The definition of “conservative” or even “right” has never been a more contentious issue.
Will someone please define the word “conservative” for me? How about “right” or “right wing?” What do these terms mean? As a libertarian, I’d like very much to know, because I am often accused by the left of being on the right or of being a conservative, but then I am sometimes made uneasy by a variety of people who call themselves conservative, who threaten to cast me out as somehow unworthy of that appellation.
The liberals certainly won’t have me. That I know. All I have to do is open my mouth about the Second Amendment, and good Democrats give me this look. You know — the kind of look moral conservatives usually reserve for those who might be seen as solicitors of funding for struggling gay scoutmasters.
I try to be consistent about freedom, which is why I am proud to tell people I belong to both the NRA and the ACLU. But that gets me into more trouble than I can handle, which forces me into a kind of selective political editing. The political gets pretty damn personal.
But what about conservatism? I have never seen so much fussing over terminology than in recent months, and things are getting so bad that if something isn’t done soon, the entire right wing will self destruct over definitional differences without ever getting to the issues themselves.
Sure, we’ve all heard of moral or social conservatives, and of course economic conservatives, and then there are libertarians, who have been alternately rejected or accepted depending on who’s asking (and whether they define themselves as “libertarian conservatives”).
So what the hell is all this neocon, paleocon, fusionist, national greatness stuff, and why is it threatening a divisive divide over definitional divisions?
Pat Buchanan’s highly opinionated erstwhile campaign pit bull, Justin Raimondo, sure seems to know. A fervently antiwar libertarian (unlike this blogger), he obviously feels that no libertarian should have supported the war in Iraq, and is now reveling in the definitional crisis. As I would not qualify as a libertarian under his standard (never mind whether the fusionists, nationalgreatnessists, neoimperialists, or others would allow me near their various tents), I am probably not within the conservative “mainstream” Raimondo now champions. (I hope he doesn’t have anything against bloggers, though, and I am afraid to ask. I do want to be loved.)
It is one thing to argue about policy and engage in reasoned discourse. There is no law saying we have to agree with each other. And I have always hated dividing the world into liberals versus conservatives as if there’s no other choice. But when there no longer exists even a basic definition of conservative, I would say the liberals have it made!
If conservatives aren’t careful, they will devolve from the Big Tent to the 1920s Polish Senate. I say this as someone not all that comfortable with the term “conservative” or even “right.” History shows that first, they define you against your will. The other stuff comes later.
I’m lucky I started blogging. The only accusation I have seen leveled against bloggers so far is a vague and hypocritical charge of elitism.
From what I have seen so far, bloggers share only one thing in common: literacy. If things have reached the point where to be literate is to be a member of the elite, then bloggers ought to worry about another endangered Classical Value: a basic classical education. Few things have warmed my heart so much as the good writing and good thinking positively emanating from blogs everywhere. Education is good! This charming blog is a perfect example of why.