I am writing this in response to an article in The Sun in March about the women who are now running for offices such as school boards across the state. I must take exception to the use of the word “conservative” in describing these people.
Let me start out by saying that I am an independent. I find that there are things in both the conservative and liberal policies that I like and there are things in each that I do not like. I do not vote for anyone just because of a D or an R next to their name on a ballot.
Political conservatism has had a distinct meaning since its inception around 1815 in France. It spread to England and then to the U.S. in the 1830s, when John C. Calhoun adopted it. Calhoun was an ardent defender of states’ rights, which at that time often was focused on the right of a state to endorse slavery, along with other matters.
Conservatism is based on some core principles:individual freedom, limited government, rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity. The groups mentioned in the article, along with elected officials such as U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert here in Colorado, claim to believe in these things.
However, conservatism also is based on a belief of an organic view of society. That is, society is made up of tightly connected and interdependent members. Society changes and adapts gradually, while keeping stability as conditions change.
Here is a main difference between conservatism and liberalism. Conservatism believes that the government is the servant of the changing of society, while liberalism believes that government is a tool to correct the evils and abuses in society.
We have seen the battle of the two views of government throughout our history as the pendulum has swung back and forth over time. In the 20th Century, we saw the rise in power of corporations over government under one administration, getting pushed back by the next administration twice, once in the early part of the century and again during the Great Depression.
During and between these times, we saw both conservatives and liberals work together and compromise to take the rough edges from both belief systems, and to work for the benefit of all Americans.
Over the last couple of decades, however, we have seen many people who call themselves conservative slip into a third form of political thought. These people are reactionaries. They use the term “conservative,” because “reactionary” carries a lot of negative connotations.
Reactionaries have been around since modern political thought developed. At the time conservatism rose after the French Revolution, so did the reactionary movement, the goal of which was to restore the monarchy.
Reactionaries rely on a belief that society was better at some past time and has gone into a state of decline and decay. They believe that they know how to reverse it. While conservatives wish to keep stability and work for slow change, reactionaries want to undo changes that have already occurred since whatever time they feel was the best.
It is ironic that they call themselves conservative and believe in limited government and individual freedom, yet they are more than happy to use government institutions to impose laws and regulations that they believe are right, no matter the cost to the human dignity of people who are different from themselves. They use fear and demeaning of anyone different from themselves to promote the changes they wish to make.
They have no desire to compromise because they believe that anyone who does not think like them, in or out of government, is not a fellow citizen, but an enemy to be beaten and ignored. They do not act to pass laws helpful to all, but they are the “bomb throwers” that would be happy to rebuild the government into their own ideals.
In a country where one of the basic principles is the freedom of anyone to worship in any way they choose, free from government interference, they wish to enact laws based on their belief of what the Bible says. They deepen the divides that already beset this country.
So, let’s not call these people conservative. Call them what they are. They are as radical as some on the left. Let’s promote the traditional conservatives and liberals in government and try to get back to a place where both sides are willing to work together to make our lives better.
Scott Perez lives in Durango.
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