3.14.2012

Reclaiming the Right

It may seem odd to defend my Republican leanings by trashing Republicans, but hear me out.  Whether or not you believe that American media is by and large left-leaning, you don't have to wander too far to hear stories piling on about Republicans behaving badly.  Since most of my friends - on Facebook and in the flesh - are Democrats, I hear these stories early and often.  My internal responses are all over the place: defensive, rolling of the eyes, chastened admittance, and so on.

Conceptually, I am still in the Republican quadrant.  In the economic continuum of unregulated to regulated, I prefer relatively unregulated, and in the social continuum of unregulated to regulated, I prefer relatively regulated.  (Yuck, that visual to the right is really fuzzy.  But I'm too lazy and uncoordinated to fix it.  You get the picture.)

But it is disappointing to see so little of what I believe about conservatism actually applied by so-called conservatives.  In my book, conservatism begins with a very humble view of governance and public service, that acknowledges that to serve as an elected official is to understand that power is seductive, and that delusions of being able to play savior and god must be reined in, in a disciplined manner, and replaced with a more grounded sense of reality about what can and cannot be done through the mechanism of government.

But, secondly, that doesn't mean that government isn't held to do the right things, and do them right.  For while the role of government should be limited, it is also legitimate.  "Professional politician" has a seedy connotation, and deservedly so, since so many are not humble and use the influence for personal gain.  But it is in fact a profession, and you can get good at, and we should encourage our youngsters to consider it, and our current office holders to carry it out with competence and excellence.

Thirdly, and finally getting to the meat and potatoes of ideology and philosophy, conservatism is, at its core, a belief in the reality of scarce resources, and in the responsibility to provide wise stewardship of them.  Whether it is nature, money, or political power, we are not unlimited, and a conservative approach to governance humbly acknowledges that and makes decisions accordingly.

Alas, most of what you see from the right is "party of no," knee-jerk opposition to anything coming from the other side (without thoughtful expression of why, or cogent counter-proposals), and self-righteous condemnation of others to win points.  Maybe this works in the reality TV world of politics we have created, but it doesn't inspire me.

By the way, neither does pandering to interest groups, acting like you're personally responsible for some government program (when in fact it is us taxpayers who are providing it), and overstepping your sense of what a centralized bureaucracy can do to change the hearts and lives of ordinary Americans.  Yes, I'm an equal opportunity cynic!  Mostly, though, I'm just sad that there is so much to be cynical about, and so little to make me feel good about modern-day politics.  I can't be alone, can I?

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