals"? Give me a break. I don't care much for either one of them, but that's because I find them both utterly bland and uninspiring.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 5, 2005 11:12 AM

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