What is conservatism?

Ronald Reagan Conservatism

I have to admit I am terrible at actually getting my thoughts written out.  I spend a great deal of time reading, watching, and listening to the talking heads drone on about this, that, and the other thing.  I then take forever getting around to typing my thoughts out.  I would like to stay away from becoming one of those bland talking heads, but we most often find our paths on the one we take to avoid it. (I think I heard that in the philosophical film Kung fu Panda)   So here I am, and I am very grateful to The New Americana for giving me an opportunity, and to the people who read and share my opinion.  Without you, I am just some weirdo sitting at his computer all day.

I am regularly told on social media that by not supporting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton I am no longer a conservative.  Does anybody even know what it means to be conservative?  The word gets thrown around so often these days, along with invocations of Ronald Reagan.  Yet the meaning seems to be lost.  If you asked an average voter what it means to be conservative today, I am sure the answer would involve voting Republican.  However, Conservatism is standalone.  It is not tied to party, or even people.  Granted, the Republican Party for a long time has stood for conservative principles, but the times, they are a-changin’.  If you talk to a grassroots conservative activist those times have a-changed long ago.  The Republican Party has not stood on conservative principles for some time.  However, to the majority of voters, conservative values go hand-in-hand with the once Grand Ol’ Party.  This has the consequence that when one fails the other does too.

It seems we have heard this song before

Each election cycle, voters head to the polls, and in the past several elections we have seen the “most conservative” candidate victorious.  They head to Washington D.C. promising to change things, and promising to fight.  That rarely is the case.  They come back to the electorate with a million and one excuses as to why they did not fulfill this promise, or why they just could not fulfill that one.  Excuse after excuse come pouring in while everything stays the same.  Yet, we as voters seem content.  We look to the Representatives and Senators of other states and say “they are the problem, not my guy.” (OR gal -I do not want to be insensitive)  That is why a Congress with an abysmal approval rating has a FANtastic re-election rate.  Yet we the voters have nothing to show for it.  Heck, even in this election cycle, where there is supposedly this massive voter anger at Washington, incumbents are being re-elected left and right.  This is the anger the media tells us spawned the Donald Trump candidacy.  It seems a rather selective anger.

Given all that I just addressed, it is no surprise the meaning of “conservative” has been lost.  Despite misuse, what it means to be a conservative and stand for conservative principles does not change.  The beauty of these values is that they are tied to Americana.  My view of conservatism growing up was in my parents.  Not through their politics, but through their actions.  They worked hard to provide a life for me and my sister.   They helped our neighbors, and were charitable.  They realized that our freedoms come from our Creator, and not from our government.  They knew that America was the only place on the earth that provided the exceptional liberty and opportunity we see diminishing today.  They did not need government to lay out their principles for them.  Earlier this year, the Junior Senator from Nebraska, Republican Ben Sasse, gave Chuck Todd his take on what it means to be a conservative:

“America is the most exceptional nation in the history of the world because the U.S. Constitution is the best political document that’s ever been written.  Because it says something different than almost any people in any government has believed in human history.  Most governments in the past said ‘might makes right’ and the King has all the power and the people are dependent subjects, and the American founders said ‘no.’  God gives us rights by nature and government is just a shared project to secure those rights.  Government is not the author or source of our rights.”

Conservatism is tied intrinsically to the founding of America and its founding documents.  That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life (even for the unborn), liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Ronald Reagan proclaimed:

“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

I prefer the modern twist, “less government, more fun.”  Minimizing government maximizes liberty.  That is conservatism at its core.

Time for a reboot

Let me drop some shocking truth on you.  Are you sitting down?  Good.  I do not know everything.  Now that the surprise has worn off…I am a young man.  I was not alive during Reagan’s presidency, and conservatism does not resonate with my generation.  We saw that very clearly with the Bernie Sanders candidacy.  If we as conservatives want these principles to survive, we must go back to the basics.  The message of limited government is a powerful message.  Right now, that message is being lost in translation.

Russ Wayne

Russ Wayne is an actor and comedian. Like a true entertainer, he throws his political two-cents in where nobody asked for them. Russ is a Christ follower, and a conservative. He has been involved in politics for the past 5 years (he’s a young man, so plenty of time yet). He currently serves as one half of the political podcast, The Russ & Brent Show. An avid coffee drinker, it is best not to engage him until after he has his first cup…or ten. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

  1. The root of the word “conservatism” is “conserve.” A Conservative seeks to conserve what is good and beneficial from the past and set aside what has proven not to work. Unlike progressives,conservatives do not act as though the world began with us, or pretend that we can re-create the world or human beings in whatever way we like. Conservatives have learned from history that liberty and justice are best protected when no one person or group of persons possess the reins of governing power. h/t Mark Levin

  2. What distinguishes the Republican (big R) is his commitment to republican (small r) principles as they were developed and refined by the American founding fathers. What is “conservative” about a Republican is that he wants to maintain or conserve these principles because they have been proven to be the mainsprings of all genuine human progress. Those who call themselves “progressives” actually want to reverse human progress back toward the prevailing policies of the human past which embody human enslavement to government. They are “liberal” only in the sense that they wish to liberate government from its enslavement to freedom as embodied in the constitution. They are actually regressive and illiberal in all their ways. It is the conservative who is committed to progress and liberty.

  3. As another young conservative, your opinions really hit home for me. I had to explain to my parents that Donald Trump is not a conservative and that his values do not fit mine. The GOP has gone down a path where it has lost these principles and values. When it comes to people are age, I do agree that they want to support people like Bernie because they do not know what it means to have taxes or having the government bother you for every little thing. They listen on college campuses that the government is the only answer. Until we have our values shine again in the GOP, they will continue to miss that message.

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