Republicans are now divided into factions of conservatives. And unlike their Democrat counterparts, these factions tend to work against each other rather than with strength in unity. The democratic party is composed of a larger, more diverse collection of interest groups–women’s rights groups, pro-choice groups, LGBTQ groups, climate change groups, socialist groups, gun control groups, the list goes on and on. These groups don’t have automatic similar interests, but the sum of them invokes a powerful collective that wields political prominence in every election under the umbrella of the democratic party. A pro-choice lesbian may enjoy hunting. But her stance on gun control will likely not cause her to harbor great disdain for a fellow democrat that considers gun control his or her own primary issue of importance.
That’s where republicans, at least in this election, differ.
The initial question I ask myself is, “What is conservatism?” If there seems so much (often times petty) disagreement over who truly qualifies as “conservative”…then what is a conservative? In the New Hampshire ABC debate on Saturday, February 6, the candidates were asked to define “conservative” for the audience. It was telling, we’ll get to that in a moment. But first like any good report, how about a definition from Merriam-Webster?
marked by moderation or caution
Conservatism is a mentality, an attitude, towards government. The idea of conservatism in this country is that the collection of the People begets the greatness of the country. The root of conservatism is the idea that we can achieve utmost greatness by restricting the reach of the government in an effort to allow the individual an opportunity to succeed. With that opportunity to succeed equally comes the opportunity to fail. And that is where the government of today, the mentality behind Feel the Bern, permeates our existence and threatens freedom’s ability to thrive.
From Ronald Reagan’s first Inaugural Address:
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.
From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
The 2016 GOP presidential race has exposed a deep and dangerous severance within the previously unified right wing. The consistency that historically existed within the party is no longer its strength; rather, it has become its weakness.
Referring back to the true meaning of conservatism, “marked by moderation or caution,” its enemy is the intercession on the part of government to remove the equally necessary opportunity of failure from the opportunity to succeed. The Greatest Generation lived through two horrific World Wars that sandwiched an economic depression wreaking struggle on even the securest of them. That great generation set out to raise children who should never see the depravity of such war, destruction, death, and economic misery. They prioritized education, work ethic, and self-reliance for their children to ensure that this the new generation would never see struggle like they knew.
Somehow, as generations have aged, the message has changed.
The grandchildren of the Greatest Generation have been the beneficiaries of a similar message, but without the most important admonition. They have been raised to know no struggle. They have been educated to consider any sign of struggle as a signal of injustice and discrimination. The solution to their problem is the government. It is an intercession from a governing body to level the playing field, eliminate barriers, and diminish success in effort to elevate inferiority. All this in the name of equality. As if the greatest expectation we can have as an American is to be the same as everyone else, guaranteed by the government.
Is this truly the America that we desire? Have we sacrificed equal opportunity for equal outcome?
I fear the audacity of President Obama has caused the pendulum to swing too far right for some in the GOP. The anger and disgust that many conservatives, rightfully in my opinion, have towards the bastardization of the Constitution over the past seven and a half years has blinded some to the real problem we face as a nation going forward.
The consolidation and concentration of power, solution, and ideology into the office of the presidency has eliminated the representative voice of the People. The limitation on our governmental power structure has been crippled.
The remedy will not lie in elevating a seeming like-minded individual to execute the power of the office in the same manner as this president. The solution is to elect an individual that upholds Constitutional government moderation and caution. Not a sequential bombastic Yes-We-Can promiser of winning. The current occupant of the White House knowingly kept his finger squarely on the pulse of the anger of the electorate. He knew exactly what to say to motivate the angry to see him as the bastion of hope and change. And he got eight years out of it.
We cannot be so angry ourselves that we errantly make the same mistake. The anger is not unprovoked. But it must be channeled, managed into a wiser decision for our country’s future.
The solution to our over-reaching and expansive government cannot be more concentrated government of a perceived palatable flavor. We need to seek out the candidate that most clearly and definitively offers us a cautious, moderated view of government. And one who offers the greatest chance to defeat those who campaign on the elimination of struggles and failure which will surely guarantee the diminishment of American greatness and success.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford