During the recent election of Barak Obama, conservatives made a number of mistakes. Principal among them was allowing the media and democrats to select the Republican candidate. But only slightly less damaging was our allowing that candidate to forsake the core principles that make us Republicans in the first place. in point of fact, Senator McCain has spoken of leaving the party. He should. Precisely because he does not share the core values that makes us conservative in the first place.
I would argue that the single most important precepts of conservatism are those of federalism and limited government. Federalism is the concept that most rights are granted to the citizen—most certainly not any government—and that the States and Federal governments are granted certain powers by the people. In this model, government is forbidden to do most things, and those things that must be done by government should be done at the lowest possible level of government. (The fact that we have done very poorly at sticking to this principle does not negate its rectitude.)
By contrast, modern leftists are seeking a coherent philosophy. They really can’t seem to come up with much other than the “panem et circences” that the Roman author Juvenal talked about in the first century AD. Juvenal’s idea was that democracies are doomed when the plebeians discover that they can simply vote themselves “bread and circuses”. Which is where we find ourselves today. Under the new regime, President-elect Obama promises, production and self-reliance will be punished by having their income “redistributed”, whilst those who forswear production will be rewarded. Just days after the election, Representative Jim Moran of Virginia spoke of “this simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it.” Surely it is obvious where this line of thought leads—and it’s certainly not in a conservative direction.
Parenthetically, I resent the use of the term liberals for today’s leftists, who in fact hold to Marxism, Socialism, Communism, Anarchism, Nihilism, and a variety of other discredited philosophies. Liberalism is the philosophy of the enlightenment–to which conservatives adhere and leftists reject.
In general, conservatives believe that every individual—regardless of race, creed, color, sexuality, or their fondness for barn animals—have a right to the opportunities that our free society affords them. It does not, however, guarantee them success. People are just as free to fail as succeed. And while we, as the most generous nation that earth has ever seen, believe in helping those who are “down on their luck”, people should generally face the consequences when they make poor decisions. Equality of opportunity is highly desirable; equality of outcome would be disastrous.
Finally, I think we should mention the difference between being a “Republican” and a “conservative” as they are currently formulated. Republicans today are a political party made up of many different factions. Conservatives are only one of these factions, and while conservative thought appeals to a large majority of the population (more than 60% by a recent survey), it is not always the dominant faction. The recent election was proof positive of that. Senator McCain lost nearly 20% of self-identified conservatives–in my view, precisely because he didn’t share the core values that we discuss here. Requiescat in pace.