I returned from a trip to Phoenix (I’m traveling too much, an that interferes with blogging) to find some interesting responses to my question: “What is a true conservative?” Here are some of the better ones.
From a Mitt supporter (and EFM fan):
First of all a true conservative is someone who checks EFM every day like I do. Just kidding, but this is a great site; thank you. In my opinion a true conservative would take the following positions:
1. The War on Terror (including Iraq) – A conservative loves America and will never allow it to be intimidated by terror tactics. A strong, fully funded and motivated military is required. The limits of the military will be understood and will not be asked to undertake more than is feasible. A conservative is guided by pragmatism, not ideology. I.E. it is not probable or possible to spread democracy to every
country (or half or even 20), nor is it our prerogative to do so. A conservative would read The Federalist No 6 and recognize the wisdom of our founders.
2. Abortion – A conservative values innocent life. Logic will guide him or her to the conclusion that when the DNA says human, it is in fact and will remain in fact an innocent human life. If Gov. Romney’s conversion is real, which his actions tend to show, then it is admirable. If it is not real I still believe that he is still a better choice than Mayor Giuliani.
3. Tax policy – Follow President Reagan and President Bush’s lead. See Amanda Carpenter’s article http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=19856
4. Entitlements (including Social Security) – Conservatives rightly oppose entitlements, because “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
5. Health Care – Health Care would incorporate personal responsibility, free choice, and protection for doctors from frivolous law suits and availability to low incomes, without higher taxes for those who earn more. Didn’t someone not named Hillary do just that?
6. Same-sex marriage – I was never convinced of the importance of this issue until I read Gov Romney’s letter to the Boston Globe. A conservative should also be ready to fight for the rights of all, while distinguishing between rights and desires.
7. Trade policy – A conservative places the interests of America first. Resisting the ideologies of socialism, protectionism, and even free trade.
8. Immigration (both border enforcement and dealing with current illegal immigrants) -
Immigrants should be welcomed as long as they will contribute positively to America and will be loyal to America. Illegal immigration is illegal and should be stopped with a combination of border security, including a fence, progressively harsher punishments to businesses that higher illegal aliens and the cessation of benefits to illegal aliens (welfare, free school, free medical, etc).
9. Global Warming/Environment – Work to preserve our beautiful earth, but not succumb to doomsday prophecies like global cooling or warming.
10. Foreign Aid (including AIDS initiatives) – Reduce taxes and let the generosity of the American people go to work speaking for itself. Limit aid to national interests only.
11. Energy Policy – Nuclear energy – clean, efficient, powerful. Reduce independence on oil so we can get out of the Middle East.
12. Judicial nominations – Very important, and not only for abortion and same-sex marriage. The constitution is divinely inspired. No one who lacks respect for it should be allowed to undercut it.
13. Stem cell research – Similar to abortion. The race to map the human genome should be a clear
example of the futility of government directed scientific research. If it weren’t for private corporations and investors we may still be waiting for the government team to finish their research. Medical research is not the proper role of government.
The obvious answer to your question is that no existing candidate matches all of those issues perfectly for me or anyone else. While we are waiting for the “CM” I would like mine to be a nice combination of the first four presidents, some Abraham Lincoln, a little of Theodore Roosevelt’s vigor, a lot of President Reagan a pinch of Pat Buchanan and the best qualities of Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.
And then there’s this:
The War on Terror (including Iraq). It is real. Take the fight to the terrorists; don’t fight it on home turf. Preemption is good. Intelligence is necessary. I can live with honest mistakes. We made plenty of them in every war we ever fought. I think we need another 100,000 troops in Iraq for the short term. It took the US a very long time to develop it republic. These things do not happen overnight. We were in Japan and Germany for a long time. I would like to see the press be much more balanced in its reporting.
2. Abortion: Overturn Roe. It may be OK in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, possibly rape & incest. That’s a decision for the mother to make with her religious leader, if she has one. With her husband if her life is in danger.
3. Tax policy: Less is better—reduced taxes. Americans know more about how to distribute their hard earned money than the government. Reduce the size of Government as well. Not just reducing the expected budget increases. Actually reduce the size, including headcount.
4. Entitlements (including Social Security): Phase them out. I’m 50. If you gave me the opportunity to opt out of SS, I’d take it in a heartbeat, and never ask for a dime of the money I already put in. Entitlement engenders resentment. It’s a downward spiral.
5. Health Care: Let the markets function. It takes a while, but free markets are very efficient over the long haul. The government should get out of the health care business. It tends to make matters worse than better.
6. Same-sex marriage: There is no such thing. I refuse to use the term; it’s their language. He who dictates the language of a debate wins. The gay lifestyle is destructive to society, and should be outlawed. Homosexuality is pure, 100% selfishness. The only purpose for homosexual activity is pleasure. It is also disgusting to think of someone putting his penis into another man’s rectum. Now that’s gross, but they have been successful in “normalizing” it to the point that we don’t even think about what it really is. It’s selfish and disgusting. They shouldn’t even be a “protected species.”
7. Trade policy: Free and open to the extent other countries treat us the same way on their turf. If they want to sell here, then we have to have identical freedom on their turf.
8. Immigration (both border enforcement and dealing with current illegal immigrants): Enforce existing laws. Big fines for employers who employee illegals, including jail time. No more free health care, or education. Take away the incentives to be here and solve most of the problem. Put a fence on the border. I’ll pay for that.
9. Global Warming/Environment: We need to take reasonable measures to protect the environment. We do not have definitive proof that the cause of global warming is man made. There is good reason to get off foreign oil, which will help with security and the environment. But I don’t buy Al Gore’s contention that global warming, if it exists, in man made. Too much evidence that he’s data mining.
10. Foreign Aid (including AIDS initiatives): I don’t have a problem with certain types of 4N aid. The best aid is to liberate countries and people whose dictators are keeping their people oppressed, thus freeing them to work and produce. I’ll help any country that will help itself.
11. Energy Policy: Create SIGNIFICANT incentives for R&D in alternative energy. As well as for its use. Let’s get off 4N oil.
12. Judicial nominations: Strict constructions. My gut feel is that guys like Roberts and Alito are that type.
13. Stem cell research: is fine as long as it’s not fetal stem cells.
And then there was this quite succinct (though pragmatic) response:
We all know what the conservative activists want in a “true conservative”,
The two things that they never mention (or seem to be able to grasp) are that he/she needs to be electable and once in office, actually be able to effectively promote conservative ideals. This is why Romney is indeed a true conservative, and Brownback, Hunter, and Thompson aren’t.
All of the responses that I got to my question came from a more or less social conservative perspective, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, hawkish on defense, law and order on immigration but not hostile to immigration itself, lukewarm on entitlements, etc. Notably missing was the libertarian “true conservative” position, which is pro-choice, open borders (like the Wall Street Journal), and much less enthusiastic about foreign military entanglements.
It seems clear to me that EFM’s fans and enemies come from the social conservative wing of the party, which is exactly where the Governor is fighting his primary battle. Libertarians–which have more of an influence the in the blogosphere than the ballot box (i.e. Instapundit)–aren’t going to carry the Romney campaign. The Governor sinks or swims (at least in the Republican primary) on the backs of voters like our readers.
It is also intriguing the extent to which the Governor’s stated positions line up with this social conservative outlook–far more so than McCain or Rudy. Thus, the opposition is forced to question not his substantive positions but his sincerity, some even going so far as preferring a candidate who sincerely opposes them over someone that–they think (without any real evidence)–insincerely supports them. That’s a strangely irrational position, but then who ever said political choices were always rational?