The objective of Republican Redefined is to attempt to engage in political commentary with the hope of opening new eyes and shaping new ideas with the power that is conservatism. As an ideology, it has been mischaracterized, misrepresented, and mistaken for a laundry list of political talking points. The biggest culprit of this harmful and ill-fated attempt has been the Republican Party of recent years.
This site is dedicated to the effort of distinguishing between conservatism and Republican rhetoric; with the hope that one day there will be no need for such a distinction.
The Republican Party of the new millennium has simply lost its way. Attempts to move the Party to the “center” and calls for revamping the Party to meet the pronounced “needs” and “realities” of the 21st century have led the Party on a dangerous course; and in taking this path, the Party has lost its true foundation – True Conservatism.
Many have begun to say that the Republican Party has an “image problem.” While this may in fact be true, the Republican Party more accurately has a principle problem. There is a vast disconnect between what the Party supposedly stands for and what it actually brings to the table through the political process. While most Republicans proudly consider themselves to be conservatives, it is only the rare exception of elected official who actually reflects such a claim with his actions. While “acting” conservative gains favor among the party ranks and wins party nominations every November, it is far less likely for Republicans to actually lead from a conservative standpoint once they have taken public office. It has been the trend to pander to the Left or talk in terms of “Center-Right” in the interest of self preservation. This is not a problem of image. It is a problem caused by a lack of principle; a lack of core beliefs. It is an attempt to gain popularity and secure votes come reelection time; where each of them will undoubtedly only talk in terms of “Right” and “conservative” hoping we all blindly ignore their actions during their term in office.
The problem can hardly be blamed on any one elected official. Unfortunately it is more a reflection of the Party as a whole. Because there is an absence of a moral or principled core set of values upon which all Republicans are united, many of our elected party members have felt isolated and have succumb to the pressures of Washington and the almighty call to stay in office. It is self preservation through self denial of all that they purport to stand for. Rather than risk the chance of defeat in re-election they choose a more expedient route, rather than the principled one – the one that if all Republicans were to choose to adopt would ultimately unite them in their beliefs. It is merely a lack of moral courage to brave the waters alone. Like a group of schoolboys waiting until another guy jumps in first; they all stand patiently waiting for someone else to make the first move to test the waters. The end result is a self-fulfilling prophecy. They all wait patiently until they cannot wait any longer; jumping into the once tepid water; only to find that it is now at a boiling point; causing them to escape from the unfortunate climate that they so uncourageously let warm.
Republicans must return to the principles upon which the Party was founded. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights lay out a framework for the Party to move forward. The Founders were plain in telling us where we could find guidance in times of trouble and frustration. These documents should serve as the center point of any and all policy formulations when they must call upon an outside source for counsel. The principles set out in those documents are those which should shape their platforms in November and forge their policies through the duration of their time in office.
Conservatism is but a philosophy. It is simply a set of ideas and beliefs; a core foundation of principled and fundamental convictions which guide those who believe in its practice. While conservatism is usually associated with the Republican Party in contemporary American politics, it should not be assumed that the two go hand in hand. In fact, recent history has shown that the loose correlation between the two may have set the Republican Party onto its current course.
You will notice that when I mention Conservatism, the C is always capitalized. It will be an important distinction to make note of as you move throughout and one that I hope to flesh out thoroughly through this endeavor. For clarity, it is not a reference to a political institution; it is simply an effort to distinguish “conservatism” from Conservatism. The group of individuals who pride themselves on protecting the Constitution against all who would mean to do it harm had their name hijacked somewhere along the line, so the big C is my attempt to reclaim it. If you capitalize the C in Constitution when you reference the American Constitution, I think you’ll quickly see my point. If not? Read on. We have much work to do.
One last housekeeping note before we move forward… While sharing many fundamental beliefs, Conservatism should not be mistaken for Libertarianism either; and I will make no attempts to draw the two any closer together, nor will I choose to associate myself with the label of the latter. Many of my beliefs are blindly labeled as such because they fly counter to “conservative” talking points and positions, but I can assure you that they all have Conservative origins. What Conservatism possesses that is fundamentally lacking in libertarianism is a commitment to a fundamental framework of principle and virtue. While some conservatives believe that this principled and virtuous guidance is Christian or at least religious in nature, true Conservatism places the importance upon individual principles, virtues, standards, or morals; rather than a compulsory choice. These are loosely defined because they are individual in nature. Obviously, principle, virtue, standards, and morality are at least in part derivative of a religious foundation, but that origin is and was not intended to be prescribed for all Americans by our government.
Conservatism, in the American sense, represents a commitment to the preservation of the fundamental principles of the United States and the manifestations of those principles are our torches in the dark; our North Star in a wandering night. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights serve as our doctrine, our creed, and our motto. They must be revered and they must be preserved at all costs. One of the fundamental points that separates Conservatism from Libertarianism is the conviction and the commitment to the spirit of these documents. The Liberties that each of these documents articulates are what allow each of us, as Americans, to individually create our own belief structure. It is what allows liberals from all walks of life to disagree with us. But most importantly, it is what allows each of us to be able to set our own standards; determine our own principles; live by our own moral codes; and practice our own religions. These principles are individual. They are what guide us in our daily lives and they are what give us the conviction and fortitude to engage in political debate. They are what shape our character and define our values.
Conservatism as a framework gives us the guide to determine how to engage in political deliberation and debate. It is our principle and our virtue which gives us the strength and conviction to do so. Belief in a need for principle and virtue is universal to Conservative philosophy, but determining the course that leads us to these is absolutely individual in nature. While our founding documents are the source of these freedoms, they are not granted within those brilliant works. Such rights are not granted in this great nation; they are inalienable. It is simply the purpose of those great founding documents to memorialize those Rights in written form to ensure that they are never infringed upon by those who wish to threaten that which our Creator has given us.
It is the cause of every Conservative to protect those Liberties and to preserve the foundational beliefs that are articulated in our Founding Documents. It is the objective of every Conservative to build and maintain a nation that’s direction is consistent with those values; and it should be the aspiration of every Republican to once again return their party to one that embraces these causes and objectives; with the ambition of serving as the primary source of principled leadership for a nation that is in dire need of such guidance.
Conservatism as a philosophy has many opponents and many who endeavor to drive a wedge between those who share in its core values. It should be clear that there are no factions within conservatism; there are no branches or divisions. “Fiscal conservatism”, “social conservatism”, “compassionate conservatism”, and even “little C conservatism” are all simply aspects of a greater whole. They cannot exist in a vacuum distinct and apart from one another. Conservatism is the framework. It is the objective. These labels are artificial fabrications that are useful only in describing characteristics of Conservatives not in dividing individuals into separate brands. These labels imply that Conservatism can be a piecemeal cafeteria style philosophy. This wholly misses the true Conservatism message. It is a guide for how to shape political views. Divisive labels only address specific policies or platforms. Conservatism as a philosophy is far more expansive a notion than can be divided by meaningless subheadings. It is a conviction to principle, and it embraces all the philosophies which these labels or subheadings may reflect but can never be reflected in any one alone. This is precisely why the Republican Party must fully commit itself to the true Conservative philosophy. When engaging in Conservatism with situational convenience or expediency, the Party leaves itself open to division and debate. A commitment to true Conservatism will ensure that the Party once again has a core; a core that Americans can believe in.
Little c conservatism is an entirely different construct. It is merely a way of living one’s life according to a traditional standard rooted in Judeo-Christian values, the importance of the family, fiscal restraint, and social modesty. In this form, conservatism is idealistic aspiration. It is the very picture of what most of us see as the cornerstone of the American Dream. A vision of such a tranquil and even-keeled lifestyle is part of what is so attractive about conservatism. It is why even the most bleeding heart of political liberal can aspire to be conservative in his/her home life. The idealistic image that it represents is probably also why it is used so loosely causing it to be confused with Big C Conservatism.
It is my belief that this distinction, or rather the absence of this distinction being made clear, is the root of the problem currently facing the Republican Party.
The short of it is this. As I mentioned earlier, Conservatism requires a principled approach to governance – a set of standards, a moral code, or a religious framework to find the conviction to remain true to Founding Principles. Little c conservatism can be that guide. Frankly, it is an outstanding choice. That said, it is not the only choice. The First Amendment is the only evidence needed for proving why such a choice must be absolutely individual in nature.
What Republicans – and all those who aspire to be true Conservatives – have to come around to is the fact that they cannot rely upon conservatism to win their political arguments. It simply has no legal weight or justification. The age-old argument that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles is great and all, but finding that passage in the Constitution is hard to come by; and as the group of individuals who purport to rely upon that document as our guidepost, we should never be the first to abandon it.
Maybe a “real world” example will help to flesh this out. Lets just say Republican candidate Ronald Goldwater Palin decides to run for President. His platform reflects that of a conservative rather than a Conservative position. He flaunts his beautiful family. He tells the electorate that he goes to bible study twice a week and that he coaches youth baseball. He’s prolife, proguns, anti-same sex marriage, etc, etc… He gets elected, stops coaching baseball, going to church, his daughter runs off to Canada to marry another woman, and his wife leaves him after rumors on infidelity surface. What are you left with? – A governor that you know absolutely nothing about.
Far too many Republicans have fallen into this trap. They let conservatism be their guide rather than true Conservatism. When was the last time you heard a major party candidate proudly announce or run a campaign ad telling the electorate that his/her guiding principle was strict interpretation of the Constitution?
Some will say “that’s what it takes to get elected” or “I want to know the man behind the candidate – what he stands for.” To those individuals, I would simply suggest that the true character of a man is rarely uncovered by what he will tell you in a campaign ad. While I too like my elected officials to be God-fearing individuals, what ever happened to “Let not your Right hand know what your left hand was doing.” When did wearing religion on your sleeve become the only measuring post of a man’s character?
What a renaissance candidate we would have if we could find one big enough to refuse to boast about his family life, his religious practices, or his philanthropic endeavors. In what other walk of life would such an approach even remotely be transcendent? It would simply be expected. When was the last time anyone based their impression of a man solely upon what said man told you it should be?
On balance, I am not saying that such things are not important to me or that they should not matter to other potential voters. I am saying that we as Republicans ought to exercise a little restraint – ala little c conservatism – and be a little less braggadocios in flaunting our character resume. How about actually addressing a political philosophy rather than carefully molding political platforms to fit the token conservative model?
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue. The scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined on what we thought but what we did.”
So what would I like to see in a candidate? Is my vision that of a religion-free, amoral, immoral, or socially indifferent ideologue? Of course not. I’d simply like the latter to be in the background rather than the foreground.
What I would like to see is a candidate who can articulate his approach to policy formulation – how he comes to a position on an issue – any issue. Tagline politics of pro-guns, pro-life, anti-this, and anti-that tell me nothing. If elected officials in Washington or elsewhere dealt solely with matters related to the Right to Bear Arms, abortion, same-sex marriage, or any other major issue each and every day that would be all I want to hear about, but the truth is that such is simply not the reality.
Lawmakers and elected officials have to make a wide variety of decisions on a daily basis that have nothing to do with major issues, and I would like to know how said person goes through that process. Given that each of those decisions cannot be answered by turning to a laundry list of conservative positions, they need to have a guidepost. If not how do we know what they will really do when they are faced with such decisions? The “He’s a good guy who goes to church – he’ll do the right thing” argument doesn’t really fly with me.
I want to hear a candidate proudly tell his electorate that he’s an Originalist in the light light of a Justice Scalia; that he believes in Strict Interpretation of the Constitution; that when such an endeavor does not produce sufficient advice, he turns to other evidence in the form of debates ancillary to the ratification; and when still left wanting, he relies upon his core principles to discern to the best of his ability the intentions of our Founders.
It’s the last prong there were conservatism comes into play – or more accurately, where principles and values truly matter. The man must be a man of conviction to carry out this task, and that is why we must elect men of character; but moving that character to the front of the list in our expectations for elected officials neglects the first two prongs and relies on faith in the man’s word that he is in fact a man of Faith and conviction. In a world where “no one” trusts a politician, that is simply not a leap I am willing to take.
In sum, Conservatism is the guidepost for returning the Republican Party to its Rightful place. Principled leadership and firm adherence to the intentions of our Founding Fathers is all that is required. True Conservatism lends itself to providing leaders rather than followers. Little c conservatives have to wait idly by to see if policies, positions, and opinions pass conservative muster while Big C Conservatives know immediately whether they fly counter to the vision of our Founders. The only thing that Big C Conservatism requires is a man confident enough in his convictions; founded so securely in his principles and values; that he is not afraid to challenge convention – even when doing so may paint him as less than conservative.