I hate the word conservative. The word is meaningless these days as it means wildly different things to different people. People will call themselves conservative and honestly, I am not even sure what they mean by it anymore.
Ask some and the words conservative/Republican are synonymous. If you are a Republican, you are inherently conservative politically. It doesn’t matter what you actually believe, you are part of a certain segment politically and therefore part of a certain “team.”
For some, conservative means agreeing with Donald Trump about everything. That means you are a conservative if you fall into the category of hardcore Trump fan. Because to those who hold this belief, everything Trump says is red meat conservatism for the movement.
For some, conservative means generally supporting limited government, gun rights, and “traditional values” views on social issues. This means supporting low taxes, pro-life legislation, freer access to guns, and opposition to same-sex marriage.
For some, conservative means they are supportive of widespread modifications to the government to limit federal power, return power to the states, and focus entirely on fiscal issues.
For some, conservative means being George W. Bush.
For some, conservative means being militantly anti-illegal immigration and sometimes being militantly anti-immigration in general. See Buchanan, Pat.
The truth is, in the end, when you look at the root of the word, conservative should have a different meaning. To support conservative views is to support slowness to change. You are trying to conserve something, generally traditional type of governance or, in other words, the status quo. Wild and major changes should not be part of a conservative viewpoint. That stance should be the path of least resistance – doing less to ensure things don’t change. The way things currently operate tends to work, from this perspective, and to propose massive changes will upset the apple cart and cause unforeseen ripple effects. That’s actually a definition of conservative from a very literal perspective.
What does that mean pragmatically? A conservative in this sense would not want to overturn the ACA as there are unforeseen consequences to that and so we must keep things as they are. A conservative would be opposed to major changes to military procedures as the way they currently operate seems to work. They would have opposed repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because they wanted to study it before doing so to ensure the change was done slowly, methodically, and without causing major unforeseen impacts. A conservative would be generally opposed to major spending hikes, but also major spending cuts until they could adequately understand all the potential impacts. They would be slow to change and quick to say “Hold on, let’s talk this over and really study this issue further.” William F. Buckley, the American right-leaning pundit, referred to conservatism by saying, “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” That’s the definition I’d go by to call someone a conservative.
The problem is, as I’ve stated up front, that everyone has a different definition. So, let’s stop with this and go back to basics. If you are opposed to major changes and would rather we slow down or stop entirely, then you’re conservative. If you are not, then let’s use a different term.
Say you believe in small government. Say you are pro-life or pro-choice. Say you are mostly libertarian. Say you believe in strict enforcement of immigration laws. Admit that you think everything Trump says is right and that’s your political stance. Let’s define ourselves a bit more specifically because the word conservative these days is entirely meaningless.
Note: The word liberal is equally meaningless. The term liberal in a literal sense means to be open to new ideas and to support maximized freedom, liberty, and equality for each person. However, the same issue holds true as with conservative. Liberal to some can mean anything from libertarian to generic Democrat to socialist to communist to anti-Republican to Bernie Sanders. I hate the way we change political terms to meet our own political agendas. Let’s stop doing it and just be honest about people’s viewpoints…