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The Future of Conservatism May Be Its Past

Reader comment on item: What Is the Future of Conservatism in the Wake of the 2012 Election?

Submitted by Sigmund (United States), Jan 6, 2013 at 15:12

I am old enough to remember Barry Goldwater, though too young to have been able to vote him. But I would have voted for Goldwater if I could have. At the time the Conservative movement seemed to be a breath of fresh air. Simply put, conservatism then stood for individual freedom as opposed to state control. Later on, I was old enough to vote for Reagan and I did so.

Unfortunately, what we call "conservatism" has become corrupted by anti-freedom forces even as it maintains some good qualities. Obviously there is no way to know for sure, but I would bet that if Goldwater could have been brought back to life he would today, with certain reservations, favor the Democrats over the Republicans. Probably Reagan would too.

Can you imagine Goldwater's or Reagan's reaction to statements about "legitimate rape" and "God wanted the baby [produced as the result of rape] to be born"? Both of them would have read the politicians who made that statement right out of the Republican party.There would have been none of the weak distancing etc. that the Romney and the present crop of Republican "leaders" showed. Those guys would have been gone.

I tried to remain an American conservative for quite a while. But it meant I had to swallow too much illogical and unscientific B.S.[and by B.S. I don't mean a college degree] I am still for individual freedom. I don't particular like quite a number of Obama's programs. But at least the Democrats harbor fewer absurd assaults on sanity, history, science and morality.

I would say to conservatives and would-be conservatives that this country will become increasingly liberal unless conservatives recognize a few truths. The following is just a partial list.

  1. Climate change is real, caused by human activity, and it is in the interests of free enterprise and capitalism to enact sufficient regulations to protect our environment.
  2. Abortion is one of the freedoms that woman should have. "Personhood" of a fetus is baloney which was never previously recognized by any mainstream group throughout history and which is not recognized by the Bible.
  3. Though the Protestant ethic and the mores of the Christian religion were key influences in the founding of this country, our Founding Fathers were not particularly religious in the modern sense. Many of them were deists and skeptics. Benjamin Franklin joked that instead of saying grace at meals it would be more efficient to pray over the whole "cask" of food when it was purchased. They were scarcely as religious as even Goldwater or Reagan, who weren't very religious at all.
  4. Our country has never been totally free enterprise. From the very beginning it has been recognized that the government can and should run some activities. What these activities might be varies according to current conditions. In Franklin's time the Post Office was a huge advance and it enabled our country's development. Today it may or may not be necessary at all and it already has been significantly downsized in comparison to private methods. In Franklin's day private medicine was the only way to go. Today this may not be true and government run facilities may well be a worthwhile part of the mix. None of our Founding Fathers thought of the government as an unproductive beast which only can redistribute money. So-called conservatives today are selling us a bogus bill of goods when they say such things.
  5. Though never envisioned by our Founding Fathers, gay rights represent an important new avenue of freedom which conservatives should embrace if they truly represent individual freedom.
  6. Making it difficult for immigrants to achieve legal credentialed status here is no part of conservatism. Reagan was right to grant an amnesty. He should have followed it up with way to enable people to come in and file for citizenship or permanent or defined-length status much more easily. We need younger workers.

Despite the above and a number of additional similar points, I still think that the drive for individual freedom is there buried rather deep in modern conservatism. I still want to be a modern conservative which I think is essentially the same as being a "Classical Liberal." But the freedom aspect, the true Conservatism or Classical Liberalism, is just covered up by all the special interest nonsense that has been attached to it. You don't have to support every nuance of what I am saying but I think that conservatives and would-be conservatives need to realize that they have got to modernize present day conservatism or it will get increasingly unattractive to Americans as time moves forward. Interestingly, modernizing it would be making it more similar to the conservatism of Barry Goldwater or, even better, what then was called the Liberalism of folks like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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