What is a conservative?


By Bud Emmerson


I really think I am in George Orwell’s novel “1984.” Words are being used to mean the opposite of their underlining meaning. Let’s take “conservative” as a prime example.

I grew up understanding that a conservative was a prudent person who respected laws and traditions, especially the U.S. Constitution. A conservative valued the natural environment enough to protect nature’s assets from pollution and man-made transgressions. A conservative understood that investing in education helped future generations to be successful. A conservative knew that maintaining sound infrastructure ensured smooth functioning of the vital systems of society: roads, bridges, sewer, water, utilities, clean air and transportation.

Conservatives valued science, facts, and rational analysis as the basis for sound decision making.

Conservatives managed financial resources to pay for vital systems with balanced budgets. Long-term projects were financed with affordable long-term debt. Deficit spending was seen as irresponsible, especially to future generations who would be saddled with debt.

Conservatives cherished the freedoms of the Bill of Rights. Religion was to be kept separate from government. Government had no right to interfere with the privacy and personal affairs of citizens. They knew that some citizens needed assistance from society at large at times, that a solid middle class was a vital underpinning of a stable society.

Conservatives understood that our country was a citizen of the world but resisted entwining our human and financial resources in conflicts away from our shores.

Today’s version of conservatism is radically different. We have the largest federal government ever with record deficits and a federal debt that is likely to seriously handicap future generations. We insist on spending way more than we are willing to pay in taxes.

We interfere in the affairs of many other countries, often with military force. We spend funds on military adventures that we need for vital needs at home.

We under-fund our schools. We put off funding necessary maintenance of infrastructure. We threaten and degrade many of our natural resources with neglect and invasive human projects.

Conservative government is invading citizen privacy, bringing religion into government, and interfering in private relationships between women and their personal physicians. Conservatives have presided over the largest contraction of the middle class in history.

Conservatives defy scientific conclusions on global warming, base decisions on fundamentalist ideologies, and refuse to use rational problem solving and planning methodologies.

Conservatives of earlier eras would be flabbergasted to see the degradation of their once proud philosophy.