Defining Conservatism

By Devon Minnema

I’ve recently been in Nevada working for a Super PAC. While it was truly nice to be surrounded by coworkers who share my ideology (for the most part), it served as a reminder for why I believe what I believe. While moderates would probably like to label me a “libertarian,” I consider myself a conservative first and foremost. I have found, especially in speaking with voters during my time out of state, that few people truly understand what a conservative really is. Conservatives are not nationalists, nor are they budget busters, nor are they the so-called “moral majority.”

A conservative believes in Renaissance ideals; Freedom, equality, liberty, respect, and diplomacy. Unlike Donald Trump’s fallacious supposition that conservatism is about, “conserving our money, conserving our wealth,” it is in fact all about conserving order in the pursuit of those ideals. In America, this concept has been adapted to protect the Constitution, which is more than just a piece of paper, but rather the enshrinement of those ideals. Peaceful transition of power, restrictions on the influence of the federal government, and the protection of states’ ability to make their own laws and economic systems are key pieces in the Constitutional puzzle. This is why conservatives are so often constitutionalists as well.

Simply wanting smaller government or even good governance does not a conservative make. You must ask yourself why. Why do you want smaller government? Is it so you can enjoy freedom and liberty? Or is it simply because you don’t trust Democrats?

The Renaissance was much more than simply writers coming up with new political concepts. The Renaissance was a renewal in the Greek and Roman tradition of being at peace with our humanity. This also meant that you could be at peace with other’s humanity, whether you agreed with their interpretation of the world around them or not.

Our “Western Civilization” developed due to shared suffering under Roman Catholic rule after the fall of the Roman Empire. Rather than continue to live under the oppressive and corrupt ways of the Medieval Church and it’s approved monarchies, the Renaissance brought back the Greek and Roman interest in secular governance. Roman Catholicism preached that people needed to be ashamed of their humanity. Piousness and subservience to the church was the ideal. A life of comfort or success was seen as gluttony and greed, as any and all profit beyond what was needed for survival should be “given” to either the church or the church-approved ruler. The “Dark Ages” was a period of civilizational formation, where nomadic tribes fell into this shared experience in which tyrants and the occasional real leader would unite and/or subjugate them. It took approximately 1500 years for our civilization to realize that despots, with unlimited power over their subject’s lives, was not a very good idea.

The Renaissance was just as much a historical breaking point as it was an intellectual and scientific enlightenment. The educated members of this civilization were able to look back at the previous 1500 years and realize that not one kingdom had sustained prosperity for more than a few decades at a time. That was because rulers who had been easy on their people or stood up to the church in defense of their subjects were more often than not followed by a ruler who didn’t care about their living conditions or natural rights.

When our nation’s founders put together the Constitution, they knew that never before had a government been formed with the intention of protecting people’s rights rather than impeding upon them. The founders had already tried a straight representative democracy, but knew that it had been too chaotic and simply resulted in either the smaller states being trampled or the larger states being stifled.

Our country is special. It is not because our people are somehow inherently “better,” or that we have some secret “superior” values or even that there is any specific cultural difference, as many nations within Western Civilization share, to some degree, our values. Nor does it have anything to do with our soil. The area of the United States could just as easily be ruled by a despot as it could be a republic.

It is that our government was founded upon the idea of liberty and then that was anchored with the Constitution.

There is no threat nor technology that changes the importance of freedom.

ISIS is scary, and social networking makes it all the more apparent, but the anarchist movement of the 1800s was just as scary and that resulted in the assassination of a United States president. The Tripolitan Pirates declared war on us and actively captured and tortured American citizens but we didn’t give up our Constitution. The British invaded and burned Washington, D.C. and we still didn’t give up our Constitutional rights.

Despite our resolution to hold the Constitution sacred in the first half of our national history, we hail those presidents that amassed more power for themselves, or even broke the law. Democrats romanticize Franklin D. Roosevelt when he imprisoned American citizens and denied them due process, all in addition to abusing the Interstate Commerce Clause to the point of logical yoga. We hail Lyndon B. Johnson as a hero for the working class when his policies bastardized the 10th amendment and have kept the American south poor and uneducated for decades. We put Truman on a coin despite nationalizing an entire industry and shredding property rights as well as the aforementioned 10th amendment..

To invalidate even one piece of the Constitution is to invalidate the culmination of the sum experiences of Western Civilization and essentially say that “We know better.” Do you really have that much hubris that you would risk forcing posterity to live under tyranny. Invalidate the Constitution and you invalidate what made us great.

So go ahead, tell me that you have nothing to hide and that the FBI should force Apple to risk the cyber security and privacy of the entire country, but realize what you are saying by invalidating the fourth and first amendments. Go ahead and claim that presidents shouldn’t be required to get a declaration of war, as required by the Constitution, but realize the consequences of perpetual intervention overseas.

Conservatism isn’t about conserving wealth or conserving resources, it is about conserving freedom and liberty, the ideals that faux conservative politicians so quickly bastardize in the name of nationalism or national defense. If what you want is nationalism or military dominance, go ahead. Vote for the Hillary’s, and Trump’s, and Marco’s of this world. But true conservatives will be fighting to defend our rights, our Constitution, and not just the bits that are politically expedient.

Minnema is a 20-year-old college student and small business owner.

2 Comments to “Defining Conservatism”

  1. […] Defining Conservatism – Antioch Herald […]

  2. David says:

    I applaud the author for the excellent anthem on Conservatism; however, I cannot allow the misrepresentation of the Catholic church to go unchallenged. The medieval period history has been re-written as “Dark Ages” by anti-Catholic historians. After Rome’s mistreatment of European barbarians resulting in its collapse circa 500 A.D., for a thousand years, the Catholic church alone labored to first civilize the European barbarians and then to develop the intellectual and artistic talent in them, stemming from the rediscovery of the works of Aristotle and study of it through the lens of Christianity. The Catholic church has been the bulwark against oligarchies and the temporal power of earthly kings and has fostered and developed countless artists, philosophers, teachers, mathematicians, scientists, and theologians during this time despite decimating famine and disease. This shepherding has occurred with the consistent and ultimate aim of dignifying the human soul as God’s cherished creation that is worthy of respect and love. Try to dismiss these fruits of her labor as mere happenstance and you will still sharply contrast with the last millennium’s stagnation of other non-Christian civilizations. Furthermore, in modern times in our own great country of the United States of America, Catholics have contributed a lion’s share here as well after fleeing the same bankrupt oligarchical tendencies of Europe with the development of universal education, universal suffrage, charities, universities, and hospitals.

    To touch briefly on corruption from within: When parts of a home on a strong foundation deteriorate, one does not blame the house but instead removes the rot or pests. The Catholic church, the United States of America, and the Republican party has had their own shares of corruption from within but I think we can all agree on these being worthy institutions. In November, let’s vote together to remove the rot and pests.

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