Friday, August 2, 2013
Moderation is Conservative
I hear radio callers attacking practical, get-things-done leaders, in disdainful tones, as "RINOs," and "moderates"--as if only media firebrands and mean-spirited activists get to define the terms. As if they've got the only conservative positions on major issues, and those views can't be discussed or varied. As if people with differing means to the same conservative goals should be ostracized and marginalized as "not true" conservatives.
Really drives me crazy.
First off, certain broad values are shared by all conservatives--like a belief in individual enterprise, with minimal governmental interference. A belief that charity is best conducted by voluntary associations and gestures rather than from forced taxes that the government disburses. A belief that local is better than federal direction of most functions--education, health care, police and fire and just about anything that doesn't require the joining of the nation as one.
Most basic is conserving values and policies that work as you adapt and change with circumstances. This is prudent. It's smarter to preserve the good in what you have, and cautiously change the rest.
Yes, that may make people "moderate," in their conservatism, but perhaps the more constructive way to see it is moderation. Moderation is a positive trait. "Moderate" has (wrongly) become a nasty slur.
I remember when an honored position was "mainstream Republican," someone whose views reflected the majority of conservatives. Mainline--accepted widely, representing the bulk of the party. The only way ever for conservative candidates to win is to appeal to a wide range of citizens, especially independents and folks in between the right and left ends of the political continuum--who are the real moderates.
How did the far right hijack the GOP and dominate conversation about the conservative movement? They're not even the majority of conservatives--not even "mainstream" on many issues. For example, the hot-buttons of abortion and immigration. Polls show sharply divided American opinion on abortion. Conservatives can personally fervently oppose abortion and yet acknowledge that banning it from conception just won't happen.
Similarly, conservatives can recognize the reality of 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country and think practically about means to address their presence. The extreme idea of deporting them all or driving them away is, I believe, harmful to our economy, inhumane, and completely radical and unfeasible, and yet, the position is often mentioned by those who claim it defines "true conservatives."
Moderation is conservative. Moderation demands the least disruptive course first. If it's not broken, don't fix it-- and if it is broken, don't boost our "disposable society" by pitching the components that still serve. And when proposing something new, look to previous successes as inspiration--don't jump into something because good intentions alone drive it.
Obamacare, for instance, may be well-intentioned. But its sweeping imposition now makes "The Affordable Care Act" a joke. Since its mandates have removed consumer choices and insurer options, rates for payers are much more un-affordable. Employers seeking to avoid its restrictions and added costs are cutting some positions to less than 30 hours weekly or holding their staffs to less than 50 workers. Few doctors are enthused, either. Good intentions hemorrhaged into a massive national peril. Yes, some Brits and Canadians and Israelis like their nationalized health care, but they started from a very different place, and even their beneficiaries offer plenty of complaints with their kudos. Brazil has a nationalized health care system. Just 7% of it's consumers are at all satisfied with it.
Conservatives value moderation; it's the natural conservative approach. This contrasts with the new favored term for liberals: "Progressive." Who would ever want to thwart progress? Doesn't everyone want to move on, jump forward, progress? Leave the old behind and forge something new and untried? That's youth, excitement, possibility!
I recall George W. Bush's explanation for his early rash behaviors: "When I was young and stupid, I was young and stupid." While there's something exhilarating about daring experiments, and conservatives applaud most of them on a personal level, there's something risky about forcing 314 million people to bungee jump along for the ride. What's acceptable for a single college student is not when he's got a wife and several kids to whom he's responsible. We're the American family, and government is there to protect us physically, to be responsible, and to make room for us individual members to thrive.
Caution and pragmatism come with maturity, while impetuosity, impatience and utopian dreaminess mark adolescence. Conservatism is the ideology of grownups. No matter their places on the political spectrum, all parents want to provide their children a conservative homelife--a stable, loving environment based on universal values. And when it comes to creating policies, visions of perfection may be inspiring fantasies but a conservative grounding in reality lets us function in the real world.
Moderation in all things. That's conservative. That's responsible and prudent, and conservatives should use the term "moderation" proudly and repeatedly; it's the hallmark of practicality and wisdom, and will help us win.