Is Conservatism a “lifestyle”?

conservatismThis is the first in a series of reflections on the panel discussion - “The Future of the Conservative Movement and the Republican Party” - held January 19th in Hackettstown, New Jersey. Originally scheduled for Centenary College, it was moved to the Hackettstown Community Center after the College’s President objected to the Second Amendment being part of the subject matter discussed.

Among those in attendance was David Larsen, a two-time candidate for Congress. Larsen, who lives in Tewksbury, Hunterdon County, was one of three “Tea Party” candidates to challenge Congressman Leonard Lance in the 2010 primary. He emerged as the strongest challenger with 9,475 votes to Lance’s 17,200. The two other “Tea Party” candidates received 2,534 and 1,448 votes. After congressional reapportionment made the seventh district more Republican, Larsen took on Lance head to head in 2012 and got 15,253 votes to Lance’s 23,432.

During last Saturday’s discussion, Larsen took to the floor to challenge libertarian professor Murray Sabrin on a few points and later tweeted, “Many of you understand, Conservatism is a life style, not a covert name tag to wear during a primary.”

Well is it? Is conservatism a “life style”?

David Larsen is very new to the conservative movement. Many conservatives with more experience in the movement recognize that the term “conservative” is an aspirational one.

They understand that a number of different philosophies exist uneasily under the banner “conservative” and that these are often at odds with each other. They accept that people who self-identify as “conservatives” often have a very loose understanding of the term and what it means, either in its historic context or in its modern American usage.

But is there such a thing as a “conservative life style”?

Take for example, the belief in God. Must all conservatives believe in God? Is part of that lifestyle going to church? Must conservatives be “born-again” in the spirit and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Do conservatives have to reject Darwinian science and embrace Creationism?

These are certainly attributes of some conservatives, but can a Darwinian atheist be a conservative? Many, if not most, experienced conservatives would emphatically say yes, and would point to many strong conservative activists who are.

Are conservatives personally frugal and fiscally responsible? Many are, but we have had very strong conservative activists who have found themselves in bankruptcy or who have fell behind in paying their taxes. Does this mean that they are not conservative?

So who is a conservative and who is not is a matter of self-identification, personal aspiration, and debate among that vague and undefined community who call themselves “conservative”. Nobody owns the trademark - and it is not a matter of lifestyle.

William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan understood this and welcomed the chance to work with and educate a broad spectrum of people who self-identified as conservatives. They were successful at making the word “conservative” a positive and an electoral winner, so that today, years after both have left the earth, their broad idea of “conservative” resonates with voters and is the most popular political label that voters apply to themselves.

For all its strong points, the two campaigns of David Larsen did not exhibit an intimate understanding of the different contexts which make up the conservative movement. According to activists involved in Larsen’s effort, there were strong religious overtones to his campaign meetings that did little to reassure those conservatives who happened to be of other faiths or indeed, no faith at all.

These were self-inflicted problems that plagued Larsen’s campaigns and cost him support. If the former candidate seems a little bitter for the experience, he should look no further than the mirror for the cause. Certainty is the cause of many a failed campaign - and nothing is more certain than when a candidate believes that God has pre-ordained his victory.

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13 Comments

  1. Donny Dee says:

    Dave Larsen was meshuggah to challenge Leonard Lance, one of the most outstanding and respected conservatives in New Jersey and, ironically, the featured commencement speaker at the 2007 graduation exercises at Centenary College. Second only to Chris Christie there is nobody in the New Jersey Republican Party who has a solid reputation as a mainstream, common sense conservative. That is why despite all his money Larsen was easily swept aside as conservative Republicans enthusiastically re-elected Leonard Lance to Congress. And you can bet your ranch that in 2014 Leonard Lance will be elected as the next Junior Senator from the State of New Jersey, the first elected Republican to hold that office since the great Clifford Case in 1979.

    Btw, what was that all about conservatives being bankrupt and not paying their taxes on time. Was that a dig at Dave Larsen?

  2. truther says:

    Leonard Lance, one of the most outstanding and respected conservatives in New Jersey

    Second only to Chris Christie

    the great Clifford Case

    Once upon a time we thought that people took the occasional shit in your head and forgot to flush it.

    Now we know that Christie got hold of some Obama stimulus money and turned your head into a public toilet. There is major blockage and you are in need of a plumber.

  3. Peter Kessler says:

    All well & good, but Christie isn’t a conservative. He talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk.

    He’s pro-illegal immigrant, anti-NRA. These stands please moderates, and moderates aren’t conservatives.

    I have come to the conclusion that, no matter how hard capital-C Conservatives try, they’ll never will many statewide elections in New Jersey.

    I’ve lived here all but 9 years of my life. I’m getting out; moving to a capital-C Conservative locale as soon as I can. I’d rather spend what I’m paying in taxes on some creature comforts and entertainments, rather than seeing it thrown down a rathole.

  4. puspus124 says:

    ATTACK ON SYRIA ‘IS ATTACK ON IRAN’

    Saw this on Drudge today.

    Remind you of anything?

    AN ATTACK ON ONE IS AN ATTACK ON ALL.

    Motto of the NJTP.

  5. EnoughOfTheBull says:

    “Nobody owns the trademark”
    Yes that includes Rob Eichmann. Your piece does exactly what you accuse Mr Larsen of doing and failed to prove he is. Did it ever occur to you his tweet was just as likely a dig at Leonard Lance who discovered conservatism as his district boundaries changed? Perhaps you should look in the mirror for rthe reason why conservatives fail in this state. This egomaniacal pissing contest attitude is all too common on this side of the spectrum. All this “I’m more conservative than you, everyone must agree with my brand of conservativusm or they’re not a real conservative, I was conservative before you were” etc etc ad nauseam. stop it already! The Democrats and RINOs look at us and laugh when you write petty little hit pieces like this on fellow conservatives. BTW it seems you have a disturbing pattern of singling out Christian conservatives all too consistently, for this kind of treatment….really man, whats the problem? Look Why dont you follow your own advice and include other conservatives and save the hit pieces for the Dems and RINOs? You might be surprised how much you have in common with “Christian” and “new to conservatism” and “not my brand of conservative” conservatives if you wouldn’t spend so much time attacking them.

  6. Rob Eichmann says:

    @enough of the bull

    Why are you bringing me up? You can not like me for whatever reason you want, but don’t ascribe things to me that quite simply aren’t true. It is obvious how full of BS you are, despite your name.

    @Molly - Keep up the good work. You bring up a couple of great points in this post!

  7. truther says:

    Bull is an idiot. If conservatives do not call out self-styled “conservatives” when they talk about murdering politicians they disagree with, shooting people who come to their office, or beating to death those who disagree with them, we will all be accused by the liberals of SILENT CONSENT.

    SILENT CONSENT is the theory pushed by the LaRossa-Falzon-Salanitri-Gonzalez wing of the tea party. It works both ways boys and girls.

    So when you cut a video, Mark, with a convicted child molestor and spouse beater, just because he says he’s a “tea party conservative”, know that SILENT CONSENT makes it easy for the liberals to say that we are all that way.

    Reagan tossed the conspiracy theorists and racists out of the conservative movement. He spoke out when he had to.

    The tea party’s idea of SILENT CONSENT has destroyed its image because they closed ranks instead of policing its ranks.

  8. HeHeHe says:

    The child molester claims he is a good Christian too.

  9. Great article Rob!

  10. Donny Dee says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the Bullmeister. Conservatives must stop attacking other conservatives, especially when those conservatives are our elected leaders and representatives, in particular our conservative Republican Governor Chris Christie and the most honored and respected conservative member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, Leonard Lance.

    We need to be supporting our elected conservative leadership instead of softening them up for the Democrats with insults and wild accusations.

    As for Dave Larsen he’s political roadkill. I don’t know why anybody still pays attention to him when we have a conservative Governor to re-elect by a big enough margin that he leads the GOP in a takeover of the state legislature.

  11. HeHeHe says:

    our conservative Republican Governor Chris Christie

    Huh?

    Is this the same Chris Christie who gave a rousing endorsement to Barack Obama in October and support to his gun ban in January?

    There are a few basics to being a conservative.

    (1) is that you never endorse the job perfromance of marxist collectivists like Obama.

    (2) is that you do not oppose the Second Amendment without which all the rest of our Rights mean nothing.

    Chris Christie fails those tests.

    He is no conservative.

    Maybe not even a Republican for much longer.

    Bet he gets an appointment from Obama.

  12. truther says:

    COURTESY OF DONNY DEE.

    CONSERVATIVES CAN DISAGREE ON ABORTION, BUT NO CONSERVATIVE SUPPORTS FORCED ABORTIONS.

    January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. What is Chris Christie’s record on Human Trafficking?

    The Medrano case is a prominent case of human trafficking as is refered to in U.S. Justice Department studies, FBI reports, and histories detailing this crime against humanity.

    The Hudson Reporter said:

    Luisa Medrano was arrested and faces 255 years in jail for [alleged] human trafficking with girls as young as 14 and kept them as virtual slaves in her bar-rooms, and forced them into prostitution.

    Then-US Atty Christopher Christie said the time of Medrano’s indictment for human trafficking that, ‘This was inhuman and sadistic treatment of young women who were kept as virtual slaves. These are the most vile crimes I have ever seen in my time as US attorney.”

    The brutality involved is beyond imagination–corrupt Third World savagery taking place in residential neighborhoods.

    Luisa Medrano was convicted of smuggling underaged teenaged girls from Honduras into the United States to work in her Union City and Guttenberg bar-rooms. Medrano forced the teens into slave labor in round the clock labor at her barrooms then forced the girls into prostitution.

    There is at least one story illustrative of Medrano’s savagery—repeatedly throwing a teenage girl down stair steps until she had a miscarriage.

    The Justice Department states:

    Medrano, a naturalized U.S. citizen who emigrated from El Salvador in 1974, admitted that from October 2004 to January 2005 she harbored illegal Hondurans and employed them at her bars in Union City and Guttenberg. Ringleaders had forced them to work there to pay off smuggling debts that ranged up to $20,000, authorities said.

    Luisa Medrano is the 10th defendant to plead guilty in connection with a smuggling ring that brought more than 20 young women and teenagers from small villages in Honduras with promises of employment as waitresses and then forced them to work at bars in Union City, New Jersey. Medrano owned the Hudson County bars where the young women were put to work: El Paisano Bar and Nightclub, at 509 22nd St., Union City; El Puerto de la Union I, at 6710 Bergenline Ave., Guttenberg; and El Puerto de la Union II, at 3806 Bergenline Ave., Union City.

    Medrano also owned the three apartment buildings where the women were housed: 509 22nd St. and 2604 New York Ave., both in Union City, and 75 68th St. in Guttenberg. The women worked at the bars six days a week, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., for $240 a week plus tips, and lived the apartments where they were virtually imprisoned. The women, including at least four juveniles who obtained false identification, would get the male patrons to buy beers for themselves and the women, and would dance with the patrons for $3 a dance.

    After rescue, the women stated that they were beaten, their families had been threatened in Honduras, and they were subjected to forced abortions. Investigative efforts resulted in the rescue of nineteen Honduran females, six of whom were juveniles as young as 14 years of age.

    THANKS TO CHRIS CHRISTIE THIS MONSTER NEVER SPENT A DAY IN JAIL.

    SOME RECORD.

    ONLY CRIMINALS AND FASCISTS SUPPORT FORCED ABORTIONS.

  13. Mark D Quick says:

    Is Conservatism a “lifestyle”?

    For some people it is, but for others it’s just a token they put out at election time. There are many forms of conservatives,social, financal, or patriotic. I find myself on the patriotic side of the table. I also believe I find myself on the social side as well. My social side comes from the point of veiw of working people because try as one might you are defind by your surrounding and what you stand up for.

    While most people that get involved with politic should be asked why are you really doing this? Dislike Rob or like him or his ways of doing things he has for better or worse made people stand up for their beliefs. He has his set of value and has the honesty to state it the way he see’s it// much like myself. For me I got involved because I care not for myself but for the issues I believe in. Over the course of time I believe I have proven that point. I did not vote for Obama or Menendez or Christie because I feel they are kneck deep into Agenda21 and support treason by supporting AMNESTY FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS while refusing to enforce our laws for their political gain…. I am tired of being a cash cow for others. I have had many problem due to personal injuries over these past few years. My biggest threat to losing my home is the property Taxes…
    I have a learning disability with Dyslexia…. help was not availible when I was in school.. can you start to understand why Equal Education Funding for more than one reason needs to be issue #1…

    I know I am a problem/ I believe parents not villages need to raise their children… I love my country…. I love my god and guns … ENEMY NUMBER 1 for sure..

    While this may not please everybody I will be officially announcing my final choice for my political direction for this coming year. One thing is clear I will be running in a Republican Primary…. I believe my campaign is going to be much about this article.,….