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Is conservatism a “life style”? Former candidate for Congress and Tea Party activist David Larsen thinks so. Since he made his statement, there has been a lot of discussion here at CNJ about it. Is Larsen right? If so, does that make Michael Oakeshott wrong?

Oakeshott was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s favorite philosopher. In a column earlier today, Molly Leibowitz quoted Oakeshott thus: “It is not at all inconsistent to be conservative in respect of government and radical in respect of almost every other activity.”

Oakshott appears to be saying that conservatism is a political attitude towards the role of government, period. This runs contrary to those conservatives who believe that conservative political theory is linked with a Christian identity.

What do you think?

Can you be conservative and gay? Are some conservatives pro-life, while others are pro-choice on abortion? Do you have to believe in God to be a conservative, or can an atheist be a conservative too? How about people who are divorced or promiscuous or who make frequent use of drugs or alcohol? Could they be called conservative? Is it a “life style” or a political attitude towards government?

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19 Comments

  1. Don Miller says:

    Christian identity politics is a dead end for conservatives. There are those conservatives who try to spread the myth that the Founding Fathers were born again when they were not. They were the modern men of their age and we should be too.

  2. truther says:

    Doesn’t being a conservative require something to conserve?

    Isn’t tradition the instinct a culture builds up over a thousand years of trial and error? Isn’t tradition important? Without tradition what do we have besides a great relearning to look forward to?

  3. Maxx says:

    In considering the Ron Paul controversy today, I came across this quote by Russell Kirk (The Conservative Mind).

    Kirk “laid out a post-World War II program for conservatives by warning them, ‘A handful of individuals, some of them quite unused to moral responsibilities on such a scale, made it their business to extirpate the populations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima; we must make it our business to curtail the possibility of such snap decisions.’”

    I have always liked The Conservative Mind, but I don’t know if his prescription can hold true today.

    Kirk said that Christianity and Western Civilization are “unimaginable apart from one another.” and that “all culture arises out of religion. When religious faith decays, culture must decline, though often seeming to flourish for a space after the religion which has nourished it has sunk into disbelief.”

    If what he says is true then the game is already over.

  4. JimmyZ says:

    The founders may not have required a specific christian orthodoxy, but they clearly viewed the morality that sprung from a christian faith as indispensible.

    We need look no further than George Washington’s farewell address, September 17, 1796. The quote below is paragraphs 27/28 (they are numbered) and I have included a link so you can trust the integrity of what I have extracted from the speech.

    May we all work in peace together, building on what we share in common, to face the tyranny that is raging at the doors and windows of our homes - and threaten the future of our posterity.

    http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/farewell/text.html

    “27 Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
    28 It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric ?”

  5. Eric Blair says:

    That definition was valid when we were part of what was loosely called Christendom but no longer. We risk civil war if we fail to produce a tradition that addresses our plauralistic society. We must fashion a new conservative paradigm. IMHO

  6. Wolfie says:

    Eric Blair! You will come in handy when we need someone to explain what happened to the conservative revolution of 2009-12.

    We ended up just like the left did in “A Homage to Catalonia.” Some got labeled RINOs or Fifth Columnists (how EXACTLY like in the Spanish Civil War) and we ended up shooting at each other while the enemy won.

    It all came down to power struggles between too many little chiefs and no goals they could agree on. They were more jealous of each other getting ahead than they were about beating the enemy. The power struggles within the TP mirror what happened in Orwell’s book on the Spanish Civil War. There were too many peasants pretending to be Napoleons and fighting each other over turf. They mistrusted the generals they had who knew their business.

    The other side had a real army with real soldiers who followed their generals. Spain went fascist and stayed that way for the next 40 years.

  7. JimmyZ says:

    @Eric. I think it is a much more manageable proposition. While our public indoctrination centers have done a good job at stoking anti-christian hostility, people are still attracted to the moral foundations offered by orthodox faith.

    I use the term “orthodox faith” because outside of the Christian and Jewish faiths not all other faiths offer the kind of “morality” that is productive for a society.

    Islamic Shariah Law, for example, can be described as a faith that offers a brand of morality, but it has produced some of the most violent and dysfuncytional societies on the planet.

    There is one advantage to the Christian faith when we talk about “peaceful co-existence” with non-faith conservatives. Bible based Christianity is founded on the principle of a “free will” acceptance of the tenents of the faith. That is the reason why Christian statesmen from generations past produced such a free society. They gave personal freedom such a high standing because the faith position of accepting Christ as Savior was defined — by God — as a free will acceptance taking place in a person’s heart.

    A society by definition must have standards. The moral foundations of the Christian and Jewish faiths have proven, over time, to create the freest and most prosperous societies in human history. And they have done so without requiring the members of the society to swear an oath to their faith - only for them to live within bounds of the moral principles that came from those faiths.

  8. Ed Mazlish says:

    When Rich Zuendt and I (and two others) originally founded this page, we specifically answered the questions raised by Rob by promising to focus on fiscal issues, which was something that should unite all conservatives - and that by contrast, social issues such as the ones raised above divide conservatives. It was our sincere hope that the Tea Party Movement was the beginning of the unification of the Conservative movement behind such fiscal issues, which were the engine that brought victory in 2010.

    Unfortunately, the Conservative Movement has again splintered as issues on which there is far less consensus are being pushed to the forefront, rather than having the focus remain on runaway government spending, debt and regulations. And CNJ has followed along (or perhaps, to give Rob credit, CNJ has led) in bringing social issues back to the forefront of the debate.

    I find it sad to see it debated on these pages whether a gay person can be conservative, whether someone who supports abortion rights can be conservative, and whether an atheist can be conservative. If by conservative you mean an advocate of limited government, then the answer is: OF COURSE.

  9. JimmyZ says:

    Ed, with respect I would like to point out that CNJ raised the topic. And, having raised it, the posters (and some commentors) are not being very “faith friendly”. I don’t want to go so far as to say the poster’s comments are hostile to Christians, but it doesn’t help to mock and/or read WAY too much into things like a candidate giving a short prayer.
    The are two “themes” that are both true yet CAN co-exist. The first theme is our founders framed their political though based on faith based morality. The second theme is that conservatism — as I mentioned in a prior comment — does NOT require that you embrace religion. So gay or atheist fiscal conservatives absolutely are “in” and not out,
    Let me give an example to illustrate my point.
    A gay fiscal conservative and a social conservative can both embrace the conservative principles that class warfare is wrong and private ownership of property is right. Without embracing religion, they both are still agreeing, in principle, that “Thou shalt not steal” and “that shalt not covet thy neighbors goods”.
    Many (not all) of the conservative Christians I know are willing to partner with other conservatives in the areas they agree on. But the door has to “swing both ways”. Fiscal only conservatives can’t ask social conservatives to compromise their principles, or to say nothing when we see our beliefs or faith practices explained in ways that are “less than respectful”. So we agree to disagree on those points, we don’t fight over those devisive points, and we partner on the fiscal goals we both share.

  10. Ed Mazlish says:

    JimmyZ: That was exactly the premise on which this website was originally founded.

  11. JimmyZ says:

    Ed, a pleasure to end my night in agreement with you :)

  12. pta observer says:

    I’m in general agreement too, except that regarding the CANDIDATE FOR PUBLIC OFFICE mentioned in this column, he LOST a perfectly winnable seat for conservatives because he told his campaign manager that he didn’t need to spend anymore in 2012 because God told him he was going to win.

    I know there is an argument about what was said , but that truth is something only the candidate and his campaign manager know for sure. There is one other thing that we observers know for certain. There was a dramatic fall off in spending by Larsen between 2010 and 2012. That is known through the legal requirements followed by the campaign and reported to the FEC.

    Conservatives should have won that seat and we didn’t because less was done in 2012 than in 2010 and in 2012 we had only one conservative running in a better district under reapportionment. It’s a damn shame.

  13. pta observer says:

    Jimmy, it was David Larsen who raised the topic. It is in writing by him way before CNJ wrote about it.

  14. Tea Party Jane says:

    The role of conservatives now is to make coalitions with libertarians and other groups to preserve basic freedoms.
    Conservatives cant afford the luxury of being an exclusive club in a post constitutional Obama world

  15. Andrew says:

    Brilliant Jane! Dead on! We need to stop looking for Ms. Right or Mr. Right and deal with what we have.

  16. Tea Party Jane says:

    Andrew,

    that does not however mean that we have to settle for Democrat light like ” Castles made of sand” of Delaware or Charlie Christ the turncoat of Florida.

    Libertarians and others know the stench of pretenders when they smell them.

    We just need articulate, genuine,freedom loving candidates

  17. Mark D Quick says:

    We risk civil war if we fail to produce a tradition that addresses our plauralistic society. We must fashion a new conservative paradigm..

    Are you just kinding or do you really think we should become SOCIALIST LIGHTS,,

    TAKE YOUR OBAMA HUGGING AND STICK IT UP YOUR
    you know what…..
    Rather die a FREE man than surrender to OBAMA’S U.N. Socialism

  18. Mark D Quick says:

    I ALSO FORGOT:

    IT’s ILLEGAL ALIENS

    AND THEY NEED TO BE DEPORTED>>>>>

    Then they can go home and change their country to suit their NEEDS ?????

    CALL IT EXPORTING AMERICAN VALUES

  19. Stinking friends says:

    Libertarians and others know the stench of pretenders when they smell them.

    We just need articulate, genuine,freedom loving candidates

    Really Jane? I guess it is too much for “Libertarians and others” to read court documents to figure out that one of their “articulate, genuine,freedom loving candidates” is a registered sex offender.

    What stench does a sex offender make and why can’t you smell it?

    You people are a joke.