What is a Conservative?

by Jeffrey Polet on January 31, 2012 · 14 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

There have been accusations on our site that we are liberal, conservative, socialist, and so forth; as well as accusations that we are confused about our identity. Conor Friedersdorf over at The Atlantic has provided a list of 21 different things people might mean when they identify themselves as conservative. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. I should draw special attention to number 9 on his list: “An embrace of localism, community and family ties, human scale, and a responsibility to the future.” And, according to his judgment, only Ron Paul has a concern with this.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar t e whalen January 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Here’s the link: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/01/what-americans-mean-when-they-say-theyre-conservative/252099/

Today, I’ll sign up for 1,2,8,9,10,14,15,19,and 21, but I’m a Democrat. Go figure. I also have no idea what disagreeing with #2 would mean. Monarchism, I guess?

avatar Erika January 31, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I agree with 1, 2, maybe 9, 10, sometimes 13, 14, 16, very much 19, 20, 21. Despite which, I’m one of these Massachusetts liberals you hear about. I’m conservative by temperament in a lot of ways, and unwilling to drink the liberal Koolaid on quite a few issues, but definitely not a Republican. I like Wendell Berry and went to St. John’s, which two pieces of information will sufficiently explain why I’m drawn to FPR.

I’m actually very ambivalent about localism and especially the family ties bit. I suspect myself of merely dreaming. After all, I have in actual fact put plenty of distance between myself and my family of origin, and there are good reasons for that. In an old fashioned world where I couldn’t have escaped those family dynamics, I would have lived in their shadow. I can’t see that as a good thing and I can’t see that the same thing doesn’t apply for a lot of people. So while there are huge problems with being an atomic individual adrift in an urban environment, I think my attraction to localism is really just this dream that I might have had a strong, loving family, I might have had a hometown with deep roots worth returning to. I think it’s great that some people do. But, I think it’s the conservative in me that says you have to face the real situation, and not try to fit it into a sentimental ideal. If I have any hope of localism, it’s starting over, right here where I am.

I thought 8 (grand national projects) was liberalism? Or does it matter what type of project? Isn’t the moon base a liberal policy, even if Gingrich proposes it?

avatar Sean January 31, 2012 at 4:58 pm

@Erika So THAT’s why I like this site! It’s tailor-made for Johnnies! (AGI, ’02)

I’d go along with 1,2,8,9,14,15,17,18,19 and 20. You’d think 10 out of 21 would make me a “centrist” or even a solid conservative, but I’m considered “liberal” by everyone but the far left. Funny, I was once a member of YAF….

avatar Marchmaine January 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Not commenting until someone turns it into a proper flash (or android) app that gives me a nice label when I pick (really should be, Rank) my favorite conservative virtues.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 31, 2012 at 5:33 pm

The principle benefit of Front Porch so-called “Conservatism” is that it cannot be easily distilled and produced as 25 talking points. As far as I can tell, the assorted mutts who bay at the mast here are , in general, category busters and better off for it.

While the list is interesting and indeed a conversation starter, it is, like the Atlantic, steeped in the rhetoric of the last two decades . Taft, Nock, even Burke is like a Mastodon to these folks. After all, the uber localist Jefferson is a card-carrying Democrat and Hamilton, why, he’s a Federalist. Perhaps the key to this is in the era’s standard Big Kahuna of “conservative” politics: President Ronald Reagan. He started as a democrat organizing in Hollywood.

Seems to me Schizophrenia trumps all. Personally, I aint at all confused about my own identity, I detest myself too much for that.

avatar John Gorentz January 31, 2012 at 11:17 pm

With the help of a spreadsheet I calculated my affinity with each of the candidates. If Paul and I both favor localism (#9), that scores as a one. If neither of us favors realism in foreign policy, that scores as a one, as well.

So my affinity scores (based on Friedersdorf’s evaluations) are as follows:
Mitt: 10
Newt: 8
Santorum: 17
Paul: 17

My voting preferences are as follows:

Mitt: ABR. I will do anything I can to keep him from getting elected, short of voting for Obama.

Newt: He’s my man. Risky, crazy, unstable, but he’s the one who might do some good. He has been tried and tested by the leftwing hate machine.

Santorum: Sigh. I don’t think my opinions and his have much in common despite the scores, but I guess I did say ABR.

Paul: Sure, I’d be glad to vote for him if he could somehow get nominated.

Hmmm. Maybe conservatism isn’t really the issue.

avatar Anymouse February 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

What’s wrong with Santorum? Besides excessive war mongering and love for the feds. :)

I am incredibly prepared to vote for him.

avatar Matt Weber February 1, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I’d go for all of them but 6,7,8, and to a lesser extent 10 and 11.

avatar nydwracu February 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

1 9 10 13 14 15 17 18 19 21

…I guess I’m too far to the right to be a conservative. Heh. Calculating affinities:
Romney- 9
Gingrich- 5
Santorum- 8
Paul- 14
I suppose this means the left isn’t as far off as they think when they characterize Paul as a far-right reactionary. Oh well, I’m still not voting for him; I don’t trust ideologues, especially when they appear so likely to break things.

t e whalen: In my case, disagreeing with 2 means that I’m not sure why I should care about the Declaration of Independence. It’s not law, and I’d rather that remain clear, especially considering the distortions that have already been brought in by reading Jefferson into the canon. (Wall of separation, anyone?)

avatar Brandon February 3, 2012 at 10:30 am

I agree with all except 2,5,6,7,8,15,20. I must “anti-American”. Ha.

avatar Brandon February 3, 2012 at 10:31 am

that is “must be anti American”.

avatar Tod February 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Based on the comments section, The Atlantic’s readers don’t want to play the game and they also don’t seem to like conservatives.

avatar robert m. peters February 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I live out home and hearth, kith and kin, and blood and earth as best I can. I place in the contexts of my relationships to God, to family, to Church and to associations, including commonwealths with their local polities, the emphasis on duty, responsibility and obligation and attempt to live them out as best as I can and reject abstract notions of the Rousseauian, Lockean, Hobbesian and Jacobin variety. I endeavor, with no little failure, to live creaturely and Christianly, within the limitations of creation itself and the lordship of God Himself. I attempt, again not always with success, to internalize and live out in my personal relationships the Christian Just War Ethic, beginning with the potential daily frictions of married life: Is this confrontation and escalation thereof what a Christian should do. I then extrapolate it to judge the general government “for these United States” as it mongers a war here and then a war there. In a sense, a real conservative must be a radical revolutionary: radical in the sense of “returning to one’s roots,” and revolutionary in actually turning (rotating/revolving) things back from the status quo. Too many pseudo-conservatives are busy defending the fruits of the last liberal victory from the newest liberal onslaught as in “Obamacare is going to destroy social security.”

avatar Len April 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I think this is a much better summary: http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/thought

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