In a society addicted to sound bites, labels mean everything. In conversation, when people ask the general question “who are you”, people will answer with the label that they feel most aptly describes them, which in most cases is their career field: i.e. “I’m a doctor, lawyer, electrician, salesman, etc…” While we usually resort to stereotyping ourselves in this way for expediency, since most people do not want to hear your philosophical opinions about the universe at a casual meeting, labeling ourselves is inherently dangerous in that it gives others the chance to define who you are based on their own particular biases and predispositions. You may own a plumbing business earning yourself several hundred thousand dollars a year, and you will still run into people who say, “Oh, you clean out toilets.”
The problem with being misidentified by others is particularly acute for the new generation of Conservatives who have taken the Internet, and increasingly the air waves by storm. For example, in his book, “Where the Right Went Wrong”, Pat Buchanan attacks what he refers to as “neoconservatives” for undermining what he considers the true values of Conservatism as exemplified by Ronald Reagan. In Buchanan’s world, neoconservatives are ushering in a new era of big government, rampant spending, and fighting the excessive regulation of society of liberals by sponsoring excessive regulations of their own.
Buchanan is correct to a degree. The new conservatism is not the same conservatism of the 1940’s, or in line with the policies and actions of the Republican Party from the early 20th Century through the late 1970’s. No, we share far more in common with Lincoln, Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt than Warren Harding, Thomas Dewey or even Richard Nixon. However, what Buchanan fails to understand is that the modern conservative movement is not opposed to the beliefs of Ronald Reagan, but their culmination. And, what Buchanan sees as the downfall of “true” Conservativism is nothing more than the end of the acceptance of his own isolationist, racist policies that once held sway in America.
There is a reason FDR was elected President four times and the Democratic Party gained the reputation of supporting the common man. The reason is that the negative stereotypes propagated about Republicans by liberals today were once true. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Republicans had lost touch with regular Americans. Republicans were slaves to Corporate America. The Republicans did nothing to spread the American Dream to the average person. The Republicans did nothing to advance the cause of freedom either at home or abroad. And, the Republicans engaged in the petty racism of the day that said it was alright to distrust Jews, minorities, or anyone that did not speak English. These failed beliefs that led to the Republicans becoming the minority party in America for 40 years are the same beliefs Buchanan is lamenting the loss of today. Modern Conservatives feel that if this old thinking is what is required to earn the label of “Conservative”, then Buchanan can keep it.
New Conservatives draw their roots from a far older and nobler tradition. The tradition of freedom and opportunity for all that formed the Republican Party under Lincoln. The tradition of individualism and self reliance that led our ancestors to immigrate to America. And, the tradition of government deriving its power from the consent of the governed as embodied by our Forefathers in the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution.
New Conservatives do not trust Corporate America any further than we could collectively throw them. Personally, I am always worried while on a business trip that some corporate auditor will show up in my hotel room while I am sleeping and try to harvest my internal organs for sale overseas just so they can hit their quarterly projections. No, we place our faith in the small business and entrepreneurs who struggle under an ever increasing government tax load.
New Conservatives have no time for racism. We are too busy trying to live our dreams than to worry about what color your skin is or what your religious beliefs are. We understand that we are all a nation of immigrants, unfortunately, some of us unwillingly. We cannot dwell on the evils and mistakes of the past, but must focus on not repeating them in the present. Freedom and opportunity are the great levelers of America. If we could stop meddling with the system, whether that is through government regulation or racial prejudices, America will become a far more equitable place in the future. So long as your money is green and American, and you hold the same respect for our beliefs as we hold for yours, everyone is welcome to the table of American opportunity.
New Conservatives believe that all people, not just Americans, have been endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and it is our responsibility to protect, defend, and propagate freedom, liberty, and democracy across the globe. We may not like the French, but we would fight to defend their freedom again, even if they do not support us in Iraq. And, I am sorry Mr. Buchanan, you may not like Israel, but we should defend and support that small nation with all the tools our great society affords us as it is an oasis of liberty in the sea of fascist tyranny.
And, lastly, it does not matter where you were born, or what language you speak so long as you immigrate legally according to the Rule of Law and love America for all that it is and wants to be. If it is the fate that America will one day speak Urdu, Hindi, or Dutch, it will still be America so long as we continue to cherish our ideals. The last time I checked, freedom still meant freedom even if it was said in Spanish.
In the end, radical right wingers, like Buchanan, hate New Conservatives for the same reason as the radical left (and the 18th Century European aristocracy, for that matter). We are the crests of the wave that is bringing freedom, democracy, and true human dignity to the entire world. And, they know there is nothing they can do to stop it. I like to think that history will look back at our time and say that Ronald Reagan and the New Conservatives who followed in his footsteps marked another “new birth of freedom” in America, and made it possible that “government of the people, by the people, for the people” never vanished from the face of the earth.
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